This article is part of our Team Previews series.
Washington has been stuck in a cycle of mediocrity under coach Jay Gruden, who consistently finds his way to seven to nine wins with a disjointed roster full of injury-prone players. Rookie QB Dwayne Haskins gives the team some real hope for the future, but Gruden may not be around to see it.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
THREE-WAY QB COMPETITION?
A promising 2018 campaign went up in smoke after Alex Smith suffered a career-threatening leg injury Week 11, with Washington stumbling to a 1-5 finish while using three different signal-callers. One of those was Colt McCoy, who required multiple surgeries during the offseason after an unsuccessful attempt to rush back from a fibula fracture in December. Trade acquisition Case Keenum is stylistically similar to McCoy, offering good mobility and short accuracy without much of a knack for downfield passing. On the other side of the coin, first-round pick Dwayne Haskins is a classic pocket passer at 231 pounds with a cannon arm and subpar mobility. Common sense suggests a team with poor postseason odds should lean toward the rookie in the opener, but coach Jay Gruden is on the hot seat and may believe a cautious plan with Keenum or McCoy provides the best path to wins in 2019. For whatever polish he lacks coming out of Ohio State after just one year as the starter, there's a lot to be said for Haskins' single-season conference records of 4,831 passing yards and 50 touchdowns. Gruden has said the rookie will get a fair shot to win the job, but regardless of how the battle plays out this summer, it's a safe bet the victor enters Week 1 with a bottom-10 fantasy ranking among starting quarterbacks.
A BLOATED BACKFIELD
Derrius Guice landed in a great situation in 2018 as the 59th overall pick, competing for carries with the likes of Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine. Unfortunately, the rookie suffered a torn ACL in his first preseason game, and the team responded by signing Adrian Peterson, who landed another contract for 2019 after running for 1,042 yards as a 16-game starter last season. The Redskins hope Guice can seize the lead job, but Peterson's strong play means nothing will be handed to his young teammate. It doesn't help that Guice had an odd recovery process after a post-surgery infection required intravenous antibiotics and prolonged rest. The 22-year-old rebounded from the setbacks to join spring practices, but he'll presumably be limited until training camp. Guice may be left with minimal work if he can't win the starting job, as Washington still has Chris Thompson locked in for passing downs. Thompson has 12 DNPs the past two seasons, but when healthy he's typically handled about half the snaps on offense. A three-headed backfield would be a fantasy nightmare for everyone involved, especially given the likelihood that Washington doesn't have many touchdowns to go around. Guice at least offers theoretical three-down potential, whereas Peterson and Thompson are aging, specialized players.
PERPETUAL KINGS OF IR
In 2018, 28 different Redskins spent time on injured reserve, including Alex Smith, Derrius Guice, Jordan Reed, Paul Richardson and both starting guards. The defense had much better luck from a medical standpoint, but it wasn't enough for the team to avoid a fifth straight season under Jay Gruden in the bottom 10 in Football Outsiders' adjusted games lost metric. For all the evidence suggesting injuries tend to even out over time, Gruden's teams stand as an exception to the rule after placing at least 18 players on IR each year during that stretch. There seems to be something more than bad luck going on, with core players on offense – Guice, Reed, Richardson, Chris Thompson, guard Brandon Scherff and tackle Trent Williams – missing at least nine games apiece over the last two campaigns. The injuries become all the more impactful when combined with shaky depth, a byproduct of owner Dan Snyder and executive Bruce Allen's approach to roster construction. Richardson's shoulder injury last season left the Redskins without a deep threat, and Thompson's absences forced them to use borderline NFL running backs in passing situations. While the backfield is better stocked for 2019, there's still a glaring lack of proven wide receiver talent behind Richardson, who has missed 26 games in five pro seasons.
PIVOTAL PLAYER: Derrius Guice
Between the quarterback battle and the lack of talent at wide receiver, Washington's best chance to make the playoffs this season requires excellent work from the defense and running game. Guice dealt with setbacks in the early stages of his ACL rehab but still has a level of upside that Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson can't match.
RISING: Trey Quinn
After flashing potential during an injury-marred rookie season, Quinn is the probable replacement for Jamison Crowder in the slot. Feeble competition for targets creates PPR upside for the 6-0, 200-pounder.
FALLING: Adrian Peterson
For all the credit his 2018 performance deserves, Peterson will be hard-pressed to see double-digit carries per game if Derrius Guice is healthy. Hall-of-Fame credentials don't matter much in a committee backfield and bad offense.
SLEEPER: Jordan Reed
Despite all the injuries, Reed is the closest thing Washington has to a reliable receiver, averaging more than 4.1 catches per game in each of his six seasons. There's minimal risk involved now that his ADP is in the gutter.
KEY JOB BATTLE – LEAD BALLCARRIER
Redskins running backs coach Randy Jordan said he envisions a 50-50 or 60-40 split between Guice and Adrian Peterson, but the expectation likely will change if one player looks much better than the other during training camp and the preseason. Ideally, the team would like to see its 2018 second-round pick separate from the pack, with Peterson then serving as a reasonably priced insurance policy on a two-year, $5 million contract. There's no clear path to both players yielding significant value at the same time, as Chris Thompson figures to handle most passing downs. It's hard enough for one team to support a pair of fantasy-viable running backs, and it's all but impossible when a third player also gets regular snaps. This isn't a situation that's likely to be the exception, with total offensive output presumably limited by the team's shaky situation at quarterback and wide receiver.
CASE KEENUM – QB (from Broncos)
Hoping for another chance to recapture the Minnesota magic.
DWAYNE HASKINS – QB (Rd. 1, No. 15 – Ohio State)
The rookie has a big arm and prototypical build, but mobility is limited.
TERRY McLAURIN – WR (Rd. 3, No. 76 – Ohio State)
Could benefit from familiarity with his college quarterback.
LANDON COLLINS – S (from Giants)
Set the league record for guaranteed money ($44.5 million) for a safety.
JAMISON CROWDER – WR (to Jets)
Leaves the Redskins without a proven volume target at wideout.
MAURICE HARRIS – WR (to Patriots)
Another ding to one of the weakest receiver groups in the NFL.
PRESTON SMITH – LB (to Packers)
Started all 48 games at outside linebacker the past three years.
ZACH BROWN – LB (to Eagles)
Leaves an open competition for snaps next to Mason Foster.
THE INJURY FRONT
Derrius Guice, RB – Guice will be 13 months removed from his ACL tear when Washington takes the field Week 1, but the recovery process was complicated by an infection after his initial surgery. Reports were positive after he rejoined the team toward the end of last season, with the 22-year-old resuming running in January or February and taking part in some individual work during the offseason program. That said, Guice injured his hamstring after mandatory minicamp, placing a cloud over his availability for the beginning of training camp.
Jordan Reed, TE – It's always something with Reed, who was limited to rehab work during the offseason program after finishing 2018 on injured reserve due to a foot sprain. He also struggled with toe discomfort throughout the year, eventually revealing that he never made it back to full strength after he had surgery on both big toes last offseason. Reed now seems to be in better health than he was at the same time last year, but history suggests he's unlikely to stay that way for long.
Paul Richardson, WR – Signed to a five-year, $40 million contract last offseason, Richardson injured his shoulder early on and was only able to play through the pain until early November. He later revealed that he'd suffered multiple fractures of the clavicle, in addition to the AC joint sprain that was reported to the media. The 27-year-old wideout made it back for some team drills during June minicamp and is expected to receive full clearance once training camp kicks off. The quarterback situation remains problematic, but Richardson at least appears to have minimal competition for wideout snaps and deep targets.