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Tempering The Washington Redskins Hype

The off-season is a magical place for all 32 NFL teams. It doesn’t matter where they finished the year before, everyone is undefeated until kickoff. All over the country, fans are optimistic. Of course, the fans of some teams have more confidence in their optimism than others. The elite teams, like Green Bay, New England, and Carolina, don’t need to look very hard for reasons to get excited. They have MVP quarterbacks, and look to make noise yet again in 2016.

Some teams, however, haven’t enjoyed real success in a long time, if ever, and they’re hungry to break through that glass ceiling into the elite. Between free agency, the occasional blockbuster trade, and the NFL Draft, each team has a chance to improve every off-season. Every once in a while, magic happens and a team gets the right pieces.

Tempering The Washington Redskins Hype

In 2015, the Washington Redskins were NFC East Champions. Under the leadership of head coach Jay Gruden, the Redskins won nine games, including seven of their last ten. Washington was one of the surprise teams last season, and perhaps no player epitomized the success of his team quite like ‘Skin quarterback, Kirk Cousins.

Cousins was drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft, the same draft that saw the Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III. Nobody ever expected Kirk Cousins to have NFL success.

One Year Wonders?

It’s not fair to hold a breakout season against a player. A lot goes into making the transition from college to the pros, and there’s no science to determine when a player will get it. However, one season does not a great career make. Plenty of players have had great seasons, seemingly breaking through the glass ceiling, only to crash to Earth the following season. Unfortunately, some teams end up investing a lot of money in these players, and it costs them dearly.

Ironically, nobody knows more about this than the Redskins. It’s not hard to name several free agents that haven’t panned out for Washington. Even ignoring the washed up players like Deion Sanders or Bruce Smith, fans of the Redskins still cringe when they hear names like Adam Archuleta, Dana Stubblefield, and Albert Haynesworth.

Several Redskins had breakout seasons in 2015.  Kirk Cousins broke Jay Schroeder‘s record for passing yards with 4,166 in 2015, but he only had 3,030 yards in the three previous years combined. Tight end Jordan Reed‘s 87 catches, 952 yards, and 11 touchdowns lead the team last season, but he never caught more than 50 passes for 500 yards or even 3 touchdowns in a season before that.

The biggest free agent acquisition of the Redskins was a bit of surprise. Most people expected cornerback Josh Norman to be suiting up with the Carolina Panthers when the 2016 season started. Norman and the Panthers couldn’t agree to terms, and the Panthers slapped their franchise tag on him. Normal held out, and the Panthers released him from the tag. A few days and 75,000,000 dollars later, Norman was a Washington Redskin.

Like Cousins and Reed, Norman had a fantastic 2015. Norman was voted into the Pro Bowl, named to the All-Pro team, and helped make the Panthers one of the best defenses in the league. However, just like Cousins and Reed, he didn’t do much beforehand. Norman struggled as a rookie in 2012, was buried on the depth chart in 2013, and had to earn his playing time in 2014.

Again, this isn’t taking anything away from the players. For all we know, 2015 just happened to be a breakout season for several player that find themselves on the Redskins in 2016. We won’t know for sure until the season actually starts in September. However, until these players prove they can maintain this level of play, fans just temper their expectations.

Strength Of Schedule

In 2015, the Washington Redskins only played three teams with a winning record in the regular season. The Redskins played against the New York Jets, the Carolina Panthers, and the New England Patriots. The Redskins lost these games by an average of twenty points. In the playoffs, Washington hosted the Green Bay Packers, ultimately losing 35-18.

The problem is that six of Washington’s opponents in 2016 had at least nine wins last season. The Redskins play the Panthers, Steelers, Bengals, Vikings, Packers, and Cardinals next season. In fact, all six of those teams made the playoffs in 2015. On top of that, they travel down the beltway to play the Baltimore Ravens, a team that should be much better after a disappointing season.

NFC Beast?

Last season, the Redskins were able to win the division with only nine wins. In 2016, that probably won’t be the case. The Dallas Cowboys will finally see the returns of Dez Bryant and Tony Romo this season. After missing the playoffs last year, “America’s Team” will be putting it all on the line in 2016. The New York Giants have changed coaches and spent millions of dollars on improving their defense. And the Philadelphia Eagles certainly can’t have gotten any worse.

All in all, the Washington Redskins stole 2015, and it looks like 2016 will make them pay the price. Some experts still believe the Washington Redskins have what it takes to repeat as division champions this season. In a wild NFC East, there’s no question that anything is possible. But if the Redskins want to be champions again, they’ll have to prove that 2015 was no fluke.


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