Jay Gruden hasn’t led the Redskins to a playoff berth since 2015. If Washington is going to end that drought, they’ll need to answer these five questions.
The Eagles, Cowboys and Giants all get a lot of press in the NFC East, but no one should sleep on the Washington Redskins this season. They didn’t miss the playoffs by much in 2017, and the franchise certainly has their sights set on returning to the postseason in 2018.
Of course, the departure of Kirk Cousins has led to a lot of roster shakeup in the nation’s capital. The Redskins moved quickly to acquire Alex Smith, but no one is quite sure how the offense will function this year.
We’ll start with a serious question about the Redskins defense though. That group certainly needs to get stronger against the run, but did they address it sufficiently in the draft?
5. Can Da’Ron Payne plug the middle?
Heading into the draft there weren’t very many NFL executives who thought Washington could stay put and select Payne. Fortunately for defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, the team was able to stand pat at the No. 13 spot and add the massive defensive tackle.
Finding a player who can stop the run was certainly a priority for the front office heading into the draft. The Redskins finished dead last in the NFL against the run last year. This group simply can’t afford to give up 134.1 yards per game again this season.
It’s no secret what Payne was drafted to do. He’s got the ability to get to the passer every now and then, but his primary charge will be to command double teams in the middle. That’s a vital part of Manusky’s 3-4 defensive scheme. It’s something the Washington defense clearly didn’t have last year.
If Payne can be well, a pain, for opposing offensive linemen next year, he will pay off for the Redskins defense. If he turns out to be a bust, Washington is going to give up a ton of yards on the ground once again.