For a few weeks, some have asked about the Washington Redskins' roster -- is it championship caliber? Or just rebuilding? And two names that will be worth watching in the summer, for different reasons, are tight end Vernon Davis and linebacker Preston Smith. All of these topics are addressed. Thanks to @RedskinsRecon, @FoFotyFo and @rochaser.
On if this is a championship roster or are they rebuilding: I wouldn’t say it’s either. They have a few more parts to add to make it a championship roster, but to view them as rebuilding, which suggest they’re coming off a bad season, isn’t accurate either. But are they still building? Of course. Only one team won the Super Bowl last season, and even Denver is building. Washington did not beat a team with a winning record last year (early prediction: that will change in 2016), which suggests more work must be done. The Redskins have built a playoff-contending roster, which has intrigue in some parts and big questions in others. That makes them like a lot of teams. To reach championship level, they need more elite-level players on defense. Can Josh Norman and a healthy Junior Galette take them there? They’d certainly help, but Redskins fans more than anyone should know the dangers of offseason promise. And I’ll say this, too: Those in charge understand where the Redskins are at in terms of their talent base. It’s growing, but needs a bit more. They're eyeing a long-term fix and if certain players develop then they'll continue pushing in the right direction.
On Vernon Davis' impact: Redskins signed him to be veteran insurance, a guy who can help both as a receiver and as a blocker. If he ever starts a game it’s because the Redskins are in a two tight-end set, but clearly he and everyone else at this position are backups to Jordan Reed. Davis is definitely being paid as a guy who’s more than a third or fourth tight end ($2.38 million cap hit). But they also have other players here who can help. Niles Paul appears ahead of schedule in his recovery, but when they signed Davis, they had not yet seen him on the field. If Paul is OK, then there’s good depth in case Davis has nothing left (I’m guessing Denver fans will tell you he doesn’t). With the weapons in the passing game, Davis should be nothing more than an occasional option. I wonder what sort of matchups he’d get in certain sets – if, say, he’s on the field with Reed and receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. It should be favorable, which is why most of the time they just need him to win down the seams. I don’t know what Davis has left because we haven’t seen him on the field. I know what he has done, or hasn’t done, the last two years. He’ll have to be better, but it’s not as if the Redskins season will fall apart if he isn’t.
On Preston Smith’s role: This will be a fun one to watch as he develops. He was definitely playing a lot more toward the end of the season and if he truly learned a lot his rookie season about preparation, effort and more then he has the talent to become a very good player. But they also have Ryan Kerrigan and Junior Galette. Still, as has been oft mentioned, the Redskins use their sub-packages at least 75 percent of the time. That means Smith will play quite a bit. Assuming Galette starts opposite Kerrigan, Smith would still get plenty of reps in their base set just to give others a break. But Smith offers them someone who could rush standing up or as an end in certain packages. I’d like to see a stunt with him and Galette. Or with Smith and one of the linemen, allowing the 6-foot-5 Smith and his long arms to crash the middle. They can often use three-linebacker sets in which all three are up (one would likely be behind the linemen). There are a lot of ways to deploy him. And the key for Washington is that it appears to have three solid pass-rushing outside linebackers. If one gets hurt, for a game or an extended period, they have some depth.