Reassessing Redskins' Offseason Plan and Breaking Down What's Left to Address
What started out as a quiet and mostly unremarkable offseason for the Redskins quickly changed direction with the addition of names like Andre Roberts, Jason Hatcher and, most recently, DeSean Jackson.
Yet there still remains work to be done in Washington, as the Redskins are coming off of a 3-13 season with a new head coach in charge and plenty of mounting pressure.
Here's a look at how the Redskins have wisely improved, and breaking down what's left to be addressed.
Addressing the Offense
Due to poor quarterback play behind an ineffective offensive line and not enough talent at receiver, the Redskins ranked just 23rd in points scored last season—one year removed from ranking fourth in the NFL behind the arm of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The additions of Shawn Lauvao and veteran Mike McGlynn were made to help improve the interior of the offensive line, while landing receivers Andre Roberts and DeSean Jackson help provide the speed and playmaking ability the Redskins lacked (see how DJax helps each piece of the Redskins offense).
In a critical year for RG3 as a franchise quarterback, improving his supporting cast was a top priority.
Addressing the Defense
No pressure up front with an inadequate threat off the edge and a secondary like warm butter, the Redskins defense was beyond atrocious in 2013. Washington allowed nearly 480 points, good for second-worst in the league last season.
Add that defense to consistently ugly field position by way of a dreadful special teams unit, and the Redskins faced major needs opposite their offense.
Although the Redskins re-signed players like Brandon Meriweather, Perry Riley, E.J. Biggers and Rob Jackson from a bad defense the year before, they were all good fits at a good price for the team.
Meanwhile, Jason Hatcher is a large addition to help improve the pass rush in the defense's new one-gap philosophy; Akeem Jordan appears to be the favorite to start at inside backer alongside Riley; and veteran safety Ryan Clark will be the conductor of the defense when he's on the field.
Not Done at Safety
The worst part of the Redskins defense last season was the safety position.
While adding Ryan Clark was a cost-effective move that brings leadership and intelligence to the back half, he's up in there in age and only a short-term plug in Washington. And the same can be said for Brandon Meriweather in terms of an aging short-term option.
After missing all of his rookie season with a Lisfranc injury, it'll be interesting to see what former fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas looks like next season. But returning from a tough foot injury won't be easy.
The Redskins may have given themselves some draft flexibility with their recently acquired veterans, but the safety position remains a huge need.
The Sizable Target
Signing DeSean Jackson was arguably the biggest free-agency landing of any team this offseason. And while he certainly does add a special dynamic to the Redskins offense, he's far from a physical or sizable pass target.
In fact, Jackson (5'10") joins a rather short receiving corps with Pierre Garcon (6'0"), Andre Roberts (5'11"), Aldrick Robinson (5'11"), Santana Moss (5'10") and Leonard Hankerson (6'1"). The two tallest pass-catchers on the Redskins' current roster are tight ends Jordan Reed (6'2") and Logan Paulsen (6'5"), although Paulsen isn't exactly a consistent receiving threat.
If his time as offensive coordinator in Cincinnati is any indication of Jay Gruden's preference, he'll want to add a guy or two who can provide size and a decent pair of hands.
Gruden and the Redskins will have their best chance to increase their height/size amongst receivers come May, when the NFL draft takes place and offers a deep class at the position.
Some wide receiver names to keep an eye on: Kelvin Benjamin, Martavis Bryant, Devin Street, Cody Latimer, Jeff Janis, Brandon Coleman and L'Damian Washington. Or a few receiving tight end prospects: Joe Don Duncan, Crockett Gillmore and A.C. Leonard.
Assuming Shawn Lauvao works out at left guard and Kory Lichtensteiger makes an easy transition to his new center spot, the interior offensive line is improved. But Chris Chester at right guard requires a wait-and-see approach after a down season in 2013, and right tackle Tyler Polumbus is replaceable.
The Redskins' first pick in May's draft comes in the second round at No. 34, which could serve as a spot to reload the offensive line, whether it be at guard or tackle.
It's also important not to forget guys like Tom Compton and Adam Gettis, both draft picks from the Mike Shanahan era who've yet to see significant time on the field. Can those guys impress new coaches in camp?
Special Teams Upgrades
Thanks to poor special teams play, the Redskins offense routinely faced an uphill climb with poor field position last season.
While signing guys like Adam Hayward and Darryl Sharpton help coverage units, the Redskins are still in need of a punter (Robert Malone is currently the only boot on the roster), and friendly competition for kicker Kai Forbath wouldn't hurt either.
Surprise in the Backfield
There's no doubt about Alfred Morris remaining the bell cow in Washington. But that doesn't mean Gruden won't look to expand the backfield by adding a more versatile back who can both run and provide a reliable pair of hands.
Given the current rebuild of the Redskins roster, the team needs to be smart with their draft picks. However, despite Morris and his stellar first two seasons in the league, the Redskins wouldn't struggle by adding an army knife back like Devonta Freeman, Charles Sims or Isaiah Crowell in the mid-rounds come draft time.