RICHMOND, Va. — Time has about run out on this version of the Washington Redskins.
Entering his fifth season as head coach, Jay Gruden has led his team to an NFC East title, one playoff berth and a 24-23-1 record in its past three seasons. That is the very definition of mediocre. Now with the quarterback situation finally settled after the departure of Kirk Cousins and a trade for veteran Alex Smith, the Redskins are in win-now mode.
“We are not in here to build the team around (Smith),” Gruden said. “The team is built and he has to lead it like right now. This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.”
That sense of urgency is necessary. Washington will find keeping up with the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles difficult in the division. That means it must be better than the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, both of whom also missed the postseason in 2017, and put itself in the fight for an NFC wild-card spot.
The Redskins have plenty of nice pieces. There just might not be enough. Left tackle Trent Williams, a six-time Pro Bowler, and right guard Brandon Scherff anchor an offensive line that was decimated by injury last year, but if healthy should be deep and dependable. Morgan Moses is a staple at right tackle. Ty Nsekhe is one of the NFL’s better swing tackles. That’s a good start.
But there are questions. Will one of the young running backs emerge (Derrius Guice, Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine)? Can tight end Jordan Reed finally stay healthy? Is there enough depth at wide receiver with the addition of Paul Robinson via free agency from Seattle?
Ultimately, given Gruden and Smith’s track record, there is enough here on offense for a playoff run. The Redskins rolled the dice by including slot cornerback Kendall Fuller in the Smith trade so that position features a host of young players next to Josh Norman. But they have invested in the defensive line repeatedly, including the past two first-round draft picks (Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne).
If that finally pays off and Washington improves its run defense, it will have a chance to ride that offense into a playoff chase. If not, the Redskins will continue to spin their gears with Gruden entering the final year of his original contract and two years to go after that on an extension signed in March, 2017.