Redskins' many injuries lead to average season

The Washington Redskins ended the season with a 18-10 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday. Here’s a recap of the season and what’s next:

Season grade: Average. A 7-9 record isn’t good, but it's understandable given their schedule and the injuries. Losing to the Giants in the finale, however, was inexcusable. Kirk Cousins threw three interceptions. Washington went 1-5 in the NFC East and also against division winners -- not every loss stemmed just from injuries. They were 5-1 against teams that entered the season finale with a losing record.

Season in review: After a Week 3 27-10 win over Oakland, the Redskins were 2-1 and felt really good; it was their most complete win in a long time. But the good feelings didn’t last as they lost three of the next four games. The injuries mounted and Washington ended the season with 20 players on injured reserve. The Redskins also had several key players -- including tight end Jordan Reed and left tackle Trent Williams -- who dealt with nagging injuries. Losing rookie Jonathan Allen in Week 5 proved to be a crucial blow for the defensive line. The Redskins used at least 26 different offensive-line combinations. However, they were in position to win a couple of big road games -- in Kansas City and New Orleans -- but failed. In other games, their big-money guys, or key players, failed to make plays or dropped passes. So injuries did not excuse all.

Biggest play of season: On third-and-3 in the third quarter against New Orleans, running back Chris Thompson broke his leg. In the 11 games he played, the Redskins averaged 359.4 yards and 23.1 points. Without Thompson, the Redskins averaged 267.5 yards and 17.3 points per game. It wasn’t all because they lost Thompson, but he was arguably their most irreplaceable player because of his unique skill set. Even if they had beaten the Saints, they would have struggled in subsequent games without Thompson.

He said it: “You really can't make this up. This is something that I've never in my life, playing football, seen an injury bug bite a team like it's bitten us." -- Redskins left tackle Trent Williams

Key offseason questions

Biggest draft need: If they don’t keep Cousins, it would be a quarterback. Short of that, there’s no glaring need but rather a host of them: inside linebacker, a dynamic full-time running back, left guard and another receiver or defensive lineman. The Redskins have eight draft picks after having 10 last season; they’re trying to develop more young talent -- for a change. Now they just have to make it work.

Free-agency targets: They must decide what to do with Cousins. Do they offer a legitimate long-term deal that tempts him to do more than counter. Or should they use the franchise tag a third time or use the transition tag (at $6 million less)? Do they try and trade Cousins? There’s a good chance we’ll be asking the same questions at this time next year.

Keeping their own: The Redskins have 19 players who can become unrestricted free agents (and three others who would be restricted). After Cousins, the Redskins have to decide which players to re-sign, including linebacker Zach Brown and corner Bashaud Breeland. Other notables include receiver Terrelle Pryor, starting offensive lineman Spencer Long and reserve linebackers Junior Galette and Trent Murphy and inside linebackers Mason Foster and Will Compton.

Coaching changes: The Redskins have changed defensive coordinators twice under Jay Gruden; a third time, and second in two years, would not be a good look. They struggled on special teams this season as well, and Ben Kotwica has been in charge for the past four seasons. Injuries played a role in both units’ performance. There could be some minor reshuffling on the staff.