My obsession with NFL preview magazines is running on 20 years now. Each spring, as I look for ways to spend my time until football season begins, I rush to my closest book stores in search of the latest annual issues.
This year, I compiled what the top magazines are saying about how the revamped Redskins will stack up against their own division and the rest of the league.
Not surprisingly, after a 3-13 season — the team’s worst record since 1994 — four of the five magazines I profiled predicted the team to finish last in the NFC East. The only magazine to have the Redskins finishing higher than last was USA Today, which went with Nate Davis’s second-place prediction of 7-9.
Here are six other Redskins-related nuggets that caught my eye as I perused the prognostications.
1. The Redskins are low on everyone’s power rankings. Very low
Of the magazines with power rankings, the Sporting News was the most generous, placing the Redskins 26th overall and 15th in the NFC. USA Today, the same magazine that predicted the Redskins to go 7-9, has Washington ranked last in the NFC and 30th in the league. Pro Football Now — which has been re-branded since the demise of Pro Football Weekly — showed no mercy, ranking the Redskins as the worst team in the NFL.
Lindy’s did not publish an NFL power ranking, but — par for the course — expects the Redskins to finish dead last in the NFC East. Athlon provided a power ranking by conference, with the Redskins coming in at 16th in the NFC. (That’s last, for those counting at home.)
2. Akeem Jordan is the best linebacker on the Redskins…according to Athlon Sports
Linebacker Akeem Jordan, who was signed by the team March 19th, was ranked as the 19th-best inside linebacker in the NFL by Athlon Sports. Neither Brian Orakpo or Ryan Kerrigan, who have four Pro Bowls between them, ranked in the top 20 outside linebackers. I’m not sure how the rankings were gathered, but they were put together by Ourlads NFL Scouting Services.
Orakpo and Kerrigan are shoo-ins to start at both outside linebacker spots, while Jordan was signed primarily to bolster the special teams unit.
The same magazine projected fellow newcomer Darryl Sharpton to start ahead of Jordan in its Redskins’ depth chart. However, it seems likely that Jordan will enter training camp behind Keenan Robinson in a battle to start alongside fellow inside linebacker Perry Riley.
Sidenote: Alfred Morris, who was the NFL’s second- and fourth-leading rusher in his first two NFL seasons, was rated by Athlon as the 21st-best running back in the league.
3. Lindy’s says Jay Gruden coached in the XFL
“The 47-year-old Gruden is unquestionably a bright offensive mind, but this is his first command other than the Arena League and the XFL.”
As one of about 25 people on earth that thoroughly enjoyed the XFL for its brief existence, I know this to not be true. I would say it was definitively a typo, but U and X are pretty far apart on a keyboard.
4. Washington is classified a ‘clueless’ franchise
Pro Football Now put together five categories to describe each of the 32 NFL franchises. Teams are grouped as “the elite,” “good but not great,” “stuck in the middle,” “bad but could be worse,” and “the clueless.” The Redskins were placed in the “clueless” sector of the NFL, along with the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Tennessee Titans.
PFN cites coaching instability, Robert Griffin III as a “reclamation project,” and owner Daniel Snyder rolling the dice on DeSean Jackson as reasons for the classification.
5. The Redskins name controversy is USA Today’s second ‘thing to watch’ in the NFL this season
USA Today’s annual NFL preview magazine developed a list of 14 story lines to monitor during the 2014 season. “Is Robert Griffin III still a franchise quarterback” made the cut — finishing at No. 9 — but is still seven behind “The continued Washington Redskins name controversy.” For those curious, “Messing with the PAT” is the magazine’s top story line.
6. Jay Gruden is named the seventh-best coaching hire out of the seven new head coaches
USA Today’s Maggie Hendricks ranked the seven offseason coaching hires, placing Mike Zimmer at the top of her list. In last? Redskins Coach Jay Gruden. “The Redskins needed a big hire,” she wrote. “Instead, they went with Gruden, who has an accomplished brother but little experience of his own….”
“Gruden has to coax production out of a timid Robert Griffin III, handle new receiver DeSean Jackson and, of course, deal with a meddling owner whose regime has made few good personnel decisions.”
Jake Russell is a sports aide at The Washington Post and the founder of JakeRussellSports.com.