The story of the Washington Redskins’ season is one of decline.
A story of promise becoming one of destruction.
After the draft Redskins fans were quietly confident. After shoring up the run defense in the first round with Da’Ron Payne it was widely agreed they got a steal in the second round with LSU running back Derrius Guice.
But last season’s injury bug followed the Redskins into this one with Guice tearing his ACL in the first preseason game. It was a sign of things to come and the first of many injuries for Washington, as they ended the year with 24 players on IR.
It is hard to assess how the season could have gone if the team had been fully healthy, but early on things looked promising for Washington in spite of their rookie’s injury. They signed Adrian Peterson in Guice’s stead and the ageless wonder began the year well running behind Alex Smith, the Redskins’ other off season pickup.
The addition of Payne seemed to have fixed the previous season’s issues on run defense, the secondary looked strong with bullyish DJ Swearinger controlling the middle, and through the first third of the season Washington had a top 5 defensive unit.
On offense however, with the exception of Peterson, the Redskins were struggling to click.
With the absence of big play receivers Smith’s favourite target became his old Niners pal, tight end Vernon Davis. Despite the combined age of the tandem and their running back being over 100 years old, the only thing that began to evidently decline during the season was the Redskins’ performance.
Despite going 4-2 over the first third of the season, the Redskins didn’t win back to back games until the sixth game. They led the division, though mainly through slow starts from their rivals, until late in the season which gave fans a false hope that the wheels could stay on for a post-season run.
This hope from the early success and the subsequent divisional lead began to wane as the injuries piled up.
Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Trent Williams, Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson, Greg Stroman were just a few of the key players that the Redskins lost during the season, but none were as crushing to the hopes of Redskins fans than the injury to Alex Smith.
On the 30th anniversary of the legendary Joe Theismann leg break, and with the former quarterback in attendance, Alex Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury against the Houston Texans which to this day holds his football future in doubt. His backup Colt McCoy stepped in and lasted barely 2 weeks before he too fractured his own leg.
This was just the beginning of a quarterback disaster for Washington that briefly endured Mark Sanchez before handing the keys to journeyman Josh Johnson whilst at the same time losing 6 of their final 7 games.
The chance of a playoff spot was lost far later in the season than it should have been for the Redskins. The team degraded in numbers and in performance as each game passed. The fans were called out by players for not caring about the success of the team, and FedEx Field had record low attendance numbers. At one point, cornerback Josh Norman was literally giving away tickets in the street.
As the year progressed the situation in the Redskins front office became as much of a dumpster fire as that of the injury report and home game attendance numbers.
After domestic violence charges, which have since been dropped, were levelled at San Francisco linebacker Reuben Foster, the Redskins were the sole team to claim the released player.
The ensuing press conference was an opportunity for the Redskins to own their decision, but instead they chose to sent club legend Doug Williams to face the music. Williams became predictably scapegoated by the media on behalf of the organization after blundering through the sensitive subject matter.
The front office again caused waves late in the season by releasing fan favourite DJ Swearinger on Christmas Eve after the safety called out the defensive coaching. The choice by the front office to sacrifice two people that were considered by fans as ‘the good guys’ sent a new wave of resentment through Washington supporters, and #FireBruceAllen began to trend on Twitter.
Allen has subsequently been moved out of football operations, but fans remain unconvinced that he will stop meddling in the club’s decisions. It seems Jay Gruden will be keeping his job but it looks like many other members of the coaching staff will be moving on.
Next season will be interesting for the Redskins as there are currently question marks at multiple positions. They may look to trade up in the draft to land an option in a thin quarterback class, but otherwise look for McCoy and Johnson to return again next year.
Guice seems to have rehabbed well but the Redskins should keep Adrian Peterson around just in case, as it seems that in Washington you can never have enough backups.
Photo Credit: Brad Mills (USA Today)
Our NFC East reporter is Chris Milner who covers Redskins, Eagles, Cowboys, and Giants. Chris is a Washington Redskins fan who has followed the game since 2011. He is one of our fantasy football correspondents and also co-hosts the ‘Same Level Fantasy Football’ podcast. Follow him on Twitter @chrismilner