Some of these warrant as major concerns where others are a little less so, but are issues to watch out for. These are the five biggest problem areas facing the Washington Redskins half way through through their offseason work:
– This looked like it was going to be such a promising area for the Redskins at the start of training camp. They had 2nd round rookie Derrius Guice as their feature back with the return of 3rd down back Chris Thompson. Behind them depth was a slight concern, but 2017 4th round pick Samaje Perine had some promise and 3rd down options Byron Marshall and Kapri Bibbs filled in for Thompson a year ago. Third year back Robert Kelley, who led the team in rushing in 2016 was also back from an injury.
The first concerning news came early in camp as it was reported that Chris Thompson wasn’t 100% yet and the team would be cautious with how they brought him along. He maybe wasn’t going to miss any regular season work, but he also was unlikely to be able to play as much and at the same level as last year. Things have continued to get worse for the Redskins running back situation as Guice was lost for the year with an ACL injury after the first preseason game. In the 2nd preseason game Perine and Marshall both got injured (as did UDFA Martez Carter, who has since been released), putting into question their readiness for the start of the season. That left Kelley and Bibbs as the only fully healthy backs in camp, and probably the two backs with the least amount of upside.
The Redskins will be forced to add a back from the free agent market , but there isn’t much available and the Redskins will be forced to go with a committee approach. Considering Thompson is less than 100% and Perine and Marshall are dealing with injuries that committee is looking less-and-less capable of being effective. There is no doubt this is the biggest concern that hangs over the Redskins as they get ready for the start of the regular season, but as to how big of a concern it is still up in the air. A lot depends on just how effective and how much Chris Thompson can be utilized this season. While there is a clear concern for how much he can be used, and how much of an impact he can have, it’s not clear what that means.
Last year for the first 10 games prior to getting injured, Thompson was responsible for a number of splash plays both on the ground and through the air. Thompson became such an integral part of the offense that he was on the field nearly 60% of the offensive snaps while healthy. With Guice out for the year, ideally Thompson could resume a similar role this season, but that seems unlikely that he will be able to handle that level of snaps. If his snap count needs to be severely reduced and his effectiveness decreases, the Redskins running back production could be a major issue this season.
-The Redskins starting offensive line on paper looks like a really good unit. Trent Williams is arguably the best left tackle in the game and Brandon Scherff is among the top tier of guards. Morgan Moses has established himself among the top 10 of right tackles in the league and showed last year that he can tough it out as he never missed a start despite having two high ankle sprains. Shawn Lauvao and Chase Rouiller have less established reputations, but both could be at least solid starters.
The issue is the Redskins depth and as they found out last season, that can become a problem fast. Last season all five of these players suffered injuries and with the exception of Moses, they all missed starts because of it. Roullier was a back-up last year filling in for starting center Spencer Long when he got injured and forced the Redskins to go to their 3rd string center. Depth is definitely a necessity for this unit, and it’s one that is a bit questionable right now.
The Redskins have given their starting offensive line a lot of time off in their first two preseason games and the 2nd and 3rd unit offensive lines have struggled. That includes top interior offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom and rookie 3rd rd OT Geron Christian. The Redskins should be able to rely on swing tackle Ty Nsekhe who has had a couple solid years filling in for the Redskins, but beyond that there are major concerns. Even minor injuries could be a serious setback to the Redskins offense if the O-line depth falters. If the Redskins depth along the line continues to struggle, they could look to add a guy who is released from another organization. The biggest concern is the interior where Bergstrom is the only back-up offensive lineman with any real experience.
The seriousness of this issue is completely dependent on the health of the Redskins starters. If the Redskins starters miss just 3-to-5 combined games (and if they are spread out), then their back-ups will probably be okay, but if it goes beyond that or there are situations where two or three starters are out at once, the Redskins could be in serious trouble.
– The Redskins made the call this past week to release veteran corner Orlando Scandrick and going with fourth year corner (but first time starter) Quinton Dunbar as the starting outside corner and 2nd year Fabian Moreau as the starting nickle corner. Between them they have about 950 snaps of NFL experience and both are being thrust into key roles. Both though have the upside and potential to be optimistic that they can handle those new roles, despite the lack of experience. What the Scandrick release does mean though is that the depth behind the Redskins top 3 corners, are a trio of rookies in UDFA Danny Johnson, 7th rounder Greg Stroman and 6th round supplemental pick Adonis Alexander.
To count on three late round or undrafted rookies as your only back-ups is pretty bold and could blow up in the Redskins face, especially if there are any injuries to the Redskins starters. Johnson has shown himself to be the best of the trio and probably is in line for the Redskins fourth corner role. That is a position where even with just minor injuries, a player could be on the field for 25% or more of the season. So far in camp Johnson has been impressive and has two strong showings in the preseason, but what happens in the regular season versus top tier QBs and better receivers. Johnson long term may live up to the potential he has displayed in camp, but he also might not be ready to be on the field a quarter of the snaps this season.
Stroman has been solid so far in camp and the preseason, but he’s still a 7th round rookie. There are going to be plenty of growing pains. Alexander was a late add as a supplemental pick. He’s a raw talent with impressive length and some upside, but he is far from a finished product. Between getting to camp late and currently missing time due to an injury he’s unlikely to be counted on at all this season.
Right now this is a moderate concern, but any injuries to the starters could make this a major issue, and one that the defense can’t recover from.
– The Redskins defensive line has the potential to be a major strength of the team and one of the better units around the league. Matt Ioannidis was a former 5th round pick, had a breakout year last season with 4.5 sacks and a number of pressures in 14 games. Last year’s 1st round pick Jonathan Allen was off to a very good start last season before getting injured in game 5 of the year and missing the rest of the season. This year the Redskins added 1st round pick Daron Payne as the nose tackle in between Ioannidis and Allen. Behind the starting trio the Redskins have a solid group in run stopper Stacy McGee, pass rusher Anthony Lanier, promising rookie Tim Settle and veteran Ziggy Hood.
Unfortunately the injury bug has already started to hit this position group, which typically is a position that sees it’s fair share of injuries each year. McGee will start the year on the PUP list and won’t be back until at least mid-season if not later in the year. Payne suffered an ankle injury the 2nd day of camp and he just returned to action this past week. Ioannidis suffered a knee injury in the first preseason game that has him out at least the rest of the preseason. Though Payne looks healthy now and there is a chance that Ioannidis won’t miss any actual time due to his injury, it is concerning that both players already have gotten a bit banged up. Knee and ankle injuries are the type of injuries that can get tweaked again easily which could cause them to miss some time
Right now this is a minor issue, but with top reserve McGee on the shelf it can become a major issue if one or more of the Redskins starting defensive line need to miss regular season time during the first half of the season.
– This is definitely more on the lower end of concerns, but it’s worth noting that the Redskins starting offense has really not had the chance to come together and gel this training camp. Starting offensive tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses both are recovering from offseason surgery and while they have practiced the team has been cautious about them in the preseason with Moses only playing a single series. It’s possible that Williams could not play a single preseason snap, as Jay Gruden is being extra cautious with his star left tackle. Top back-up swing tackle Ty Nsekhe was also recovering from offseason surgery and though he played in the first preseason game, he was held out of the 2nd.
Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson have both dealt with injuries in camp that have limited them and their work with new QB Alex Smith. Crowder has missed both preseason games so far this season and a number of practices with a groin injury. Hopefully he will be back by the start of the season, but the concern is that the timing with Smith will be off. Doctson appears healthy now, but did miss some time earlier in camp. Tight end Jordan Reed and 3rd down back Chris Thompson have also been limited at times given their injury history. The running back position is also unsettled with the season ending injury to Derrius Guice and now minor injuries to Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall.
At the end of the day it’s likely that most if not all of these players (outside of Guice) will be fine for the start of the season, but the question is how crisp will the unit be with adding Alex Smith and Paul Richardson to learn a new offense as well. It’s a minor concern, but bears watching if the Redskins offense stumbles out of the gate.