Chaos in the Capital? Perhaps not.
The offseason could not have started more chaotically, more disgracefully or more depressingly than it did. But that has long been the case with the Dan Snyder-led Washington franchise. Firing your General Manager on the first day of free agency is chaotic enough, to air personal problems and use that vindictively, as it appeared to be, is in incredibly bad taste. Scot McCloughan had done a very, very good job in Washington, helping to add depth and steel to a middling roster, forging a strong relationship with the starting QB, overseeing back-to-back winning seasons and drafting talent that, thus far, has proved very promising.
The firing was the starting gun for turmoil to follow with Chris Baker, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, all three with fair shout for being the among the most effective players on the roster last year, all walking out without too much done to retain them. Absent a GM, that’s going to happen. There were trade rumours surrounding Cousins, the inability to get a deal done, rumblings of Cousins not willing to negotiate with team President, Bruce Allen. It seemed like there was chaos raining and no end to it with questions regarding draft strategy in light of the man who clearly had control of the process dumped and disrespected by the team.
But then. There came a period of calm and some hope. How good is Terrelle Pryor, really? Washington fans are about to find out after the team caught something of a coup in signing him on a very good short-term deal. Veteran WR Brian Quick adds some depth to the position too. The defence got some much, much, much, MUCH needed help up front with the low-key solid signings of Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain along the defensive line. RT Morgan Moses was rewarded with a new deal, and Vernon Davis signed on after a decent stint last season. The Cousins chat settled down. Then came the draft.
Those outside will never know if Washington changed their draft board following the firing of McCloughan or if they stuck with the work done by him and the scouts. Whatever the process going in, Washington were surprisingly restrained and picked, to this observer, very sensibly and made, again for this fan, four very solid picks in the first four rounds, bookended with outstanding first and fourth round picks.
Why Jonathan Allen of Alabama fell is being largely pinned on shoulder trouble and a possible back injury. Pre-draft he was considered a lock for the top 10 and probably a top 5 pick. To have him fall to your lap at 17 is manna from heaven at a position of dire need for the team. Fellow ‘Bama product, Ryan Anderson, LB, was snapped up in the second and UCLA CB, Fabian Moreau came in the third. Those two are solid if not spectacular picks – which sounds like McCloughan’s type of pick.
In the fourth round came RB Samaje Perine out of Oklahoma with many commentators applauding the value but also that he is immediately in contention to fight for the starting job. With Matt Jones being persona non-grata in Washington, Chris Thompson locked in as third-down back, Perine is in a straight shoot-out with incumbent Rob Kelley. Kelley at points looked awesome and awful last season. With the quality of the o-line, Washington should be able to lean on the run pretty heavily and if Kelley struggles, Perine might find himself toting the rock as RB1 in the nation’s capital.
Speaking of the o-line, the sixth round pick of Chase Roullier of Wyoming and UDFA pick up of Kyle Kalis out of Michigan are both solid moves that provide some additional depth to a strong unit and hopefully, in the case of Roullier, may yield some playing time as an upgrade at Centre.
From what seemed like a car crash happening in slow motion, the offseason has progressed quite placidly since that first seismic shock. The roster, to these eyes, actually feels a little more robust than last season, even if losing Jackson removes some explosiveness from it.
The issue ahead is Washington’s schedule. Yes, we can’t legislate for injury and we have no idea how well teams will actually play come the beginning of the season but the slate for Washington looks tough with the six games against division rivals supplemented by games against the NFC & AFC West, the latter much more daunting than the former but still, and then a home tilt versus the Vikings and a trip to the bayou to face the Saints. At this stage of the offseason, and before I really breakdown my predictions using a 256 game model, I can’t see them getting past 8-8 if the NFC East is as good or better than last season. Either they need to be much better than I’m predicting or they need a couple of their opponents to be weaker, though I’m thinking the Giants and Eagles will flatter to deceive this season which could open the door to the Division or, more likely, a Wildcard slot.
The despicable treatment of Scott McCloughan should not be forgotten but the impact it has had on offseason activity isn’t as disastrous as it could have been and there are some reasons to be cautiously optimistic for the fortunes of the Washington franchise in 2017 *hides under a rock hoping Kirk Cousins doesn’t fall down the stairs*.
pic credit: www.hailtothedistrict.com