The Washington Redskins earned their first NFC East title since 2012 last season. Now they need to prove that last year's playoff appearance was more than just a byproduct of a down year for the division.
The Redskins signaled their desire to improve from last season's 9-7 record by signing all-pro cornerback Josh Norman, one of the top available defensive players, and drafting wideout Josh Doctson in the first round to provide another weapon for quarterback Kirk Cousins.
"We're just trying to add good football players to this team," said coach Jay Gruden, who's entering his third season with the team. "And we'll figure out who's playing where, how to get receivers the ball, what have you."
Cousins, who took over for injured Robert Griffin III during the 2015 preseason and never relinquished the job, set franchise records for completions and yards last season and was designated with the franchise tag. He'll earn nearly $20 million but must prove his performance wasn't an aberration in order to land long-term security in 2017.
Norman's availability was a bit of a surprise. The Carolina Panthers gave him the franchise tag, too, but later rescinded it after general manager Dave Gettleman decided a multiyear deal at Norman's price was unattainable. Norman quickly flew to Washington and signed soon afterward.
The Redskins are almost certain to face tougher competition in the NFC East this year. The Dallas Cowboys are healthy again, and the New York Giants retooled a defense to support their already explosive offensive attack. Cousins, Norman and Co. will surely have their hands full.
With Griffin now a Cleveland Brown, no one is competing with Cousins for the top spot. He finished in the top 10 in the league in passing yards, passer rating and completion percentage and led three game-winning drives. Colt McCoy returns as the backup, and sixth rounder Nate Sudfeld is a developmental project.
As a rookie, Matt Jones split carries with Alfred Morris last season. Now it's Jones' spot to lose after Morris signed with Dallas. Jones is a pound-it-up-the-middle back, but he must solve a fumbling issue. Backup Chris Thompson was effective in the passing game (35 receptions) last season. Thompson, who says he is fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, signed a one-year contract.
DeSean Jackson missed six games last year with a hamstring injury. He did have a 153-yard game after his return, leading to hopes that he can match his 2014 form, when he averaged more than 20 yards per catch. Doctson, who totaled 25 touchdowns in his junior and senior years at TCU, could be the team's next big scoring threat. He and Jamison Crowder, 23, give the team young legs with Pierre Garcon and Jackson about to hit 30.
Jordan Reed signed a five-year contract extension after catching 11 touchdown passes and figures to be Cousins' top target. Reed has had trouble staying healthy, but the contract indicates the Redskins think he can overcome that. Vernon Davis, signed after a half-season with the Denver Broncos, could be another big red-zone target.
Left tackle Trent Williams had another good season and right guard Brandon Scherff was named to the all-rookie team. The line improved in the second half of last season, with Scherff and right tackle Morgan Moses taking giant leaps forward.
Chris Baker was the only defensive lineman who could provide any sort of pressure (six sacks). The Redskins also struggled against the run, allowing the seventh-most yards on the ground. Kedric Golston takes over at nose tackle for Terrance Knighton, who signed with the New England Patriots. Golston hasn't started a game since 2013, and Washington drafted Matthew Ioannidis and signed Evander "Ziggy" Hood and Kendall Reyes for depth. Keep an eye on former second rounder Trent Murphy, who has packed on pounds in an attempt to switch from linebacker to defensive end.
Ryan Kerrigan had 9½ sacks last season, and rookie Preston Smith stormed onto the scene with eight. Will Compton started the last nine games of the season and got his first career interception. He has his starting spot locked up, and Mason Foster will compete with Perry Riley for the other inside linebacker spot. Junior Galette could be a threat off the edge if he can stay healthy.
Norman had four interceptions, three forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns with Carolina. He'll team with promising Bashaud Breeland. Washington's safety play could use a boost. DeAngelo Hall's last interception was in 2013, and he's still acclimating to the new position. Will Blackmon is also switching to safety. Kyshoen Jarrett isn't certain to play because of nerve damage in his neck and shoulder.
Crowder returned punts in his rookie season and was always looking to make big plays. But it got him into trouble when he didn't call for a fair catch on well-covered punts. Rashad Ross had a 101-yard kick return in Week 2. Kicker Dustin Hopkins went 25-for-28 on field goals, but he was only 2-for-4 beyond 50 yards. He missed one extra point.
Gruden's main task during the offseason was keeping his staff in place. "I feel good about the nucleus of the coaching staff, if we can keep everybody together moving forward and have some stability there," he told The Washington Post. Coordinators Sean McVay (offense) and Joe Barry (defense) are back.
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