The running jokes about the Washington Redskins’ competence as an organization subsided over the weekend, as even the team’s harshest critics had to acknowledge what appears to be a job well done. The team addressed nearly every major roster need in its NFL draft class without reaching for players, mixing in a trade back up into the first round and a move down in the middle rounds to secure additional picks. The team even added a former Heisman Trophy runner-up on Day 3.
Most national analysts have given the Redskins high marks for the 2019 draft. A good class typically yields at least three eventual starters, and in Washington’s case, first-round picks Dwayne Haskins and Montez Sweat will have the opportunity to compete right away at quarterback and outside linebacker, respectively. There are also high expectations for third-round wide receiver Terry McLaurin, and several people in the Redskins’ building are excited about North Carolina State wide receiver Kelvin Harmon, who was drafted in the sixth round.
This could be the draft remembered for rebuilding the offense in the near future.
“Time will tell, obviously, but we’re excited about the guys we have,” Coach Jay Gruden said.
Here are five questions about the team’s roster coming out of the 2019 draft:
What will happen at quarterback?
The competition is on. The Redskins drafted Haskins with the 15th overall pick to be their quarterback of the future, but as Gruden pointed out, first-round QBs get the chance to play immediately. The Big Ten offensive player of the year led the nation with 4,831 passing yards and 50 passing touchdowns and was the top quarterback on Washington’s draft board.
Haskins is still a rookie, however, and Gruden needs to win now. The Redskins traded for Case Keenum this offseason as a bridge quarterback, and Colt McCoy, a Gruden favorite, soon should be fully recovered from a broken leg. Those three players will form a three-man competition in training camp.
“We have a quarterback competition going out the yin-yang right now,” Gruden said. “We feel good about the guys we have in the building for sure. But when you take a guy in the first round at any time, you’re going have to give him a chance to compete.”
The addition of Haskins could leave the team with a tricky situation when making final roster cuts. Gruden doesn’t typically like to keep three quarterbacks but acknowledged this year may be different. The fact that the team was forced to sign Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson off the street last season after Alex Smith and McCoy were injured is also fresh in everyone’s memory.
Who will start at left guard?
As at quarterback, there will be an open competition for the starting job at left guard. Former first-round pick Ereck Flowers was signed in free agency to see whether he can rebound after a rough start to his career, possibly moving from tackle to guard. Fourth-round pick Wes Martin (Indiana) and fifth-rounder Ross Pierschbacher (Alabama) will get opportunities to win the job, along with recently re-signed Tony Bergstrom. Martin is more of a bruising strongman; Pierschbacher is the heady technician.
“We’re hoping that athletically, the skill set that Ereck has, he can do that,” Gruden said. “But Ereck is also a good tackle. So we have some options there. We’ll look at all of them.”
Will Terry McLaurin start at wide receiver?
McLaurin, a third-rounder out of Ohio State, should get a chance to win the starting job at slot receiver, with Jamison Crowder gone to the New York Jets. Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson Jr. have a grasp on the two starting outside spots and would have to struggle to lose the job to a rookie. The Redskins certainly didn’t sign Richardson to a $40 million contract last offseason to be a rotational player. Trey Quinn, a seventh-rounder in 2018, is also in the mix, competing for the slot role.
There is also excitement about Harmon, and both he and McLaurin have the chance to earn snaps as rookies.
“They are both very versatile in their route tree,” Gruden said. “That’s why we like them.”
What will the starting secondary look like?
Washington’s defensive backfield is pretty clear, for the most part, although the team is awaiting word on Montae Nicholson, who was placed on the non-football illness/reserve list last year after being arrested for a fight outside of a bar. The safety is due in court May 14 and could face a suspension.
If he is able to return, Nicholson would be the favorite to start at safety alongside Landon Collins, who signed a free agent deal worth $84 million this offseason. Quinton Dunbar and Josh Norman will start as outside cornerbacks if healthy, with Fabian Moreau as the team’s No. 3 corner. Deshazor Everett could compete with Nicholson if his game continues to grow, and the team signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who could provide depth at corner or safety, this offseason.
Safety was the one obvious positional need that the Redskins didn’t address in the draft. Gruden was optimistic Nicholson would be ready, but Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams was a bit more cautious last week.
“Montae Nicholson has some things he needs to clean up, and we don’t know,” Williams said. “It’s unfair to put him in anywhere right now until he can take care of himself.”
What does Bryce Love mean for the running back group?
The drafting of former Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love out of Stanford won’t have immediate implications, as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL suffered in December. A 2,000-yard rusher during the 2017 season, Love hopes to be ready by the middle of training camp and is a candidate to start the season on the physically unable to perform list and not count against the 53-man roster.
That gives the team an extra six weeks before it has to decide what to do next. Samaje Perine seems to be the odd man out if the team doesn’t want to keep five running backs on the 53-man roster, despite Gruden recently saying he wanted to get Perine more opportunities. The bigger question is what happens in 2020 when Love is healthy and on a rookie deal and Chris Thompson, who has been dinged up the last two seasons, is an unrestricted free agent. The team could keep both or move forward with a young running back duo of Derrius Guice and Love.
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