Redskins go from RG3 to Cousins, eye more wins
Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan was asked what would constitute a successful season for a franchise coming off a 4-12 record and six last-place finishes in the past seven years.
''From the standpoint of wins, it doesn't matter. I mean, it matters, but I'm not going to put a number on it,'' McCloughan began.
''I know this: When you play the Redskins this year, you're going to know you played us. You're going to feel us, from the standpoint of being physical. The next morning, you're going to be sore,'' he said. ''We're not going to win every game. But I'll tell you what: We're going to compete, no matter what. ... We will not back down. And if we do, then changes will be made.''
That certainly sounds good. And it constitutes a step up from Redskins President Bruce Allen's much-mocked December boast about ''winning off the field.''
What remains to be seen is how long it might take for McCloughan to do what he was hired to do: turn the team around.
The most obvious, and possibly significant change from 2014 to 2015 is that Robert Griffin III is no longer the starting quarterback as Washington prepares to host Miami. Instead, the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has been supplanted by Kirk Cousins, a fourth-round pick in the same draft in which RG3 went No. 2 overall.
''We're all behind Kirk,'' said Terrance ''Pot Roast'' Knighton, part of McCloughan's major overhaul of the defensive line. ''Everybody's talking about our quarterback situation. But the coach made the decision that he felt was best for the season. We're going to back our coach up on that, and we're going to back up our quarterback.''
In Jay Gruden's first year as an NFL head coach, very little went according to plan. That included a rotation of QBs that saw Griffin, Cousins and McCoy all start and then be sidelined by injury, a benching or both.
As Gruden heads into Year 2, one key question is whether the most important position will again be a problem. Gruden, after all, was brought aboard because of his offensive acumen.
He also maintains that - with McCloughan in charge - there is a better 53-man roster at his disposal.
''Obviously, this time of year, everybody has high hopes. We had high hopes last year,'' Gruden said. ''But I think from last year comparing to this year, I think you can see we have more players that are NFL-quality backups, special-teamers, all that stuff. You can see that we're bigger, we're stronger, and I think we're faster. That's a good thing.''
Here are some issues facing the Redskins this season:
OFF THE FIELD: Hardly a day goes by in Redskinsland without some sort of crisis. There was the bizarre Twitter episode involving McCloughan's wife. The reversal of Griffin's status for an exhibition game, when he was cleared, then not cleared to return from a concussion by a doctor who has since resigned. There was the signing of Junior Galette after he was cut by the Saints because of off-field issues, and then the pass rusher's season-ending injury. There are still the intertwined issues of the team's nickname and negotiations for a new stadium site. What else will crop up?
O-LINE: McCloughan has made clear he strives to have success in the trenches. The team is counting on an inexperienced right side of the offensive line, with No. 5 overall draft pick Brandon Scherff at guard and second-year player Morgan Moses at tackle, and has no reliable backup to Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams. How good will pass protection be?
NEW DEFENSE: A defense that failed to stop anyone was overhauled, with Joe Barry replacing Jim Haslett as coordinator and all sorts of additions, including cornerback Chris Culliver, safeties Dashon Goldson and Jeron Johnson, and linemen Knighton, Stephen Paea, and Ricky Jean-Francois. How much better will it be?
Two of the team's top three tight ends, Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen, are injured and out for the season. The other, Jordan Reed, has yet to show he can stay healthy. Will this position be a big problem?
Freelancer Ian Quillen in Ashburn, Virginia contributed to this report.
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