Thanks in part to a down year for the NFC East, the Redskins came out of nowhere in 2015 to win the division at 9-7 on the heels of a 4-12 season. With most of the Kirk Cousins-led offense returning and the addition of Josh Norman on defense, expectations were high for even better things in 2016, but Washington stumbled to an 8-7-1 record and missed the postseason.
It's hard to know what to expect out of this year's team. While Cousins is back for at least one more year, the Redskins said goodbye to his two leading receivers — DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon — during the offseason. They also fired general manager Scot McCloughan and defensive coordinator Joe Barry, and they watched offensive coordinator Sean McVay leave to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. Greg Manusky was hired to replace Barry, while Jay Gruden will take over the play-calling duties that previously belonged to McVay. Terrelle Pryor Sr. and second-year pro Josh Doctson are expected to fill the void at wide receiver, and rookie pass rusher Jonathan Allen could help improve a defense that struggled last season.
Fifty-five percent of the respondents to The Washington Post's nonscientific user poll predict the Redskins will finish with a record of 7-9, 8-8, or 9-7, which seems about right for a talented team with a lot of questions. Expectations aren't as low as they were entering the 2015 season, when experts ranked the Redskins at or near the bottom of their preseason power rankings, and they're not as high as last year, when most pundits predicted Washington would win the NFC East.
Here's a look at where the Redskins fall in several power rankings entering Week 1, from the most to least optimistic:
SB Nation: 10th (NFC East rank: 2nd)
The Redskins have a believer in Adam Stites, who doesn't explain why he is so high on Washington (or down on the 16th-ranked New York Giants).
Bleacher Report: 16th (3rd)
Chris Simms says he is "starting to have some real concerns about the Washington Redskins offense," but not enough to rank the Redskins below the Eagles in the NFC East.
NFL.com: 17th (3rd)
"Not sure anyone in the football industry knows what to make of the Redskins," Elliot Harrison writes. "The preseason rendering, especially versus the Ravens' and Packers' first-teamers, was not pretty for the offense. The other side of the line is no sure deal, either. The back seven carries plenty of talent. How much push will Washington get up front?"
The Washington Post: 17th (4th)
"A turbulent offseason that included the firing of Scot McCloughan as GM has given way to what feels like an unsettled season, given the uncertainty surrounding the future of two-time franchise-tagged QB Kirk Cousins," Mark Maske writes. "Even so, the Redskins could be pretty good. Pretty good, however, probably won't be good enough in the rugged NFC East."
ESPN: 20th (3rd)
Mike Sando predicts all four NFC East teams will win at least nine games.
CBS: 20th (4th)
"Kirk Cousins is playing for his future, but he did not have a good preseason," Pete Prisco writes. "Even so, expect the offense to be good again."
The Ringer: 20th (4th)
The best-case scenario, per Robert Mays: "If Pryor and Doctson can help this team overcome the losses of Jackson and Garçon, Washington should again feature a top-tier offense. Pair that with the franchise's new blood on defense and you have the ingredients for a significant step forward."
Yahoo: 21st (4th)
Count Frank Schwab among those who were unimpressed by the Redskins' exhibition season. "That was a bad preseason for the offense," he writes. "Kirk Cousins struggled. Terrelle Pryor didn't do much. Even rookie running back Samaje Perine, expected by many to battle for a starting job, wasn't very good. The offensive woes are not guaranteed to carry over to the regular season, but it's not a good sign either."
Sports on Earth: 21st (4th)
"What is there really to be excited about in Washington?" Kenneth Arthur asks. "Kirk Cousins is good, not great. The offensive coordinator and top two receivers are gone. The run game isn't special. The defense lacks stars outside of Ryan Kerrigan and Josh Norman and was still pretty mediocre-to-bad against the pass. Washington's best-case scenario is not too dissimilar from how it finished last season. The worst-case scenario has it rebuilding and moving on from Cousins."
Sports Illustrated: 22nd (4th)
Among 17 voters, the Redskins' highest-place vote was 11th. Their lowest-place vote was 26th.
USA Today: 22nd (4th)
USA Today ranks the Redskins three spots below the Eagles.
Sporting News: 24th (4th)
"Kirk Cousins will likely chuck for big yardage in meaningless situations, but the combined running game and defensive concerns put the Redskins into a distant fourth in the NFC East," Vinny Iyer predicts.
PFT: 25th (4th)
Josh Alper likes the additions of Allen, Zach Brown and D.J. Swearinger on defense.