The “It’s a new era” rhetoric with the Redskins is often met with eye rolls and skepticism, considering this franchise last experienced a post-season victory back in 2005 and has a total of two playoff wins since 1999.
So, pardon this line of thinking, but it surely looks like this could be a new era for the Redskins. New, and improved, remains to be seen. Finally, though, stubborn (that is being kind) owner Daniel Snyder relented and canned longtime executive Bruce Allen and gave the keys to the team to Ron Rivera, the well-respected former Panthers head coach. Kyle Smith was promoted to run the football operation and Rivera will have plenty of power in the new order in Washington.
Here is a look at the 2020 Redskins
What they were
Affable head coach Jay Gruden was fired before Halloween and in many ways it was a mercy dismissal. Reports were rampant Gruden did not want Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the 2019 NFL Draft and was overruled by Snyder. Gruden started journeyman Case Keenum ahead of Haskins before an injury to Keenum forced Gruden’s hand. Haskins, predictably, struggled badly and the Redskins finished 3-13, last in the NFC East. Bill Callahan, the offensive line coach, took over a 0-5 team as the interim head coach and led the Redskins to a 3-8 record.
OT Trent Williams (traded to 49ers), CB Josh Norman (signed by Bills), CB Quinton Dunbar (traded to Seahawks), OL Ereck Flowers (signed by Dolphins).
Veteran: CB Kendall Fuller, LB Thomas Davis, CB Ronald Darby, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, RB Peyton Barber, WR Cody Latimer.
NFL draft: DE Chase Young (Ohio State), RB/WR Antonio Gibson (Memphis), OT Saahdiq Charles (LSU).
So much of where the Redskins are headed depends on Haskins. Are you a believer or a skeptic? His body of work in college was remarkable (50 touchdown passes, 70 percent completion) but it was essentially a one-year burst onto the scene. Even Haskins’ biggest supporters figured he needed plenty of time to acclimate to the NFL game. He did not get that time and the results were often unsightly and, as a result, the Redskins offense was dead last in the league, scoring only 16.6 points a game.
Haskins did improve, though. He completed 54 percent of his passes and got sacked 18 times in his first four starts. In his last three games, Haskins completed 67 percent of his passes, with five touchdowns and only one interception. Haskins has referred to “a new sense of urgency’’ heading into his second season. He has reportedly lost 11 pounds this off-season, lowering his body fat by 7 percent, which is a good sign for a player who has a howitzer for an arm but needs development of his footwork.
What Haskins does not have is a great supporting cast. The receiver group is thin behind Terry McLaurin. The Redskins are going to the well, again, with aging (but still a physical marvel) Adrian Peterson at running back and hope Bryce Love — who spent his entire rookie year on injured reserve — makes a full recovery from knee surgery.
Reason for hope
The arrival of Young gives the Redskins the makings of a fearsome defensive line, as Young joins Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen. The commitment is readily apparent, as the Redskins are the first team in NFL history to use first-round picks in four consecutive drafts on defensive linemen. Young is the favorite to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and he could punish NFC East quarterbacks for years to come.
Reason for despair
The starting cornerbacks are Fabian Moreau (third-round pick in 2017) and Fuller, signed from the Chiefs. Charles, taken in the fourth round out of LSU, better be able to start at one of the offensive tackle spots or else Haskins will be running for his life in the pocket. Williams did not play in 2019 but losing a seven-time Pro Bowler is never a good thing.
Rivera is a two-time NFL Coach of the Year and always got the Panthers to play hard. He is popular with his players and will set a tone throughout the organization. But his background is on defense. Thus, he will entrust the offense to young Scott Turner, the son of longtime NFL coach Norv Turner.
Last place in NFC East.