KIRK COUSINS'S performance was up-and-down both early and late in 2016. He didn't always play with great vision and discipline. That's troubling because he doesn't have outstanding arm strength or athleticism, so he can't consistently conjure big plays on his own. What Cousins does have is an understanding of coach JAY GRUDEN'S system—which might be the best-crafted in the NFL—as well as a willingness to make tough throws, even when defenders are bearing down. When he plays smartly, that's enough to make Washington's offense go.
• DeSean Jackson, who signed with Tampa Bay, was sometimes a headache, and keeping Pierre Garçon would have been expensive, but both receivers will likely be missed in Washington. JOSH DOCTSON, last year's first-round pick, and former Brown TERRELLE PRYOR might be bigger and more talented than Jackson and Garçon, but how do their skill sets fit? Jackson's speed and Garçon's fortitude on in-breaking routes complemented each other, and that factored heavily into how Washington constructed its route combinations.
• It's a myth that you must run the ball well in order to execute play-action. It helps, but it's not essential. Last season the Redskins ranked 21st in run offense, and yet their play-action game was once again among the best: According to Football Outsiders, they led the league with 10.4 yards per play-action pass play. Successful play-action starts with cohesive offensive line movement. If you display that, the defense will react accordingly.
• Defensive coordinator GREG MANUSKY ultimately wants to run a zone-based scheme, but he needs a much stronger pass rush. That's why the Redskins spent a first-round pick on defensive tackle JONATHAN ALLEN and a second-rounder on outside linebacker RYAN ANDERSON, both from Alabama.
• JOSH NORMAN is a superb corner. He's as physical as they come. He has fantastic awareness against receivers at the top of their routes. The concern is speed. Norman's is not lacking, but it may not be quite enough for him to succeed consistently on an island against No. 1 receivers. That's partly why he's better in zone than in man.
"REPLACING JACKSON AND GARÇON WITH THE STYLISTICALLY DIFFERENT DOCTSON AND PRYOR WILL BE A CHALLENGE."
SI'S 2017 PREDICTION
2016 RECORD 8-7-1
ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400
25 TRENT WILLIAMS T
34 JORDAN REED TE
81 JOSH NORMAN CB
125 BRANDON SCHERFF G
147 RYAN KERRIGAN OLB
185 MORGAN MOSES T
215 TERRELLE PRYOR WR
261 KIRK COUSINS QB
264 JAMISON CROWDER WR