New York and Philadelphia should fight it out for the two mid-pack positions in 2015, but don't overlook the changes being made in Washington. It will take some time for everything to come together, but for the first time in a while, the Redskins are looking like they have people at the helm who might just have a clue. That all starts with the front office, and Dan Snyder started by making his most significant move in that area.
- The Redskins hired Scot McCloughan to be their new general manager. McCloughan was a key force in helping both the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks in building toward the success that both franchises have experienced in recent years, and there is no reason to believe that he has lost his knack for finding talent that can be molded into a winning organization. The only cause for concern will be if his boss chooses to continue to insert his own expertise into the mix. Left alone Scot will give Snyder a winning program.
- When you look at the teams that McCloughan helped put together in both of his previous stops you naturally think defense first. That is an area in which the Redskins have been sorely lacking of late, and the new GM is working hard to reverse that trend. It all starts with defensive philosophy and to get things started there is a new coordinator for Washington's defense. Joe Barry replaces Jim Haslett (as Cowboys fans breathe a sigh of relief). He has run both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes in the past, and from what is being said by the Redskins, the look he will give to their defense is going to be a hybrid of both concepts. It is also anticipated that with a lack of a solid four man pass rush, the Skins will resort to plenty of blitzes to generate pressure on the quarterback.
"It's not a two-gap 3-4. It might be more of a shoot-the-gap-type of 3-4, a get-up-the-field-and-rush-them 3-4." - Jay Gruden
- To make the defense work Washington invested heavily on the defensive side of the ball. Second-round defensive lineman Preston Smith should come in and contribute right away. He is flexible enough to fit in anywhere along the front line and he fits the bigger-stronger-faster mold that the new GM favors in players. He will be joined by former Denver Broncos nose tackle Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea, formerly with the Chicago Bears. The trio, paired with the remaining holdovers from the Haslett era should give Washington a solid, but not spectacular, front three.
- Washington also made a move to better a dismal secondary. Former 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver will provide an added boost to the corps of defensive backs. Bashaud Breeland for one should quickly find a home in the new Redskins defense. He is best at man coverage, and that is what the new philosophy on defense calls for. There are still plenty of vulnerable slots for opponents to cash in on, but they are becoming fewer.
- The first one looking to fill one of those gaps will be sixth-round draft pick Tevin Mitchel. He is something of a project for new secondary coach Perry Fewell, but what a package of raw material to work with. As someone who watches the SEC closely, I can tell you that if he can be polished, Mitchel is going to be something special in a couple seasons.
At times, the 6'0", 183-pound Mitchel looks to have the potential to be a lockdown corner—he has great trail speed, maintains inside position, and his recovery speed is excellent. He'll need to develop more functional strength and bulk up at the next level, but with some finishing work, Mitchel might break into the starting rotation in a year or two. Based on pure athletic potential, he's definitely one to watch.
- The biggest question Washington will face on offense is going to revolve around RGIII. Griffin is going to have to learn that NFL coaches are not Art Briles, and that he is not going to run the show. Griffin's fueds with both Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden have been detrimental to his development as a professional quarterback and to the team. If, and that is a major if, Robert Griffin can harness his ego and play within the structure that he is being given the Redskins will have a chance to start down the road to success. If he cannot do so, the young quarterback will most likely find that it is he and not Gruden who will be the next one to be railroaded out of town.
- To help Griffin and the rest of Jay Gruden's offense develop, the Redskins also brought in former Dallas Cowboys offensive line guru Bill Callahan. To give the new line coach something to work with the front office also drafted Iowa tackle Brandon Scheff with the fifth-overall draft pick. The combination of Scherff and Trent Williams will give Callahan a pair of tackles to help him get started remolding the front five in Washington.
The Washington Redskins appear to be making much better moves than they have in years past. There is an overall strategy at work in how they handled the most recent offseason and the club appears to be committed to making the moves necessary to begin the climb back to relevance in the National Football League. It still remains to be seen how long the process will take, but they are moving forward rather than laterally for the first time in recent memory.
The initial moves will lead the Redskins to a better outing this season, but it will not be enough to climb out of the NFC East cellar this year, That could happen in 2016. For now they are still the weak sister of the BEast but don't turn your backs. The Redskins are starting down a road that will eventually pay off.