Washington Redskins: Ranking Remaining Offseason Priorities
The Redskins' offseason has gotten underway with new names on the roster and new coaches in place, bringing in new philosophies, plays and schemes.
Even with the NFL draft in the rearview mirror and rookie minicamps underway, Washington's checklist still isn't a short one, as they have plenty of work to do before the start of the regular season.
Here's a look at a handful of the Redskins' priorities moving forward, ranked in order of their importance at this point in time.
5. Competition Among Specialists
Earlier this month, the Redskins traded to land an additional seventh-round pick in the draft and used it to bring in Zach Hocker, an accomplished kicker out of Arkansas.
Despite Kai Forbath's field-goal accuracy last season, his leg strength on kickoffs was a constant topic of discussion. Meanwhile, Washington's field position was some of the worst we've seen in the history of football.
Currently, the Redskins have Hocker competing with Forbath at kicker—although it's entirely too soon to rule out the possibility of the team retaining both a kicker and a kickoff specialist—and an even more uncharted competition at punter between Robert Malone and Blake Clingan.
The Redskins entered this year's draft with the intention of improving the special teams unit and Hocker in the seventh round wasn't the only obvious selection. New head coach Jay Gruden seems committed to fixing the issue and the bout among the Redskins' specialists will be a key one to watch this summer.
4. Sorting Through Wide Receiver
Trade here, re-sign there, draft pick here and voila, suddenly your wide receiving corps appears firm.
But it's not necessarily the threat of Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and the newly acquired DeSean Jackson that should be getting all the preseason attention. Instead, it should be the guys behind them and the wide-open competition among veterans, no-names and unproven fan favorites.
The Redskins didn't feel their wide receiving group was set, proving so earlier this month when they selected Tulane's Ryan Grant in the fifth round. Additionally, following the draft, the team signed a number of undrafted free agents, four of which were wideouts.
While Grant is certainly a guy to keep an eye on due to his solid hands and smooth route running, undrafted free agent Cody Hoffman is another one to watch for, as his size alone—6'4", 210 lbs—generates plenty of intrigue.
After the big names, it'll be interesting to see how things shake out to round out the group. Will a veteran like Santana Moss set the bar for the young guys? Can Leonard Hankerson return strong from injury? Is Aldrick Robinson anything more than an inconsistent vertical threat? Does Nick Williams provide some potential at slot receiver?
3. Who Rises at Right Tackle?
Although entering camp with a locked starter is ideal, open competition isn't necessarily a bad thing either. And, for the Redskins this offseason, lots of eyes will be on the fight at right tackle.
Veteran Tyler Polumbus is the early favorite to remain the guy on the right end, but the Redskins used their second-overall pick to land Virginia tackle Morgan Moses, which will hopefully generate healthy competition at the position.
Just as we saw Moses' stock shoot this way and that in the lead up to the draft, the same seems to be true about people's opinions on how soon the 6'6", 314-pound lineman can contribute along the Redskins' offensive line.
The situation at right tackle is far from the worst thing for the Redskins. At the very least, they know what they have in Polumbus. However, if the rookie Moses or a sleeper like Tom Compton can spark hot in camp, the Redskins gain flexibility, while also improving the talent and getting younger up front.
2. Feeling out the Safety Position
It was a bit surprising to see the Redskins finish the draft having not added a new safety, but the team seems comfortable—at least for now—with a combination of both seasoned veterans and unproven young guys.
Phillip Thomas, who missed all of his rookie season last year with a Lisfranc injury, returns this season and coaches are excited. But returning from such an injury is no easy feat, and the team has yet to see what he's truly capable of.
“We have Thomas coming back, so that’s exciting,” coach Jay Gruden said on Wednesday, according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post. “We have confidence he’s going to get back, but we haven’t seen enough. I haven’t seen him move around or run around. We’re hoping he’ll be ready to go.”
The team also re-signed Brandon Meriweather and added 34-year-old Ryan Clark on a one-year deal, while there's also eagerness to see what Tanard Jackson can bring, as he has not played football since 2011.
With the atrociousness that was the Redskins defense last year, it's impossible to place blame on any one position, but the back half of the defense was clearly lacking and the Redskins must have someone willing to step up and answer the call. Although no one expects Clark, Meriweather, Thomas or any combination of safeties to be All-Pros, they have to be better if they want a shot at anything this season.
1. Listening for the Phone
Because who doesn't like a little action?
Complete speculation at this point, but there's an interesting situation taking place in Cleveland, in which the Browns are prepared to lose their top receiver and playmaker in Josh Gordon for an entire season. Meanwhile, the new offensive coordinator in Cleveland is one Kyle Shanahan—the man who ran the offense in Washington the last four seasons.
Again, this is a reach in terms of what the Redskins have to offer on the block, but the Browns are likely going down the list and making calls to other teams, inquiring about certain guys who can help soften the blow of losing a talent like Gordon. Would Shanahan's familiarity with certain guys on the Redskins roster make them a potential trade partner?
If the Redskins were able to ship a guy like, say, Leonard Hankerson for a draft pick—the additions of DeSean Jackson and Ryan Grant certainly help make that an appealing move. Or what if Shanahan has faith in a guy like Aldrick Robinson as a deep threat? He's a guy who would seem expendable on this current Redskins roster.
Perhaps it won't be in regards to Kirk Cousins, but the Redskins could hear their phone ringing in the coming weeks.