The Washington Redskins won the division, bolstered their defense by adding corner Josh Norman and had what’s considered another successful draft. To the ESPN Power Rankings voters, however, they appeared to be just another John Kasich.
The reality is that voters don’t view the Redskins much differently than they did after the Super Bowl. They were 15th at that time; they’re now 16th. However, they ranked 17th after the early wave of free agency so they have that going for them.
(Before you say it I will: Power Rankings in May don’t mean anything; Power Rankings in October don’t mean a whole lot, either. I hear you. But it’s sometimes a look at how teams are viewed. Take it for what it’s worth. Now: relax and read on).
The polls are always dubious – I would not put New England No. 1 at this point considering quarterback Tom Brady will miss the first four games.
But for the Redskins, they’re right in the middle, which at least suggests people don’t think they’ll fall way off from where they were last year. It also means that voters aren’t ready to view them as a team ready to pounce on a good 2015 season. There’s so much skepticism with the NFC East -- and the Redskins failed to beat a team with a winning record last year and lost a home playoff game to a sputtering Green Bay team -- that it holds the division winner back.
Keep this in mind, however: Though 16th, they’re actually seventh in the NFC. Which means they’re considered a prime playoff contender, as they should be.
The Redskins’ offense could be an excellent one this season, but the defensive question marks are why this team is in the middle. (Before you start screaming bias: plenty of Redskins fans are still wondering about this team, too. I know; I hear from them.).
You can look at the teams ahead of them and wonder: Dallas, Indianapolis, Oakland, Baltimore and the New York Jets. The Redskins finished with better records than four of these teams (losing to the Jets). In three of those cases, injuries played a huge role – Dallas (Tony Romo), Colts (Andrew Luck) and Baltimore (Joe Flacco, among others). Of course, the Redskins had plenty of injuries, too, but remained stable at quarterback, which made a difference. I’m not a big fan of the Colts for how they’ve been built, though a healthy Luck led a mediocre roster to 11 wins two years ago so there’s benefit of the doubt.
I’m not sold that Romo’s return and Ezekiel Elliott’s arrival will solve everything for Dallas. But playing in the NFC East probably causes everyone to assume that it will. The Ravens’ history forces everyone to believe they’ll recover because, well, they always have. The Jets? No quarterback, but clearly the belief is that Ryan Fitzpatrick will return. Oakland? Popular pick as 2016’s Team On The Rise.
The Redskins, meanwhile, haven’t posted consecutive winning seasons since 1996-97 – when they were 9-7 and then 8-7-1. History has not been kind to them. Are they a team on the rise or the product of a bad division. You can argue for both sides and that they were helped by a bad division last year. But when you look at the young talent, you can make a strong case they have not yet peaked.
I like what they’re building, but defensively they have plenty to prove. If linebacker Junior Galette looks as he did last August before his Achilles’ injury, that’ll be one problem solved. They need Norman to solidify the secondary. They need to improve vs. the run. But I do like the mindset of the players they’re adding, especially through the draft. It sounds like a hard thing to quantify, but it absolutely makes a difference. There’s a new energy that comes with it, something the franchise (and the defense in particular) lacked in recent years. If the Redskins do anything this season, that will play a big role.