Left without either top choice, new Redskins coach Ron Rivera and vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith quietly added depth and experience to a defense that will rely on an already-powerful front. Whenever football starts, the beginning of the Redskins’ Rivera era will feature a defense that can keep the team in games as the offense matures.
As free agency continues in its third week and the draft looms in less than a month, Washington’s offense continues to be filled with questions. Unable to land a difference-making playmaker such as Cooper or Hooper, the Redskins still haven’t found a starting wide receiver to pair with Terry McLaurin, who had a breakout rookie season, or a tight end who can threaten the defense in the middle of the field. Nor has the question of the offensive line’s most important position — left tackle — been resolved, with Trent Williams demanding to be traded or released.
Rivera and Smith did add depth to the offensive line by signing interior linemen Wes Schweitzer and Jeremy Vujnovich, and they kept guard Brandon Scherff via the franchise tag. Tight end Logan Thomas is an intriguing reserve, and newly signed wideout Cody Latimer and tight end Richard Rodgers could provide depth and help on special teams.
But some of the players who will form the core of Rivera’s offense of the future are likely to join the team through the draft. The good news for Washington is that this is a deep draft for wide receivers, meaning the Redskins can find a potential starter in the third round or even later. Likewise, they should be able to get a contributor at tight end with their third-round pick or one of the two they have in the fourth round, should they choose to go in that direction.
It all means Washington could experience some growing pains on offense this season, given that the team will be young at quarterback as well.
During a recent appearance on Charlotte radio station WFNZ, Rivera said he did not pursue Newton — his star quarterback and 2011 No. 1 pick by Carolina — and made clear something he has hinted at in recent weeks: He wants to start Haskins this year and hopefully build around him. When asked on the show whether last week’s trade for Allen, a former Panthers quarterback who is far less of a threat to Haskins’s starting role than Newton would be, meant Haskins is the No. 1 quarterback, Rivera replied, “That’s what we’re going into camp believing, but they’re going to compete.”
Haskins’s improvement at the end of last season offers some hope that, along with what could be an impressive defense, the Redskins should be able to field a competitive team this year. But the franchise’s ultimate success depends on how fast Haskins grows and the team’s young playmakers bond with him.
Rivera and Smith have added two running backs, J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber, who give Washington depth if Derrius Guice or Bryce Love remain injury questions. McKissic, who has often lined up as a wide receiver in his career, could be the kind of versatile player Rivera likes and might be counted upon to contribute heavily as the younger players develop.
Eventually Washington’s offense under Rivera will take shape, and the Redskins will figure out who their left tackle will be, who will start at wide receiver along with McLaurin, and who will be the top tight end. Some of those answers might come within a month. But once Cooper and Hooper said no, it became clear the Redskins’ offense probably will take time to grow.