November 18. Seems just like an average day of the year, nothing remarkable, nothing memorable, but for fans of the Washington Redskins it is a dark day, one where two season-defining acts have occurred.
November 18, 1985, saw Lawrence Taylor make mincemeat of Redskins blocking tight-end Don Warren, breezing past Hall of Fame offensive lineman Russ Grimm (who was lined up as a left tackle on the play) en route to the quarterback. Pressure was applied by Giants linebacker Harry Carson, but it was LT who got to Theismann, grabbing him by the neck and cobra-like wrapping him up, before shifting his body weight onto the lower half of the former Super Bowl winning QB and snapping his right leg like a cheap diner toothpick.
Fast forward 33 years later to November 18, 2018. This time Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses is beaten like a drum by All-World defensive end J.J.Watt, whilst simultaneously watching Texans defensive back Kareem Jackson breeze past his inside left on a safety blitz. Jackson is the first to get to Washington QB Alex Smith, but it was Watt who got the tackle, rolling over the former number one overall pick, breaking his leg in two places in the process.
Yes the Redskins were losing 17-7 at the time of Smith’s season, and possible career ending injury, but they were 6-3 at the time. Eerily the 1985 Redskins were also at 6 wins by the end of the game that finished Joe Theismann’s career.
Unlike 33 years ago when Washington rallied behind Jay Schroeder to finish 10-6 (but still missed the playoffs) the 2018 version went on to win just one more game during the remainder of the season.
The one win in week 15 was credited to possibly the most unlikely starting quarterback in Redskins history. Not only was this signal-caller Washington’s fourth passer to throw the pigskin in the 2018 season, but it was also his first ever NFL win in an entire decade of playing in the league for a remarkable eight different teams. Take a bow, Josh Johnson.
Johnson was pretty horrendous in his four starts at the end of the season, scraping a 16-13 win against the Jaguars, and losing his other three by a combined 57 points, passing for a total of 590 yards, three scores and four picks.
The Redskins finished the 2018 season 7-9, missing the playoffs for the 8th time in the past 10 seasons.
Fast forward to, as Rich Eisen would say, ‘the non-playing season’ and the Redskins have a team with more needs than a six-year-old who has just started collecting football stickers.
Significant Impending Free Agents
Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, Safety
Clinton Dix who had three interceptions in seven games with the Packers in 2018 before moving to the Redskins in Week 8 (and failing to get any more picks in the latter 9 games) is a priority after Washington coaches got tired of D.J. Swearinger’s big but astute mouth and waived him Week 16.
Swearinger was the 13th ranked safety according to Pro Football Focus, and will be a big loss. Clinton Dix needs to be re-signed as the Redskins top priority to give the secondary some veteran leadership.
Adrian Peterson, Running Back
The ageless wonder had a renaissance in D.C. gaining 1,042 rushing yards and 208 receiving in his first full 16 game regular season since 2015. Peterson’s season was very much game-flow dependant, resulting in three 100+ yard games, but also disturbingly five games where he ran for 20 yards or under, including a season finale 0-yard input against the Eagles.
With 2018 second round draft pick Derrius Guice on the mend after missing his entire rookie season, Peterson will look to play a support role in 2019, where he can come in and gain some chunk yards with defenses worn down.
Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver
Crowder has been solid but by no means spectacular in four seasons (56 games) with the Redskins. Injured for 7 games in 2018 Crowder managed just 29 catches behind a revolving door of quarterbacks, and was taken off punt return duty.
A decent slot contributor Jamison is yet to have a 1,000-yard season, despite being on ‘breakout’ lists for likely the last three years.
Preston Smith, OLB/EDGE
Like Crowder, Smith was a 2015 draft acquisition who has been a significant starter but never really hit the heights. Preston has not missed a game in his career, gaining 24.5 sacks and 4 ints in 64 games, but he is not a game-changer.
He often goes through quiet periods in games and will likely find another team to give him more love and a decent contact in free-agency.
What do the Redskins need to do?
The Redskins have $17.7 in cap space, which could be immediately eased if CB Josh Norman was cut.
The Redskins will likely look to add to recent QB acquisition Case Keenum after a trade saw him transfer to Washington from the Broncos. With the 15th pick in Round 1, the Redskins may need to trade up to get one of the top three QB prospects (Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock or Kyler Murray), but will likely add depth to the position with their mid-round picks.
Elsewhere the Redskins need an injection of ball-catching talent. TE Jordan Reed just can’t stay healthy, but the more significant problem is at wideout, where Josh Doctson has failed to live up to his billing. Speedster Paul Richardson was supposed to be a game changer but he missed 9 games and only had 20 catches in 2018.
Free agent names the Redskins need to kick the tires on include Golden Tate III, John Brown and Demaryius Thomas and even the return of the gutsy Super Bowl winning WR Pierre Garcon.
On defense, Washington has managed to recently draft two stellar defensive tackles (Jonathan Allen in 2017 and Da’ron Payne in 2018) but they both faded away during December and need to learn that a season lasts up to 20 weeks.
Defensive end is a big need, and somebody like the underrated Frank Clark would be a fantastic pickup. A hungry, nasty player with a chip on his shoulder is what the Redskins need, but again the cap space will dictate the options available. Stealing Brandon Graham from the Eagles would also be a fun one for sure.
by Lawrence Vos – @NFLFANINENGLAND