You know about the returns of Jordan Reed, Chris Thompson, Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Jonathan Allen and so many others from injury. You know about the running game and run defense needing to be better. But what about Redskins items that haven’t gotten nearly as much attention as those aforementioned issues?
5. Is there/should there be competition at various special-teams spots?
Jamison Crowder seems to have competition from the likes of 2018 seventh-round draft picks Greg Stroman and Trey Quinn at punt returner off having struggled big time on punt returns for a second time in three seasons in 2017. But what about, say, punter? Tress Way was just no. 28 in the NFL in net yards per punt last season off being just no. 26 in 2016. The Redskins signed an Aussie punter in Sam Irwin-Hill on March 16 but waived him on July 11, when they signed Adonis Alexander, the Virginia Tech corner who they took in the sixth round of the supplemental draft. Way is the only punter on the Redskins’ roster heading into camp. Should that be the case? Same question at kicker. Dustin Hopkins is the only kicker on the Redskins’ roster heading into camp. He was great in 2015, struggled in 2016 and then kicked in just eight games last season due to a right-hip injury.
4. Could Kevin Hogan supplant Colt McCoy as the Redskins’ no. 2 quarterback?
The Redskins like Colt a lot as a backup quarterback, and they should. But you can’t ignore that the Redskins traded for Hogan this past April. Now, the cost was next to nothing, as it was merely moving down 17 spots in the sixth round of the 2018 draft. But Hogan is younger than Colt and cheaper than Colt; Hogan’s salary-cap hit for this coming season is just $630,000 as compared to Colt’s $3.6 million. But what’s particularly interesting to me about Hogan is that he was drafted by Kansas City in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. He was released by the Chiefs in the cutdown to 53 in Sept. 2016 but not before having spent that offseason and training camp with the team and its starting quarterback at the time, Alex Smith. So Alex spent time with Hogan in 2016 during offseason workouts and practices, training camp and the preseason. Alex presumably got to know Hogan and developed an opinion on him as a guy and as a quarterback. Did Alex recommend Hogan to the Redskins? Did the Redskins ask Alex about Hogan before trading for him? Did Alex give Hogan a major endorsement? Ya gotta wonder about these things.
3. How is Stacy McGee’s groin?
Jay Gruden revealed in oh-by-the-way fashion in June that McGee, who played in all 16 games last season with 10 starts and was so-so, had undergone groin surgery. The Redskins seemingly and hopefully have legit options on the defensive line for the first time in a long time: Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier II, Ziggy Hood, Tim Settle, Phil Taylor Sr. It is not at all a given that McGee makes this 53-man roster, which would mean that he and Terrell McClain, who were signed to contracts with a combined $19.5 million in guaranteed money in March 2017 (as opposed to the Redskins signing, say, Calais Campbell), would have each lasted with the Skins for just one season.
2. Are any long-term contract extensions going to be signed this summer?
One of the great ironies of the Kirk Cousins #ChaChaCha, which was caused by the Redskins not being more proactive, is that the Skins have done a very good job of signing so many other players to contract extensions before free agency in recent years: Ryan Kerrigan (July 2015), Trent Williams (Aug. 2015), Jordan Reed (May 2016), Morgan Moses (April 2017), Chris Thompson (Sept. 2017), Quinton Dunbar (Jan. 1, 2018). 2015 draft picks Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith and Jamison Crowder are all candidates for extensions, especially Smith and Crowder, who are set to be unrestricted free agents in the 2019 offseason (Scherff is under contract through 2019 under the terms of the fifth-year option that the Redskins exercised this past April).
1. Will Josh Norman be better in 2018 than he was in 2017?
Norman suffered a rib fracture in the loss at Kansas City on Monday Night Football in Week 4 and then missed two games (the win over San Francisco in Week 6 and the loss at Philadelphia in Week 7), so to what extent health was a problem for him last season is tough to say. But what we can say is that the Norman of last season was not the Norman of 2015 with Carolina or even 2016 with the Redskins. Norman’s grade for the season per Pro Football Focus was a mere 79.1, which is in the range of average. Moments like him getting beaten by Tyrell Williams on his 75-yard touchdown reception on a bomb from Phillip Rivers in the second quarter of the loss at the Chargers in Week 14 stand out. And then there is Norman’s lack of picks. You should never judge a corner solely on his interception total, but one of the narratives of the 2017 offseason was that Norman would be playing more off-man coverage, which would allow him to better read quarterbacks and lead to more interceptions. Well, he had zero picks last season off having three in 2016 and four in 2015. Norman had a $20 million salary-cap hit last season and will have nearly $17 million in 2018. He did not play anywhere close to the levels of those cap hits last season, and I say that even though the Redskins’ overall pass defense last season was much better than what it was in 2016.