Coming off their first division title since 2012, the Redskins enter their third season under head coach Jay Gruden having made a couple key additions in free agency, particularly on the defensive side of the ball after signing CB Josh Norman away from the Super Bowl champion Panthers, inking him to a five-year deal worth $75 million, $50 million of which is guaranteed. The team is hoping he will shore up a defense that was below average last season. On offense, they signed veteran TE Vernon Davis to a one-year deal to serve as a No. 2 to TE Jordan Reed and, potentially, start some games if Reed misses time with injury, as he has done in each of his three seasons in the league.
In his first full season as a starter, QB Kirk Cousins threw for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns, with just 11 interceptions. Reed, who started nine games, was the team’s leading receiver with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. WR Pierre Garcon had 72 receptions for 777 yards and 6 touchdowns was next in receiving totals. WR DeSean Jackson had a disappointing season, with 30 receptions for 528 yards and 4 touchdowns in nine starts. The team’s leading rusher from last season, RB Alfred Morris, is now with the Cowboys, leaving RB Matt Jones as the presumed starter. In 13 games last season — no starts — he had 144 carries for 490 yards and 3 touchdowns. RB Chris Thompson, who is expected to be the No. 2 this season, had 216 yards on 35 carries in limited playing time last season. With the Panthers last season, Norman had 4 touchdowns, which represents more than one-third of the 11 interceptions that the entire Redskins defense had.
With a full season under his belt, Cousins looks to put up similar numbers to last season, if not do better. If Jackson can stay healthy and improve upon his stats from last season, it would be a boon to the quarterback. The addition of Davis also should help out Cousins. The offense will likely rely on the passing game, with the lack of an experienced starter in the backfield, particularly with Jones dealing with a shoulder injury this preseason. And, of course, Norman should help lift the defense, taking some of the pressure off of the offense.
The Redskins kick off their schedule with a Monday night contest hosting the Steelers in Week 1, followed by a Week 2 home game with the Cowboys, who will likely be without QB Tony Romo. In Week 3, they have their first road game, against the Giants. They have a tough stretch in the middle of the season, facing the Bengals in London in Week 8 before a Week 9 bye, which leads into home games against the Vikings and Packers in Weeks 10 and 11, respectively. A road game at the Cowboys is on tap in Week 12, followed by a visit to the Cardinals for Week 13. Noman gets to face his former team when the Panthers come to FedEx Field for Week 15’s Monday night game. The Redskins end their season at home against the Giants in Week 17. Even before Romo’s injury, I projected the Redskins to win the division and with that setback for the Cowboys, I think it strengthens the Redskins’ chances of winning back-to-back division titles for the first time since the 1982-84 seasons, when they won three straight NFC East championships.