It’s Game Day Week One and the Washington Redskins travel to Arizona to start the 2018 NFL season against the Cardinals. The Redskins enter week one with a retooled offense with a new quarterback in veteran Alex Smith. The season isn’t starting exactly as planned, with a season ending injury to second round pick RB Derrius Guice. They go from a promising rookie running back to a legendary veteran in Adrian Peterson. That couldn’t have been predicted.
The Redskins also enter the new season with a young receiving corp to go along with Smith at quarterback. Veteran newcomer Paul Richardson is the youngest Redskins receiver at just twenty-six years old. This could be the make or break season for WR Josh Doctson. The promise of Doctson has to convert to production. The Redskins will also rely on a finally health TE Jordan Reed and young wideout Jamison Crowder. Much of the success of the passing game will still fall on to the shoulders of the running game, with Peterson leading the charge and a returning Chris Thompson as the third down back. Thompson is returning this season from a season ending knee injury last season.
The Redskins enter the 2018 season with a promising defensive front. The 2017 first rounder Jonathan Allen returns from his season ending injury last year and looks ready to pickup where he left off from injury, being disruptive upfront. Joining him will be 2018 first rounder Da’Ron Payne. The former Alabama tandem will look to establish dominance upfront. The defensive line will look to resolve issues on run defense last season. However, their success will very likely rely on the effective of the Redskins secondary. Josh Norman will anchor one side and Quentin Dunbar is expected to start on the opposite side. The Redskins will be looking for youngsters to fill in the slot and in the reserve roles. Mainly, I am excited to watch the development of the 2017 draft pick Fabian Moreau. With the trade of Kendall Fuller to Kansas City for Alex Smith, Moreau has a golden opportunity to make a major step forward as a role player on this defense.
Our keys to success:
Alex Smith. Smith needs to get off to a good start and show the chemistry development with his new receiving corp. The Redskins were overly cautious with Smith because of fear of injury. He only attempted 14 passes in the preseason. His benefit is the fact that Jordan Reed is healthy. When healthy, Reed has proven he can be one of the top receiving tight ends in the NFL. However, Reed has yet to play a full season. Reed’s most healthy season came in 2015 when he appeared in 14 games and caught 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 TD receptions. Can he replicate those numbers? In 2017, Reed only appeared in six games. RB Chris Thompson appears to be fully healthy after a season ending knee injury last year. Will he indeed be ready for that big role?
Stop the run. The Redskins invested heavily in the defensive line, with back to back first round picks in Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne. They have a big task today in stopping Cardinals RB David Johnson. The ground defense has been costly for the redskins in seasons past. The Redskins were the last ranked rush defense last season, allowing a salty 2,146 rushing yards and an average of 4.5 yards per carry. With Allen healthy and Payne joining the front, they hope to reverse those fortunes.
Pressure upfront. The Redskins need pressure upfront. Cards QB Sam Bradford can be a gun slinger but he also has a tendency to turn the ball over. Upfront pressure will be the key to forcing Bradford errors. The Redskins have very good pass rushers in Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. Kerrigan has produced double-digit sacks season in three of the last four seasons, including 13 sacks last year. Smith has recorded 8 sacks in two of his last three seasons. A big step forward this season from Smith could make the Redskins pass rush daunting for any offense.
Run the ball. Do the Redskins really know what they are getting in legendary veteran Adrian Peterson? Not really. The 33 year-old back play din one preseason game, and ran for an impressive 56 yards on 11 carriers. However, it was also pre-season. Another big question on the run game is the endurance of an older Peterson. Can he provide an effective run game all season? The Redskins have Rob Kelly and Samaje Perine in the backup roles to Peterson.
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