Washington Redskins: 5 players who must improve in 2018

Washington Redskins

After a quarterback change this offseason, these five Washington Redskins have to up their level of play this year.

After a two-year franchise tag dance with Kirk Cousins, the news came during Super Bowl week that the Washington Redskins had made a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for Alex Smith. Cousins subsequently signed a three-year, $84 million (fully guaranteed) deal with the Minnesota Vikings in March, in perhaps the most inevitable departure in the history of NFL free agency.

The Redskins are saying all the right things about Smith, but it’s also clear they disrespected Cousins financially and did their part in setting him up to fail. Simply removing that drama should be a good thing, but this is the Dan Snyder-era Redskins we’re talking about. There will be something, somewhere and somehow, to cause drama.

Washington has some issues to rectify defensively, after finishing tied for 27th in the league in scoring defense (24.3 points per game) and 21st in yardage allowed (347.9 total yards per game) last year. But the need for improvement is across the board, and these five Redskins have to perform better this season.

5. Martrell Spaight

Washington was dead-last against the run (134.1 yards per game) last year, as they allowed 4.5 yards per carry (29th in the league). Injuries to linebackers Mason Foster, Zach Brown and Will Compton opened up an opportunity for Spaight, who saw the most defensive action of his three-year career and started six games.

Foster was well-regarded by Pro Football Focus as a run defender, a pass defender and a pass rusher before going down last year. Spaight was an obvious drop-off, and well, I’ll let our friends at Riggo’s Rag give their postseason assessment of Spaight.

When Spaight wasn’t on the field with other strong players, he couldn’t hold his own. Spaight showed a lack of instincts, particularly in coverage as he was unable to stay with tight ends, and his tackling ability wasn’t as strong either.

Spaight’s trouble in coverage will limit him to being merely a backup player at the best. While he did show improvement over his 2016 performance, it wasn’t nearly enough to allow the Redskins to think of him as a future starter. Given that the three linebackers ahead of him on the depth chart were set to hit the free agent market this offseason, it appears that Spaight really missed his opportunity to emerge as a big part of the Redskins future.

Speaking of the three aforementioned three linebackers, Brown and Foster were re-signed by the Redskins and Compton signed with the Tennessee Titans this offseason. So Spaight may have completely missed his chance to show he’s starter material. But the Redskins’ run defense can use good contributions from anywhere it can get them, and the Arkansas product still has the perception of youth approaching his 25th birthday in August.

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