Over the past two seasons before countless injuries decimated the Washington Redskins and their positive starts to both the 2017 and 2018 campaigns, the recipe for success was already being displayed.
Before the 2018 season, coach Jay Gruden’s offense was coming off of three consecutive seasons of former quarterback Kirk Cousins throwing for over 4,000 yards. The offense was at it’s best, however, when the run game was able to control the clock by sustaining drives.
The Redskins are a winning football team and have been under Gruden when they rush for 100 yards or more. Gruden’s record over his six-year tenure is 35-44-1. The numbers change drastically when the Redskins effectively run the ball.
Add in a young, up-and-coming defensive unit that should be among the NFL’s best groups this season and the formula for a strong season should be in place if the Burgundy and Gold stick too the winning script.
It’s no secret that Gruden likes to throw the football but that is not the team’s strength anymore. Long gone are the days of wideouts DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon and to a certain extent tight end Jordan Reed playing like a Pro Bowler. The new-look Redskins are a team that will have to scratch and claw for everything they earn.
That starts with running the ball effectively with Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson and the unveiling of last years second-round draft pick, Derrius Guice. Guice was injured during the preseason and missed his rookie campaign. If he can return to the form that had him projected as one of the best backs in last years draft then the Redskins could have a formidable three-back rotation.
Last year after the teams first seven games that saw them in sole possession of first place in the NFC East and a 5-2 record, the stat line was as follows:
When Washington imposed their will by feeding Adrian Peterson the ball, they were 5-0 in games that he rushed for 90 yards or more. In their two losses up until that point, Peterson had 11 carries or less with only 20 yards or less. The blueprint foundation was already being laid. Run the ball and win games or don’t and lose.
Pair that concept with a defensive unit that has been built for success over the past few drafts and the Redskins should have a look similar to those of their glory days. Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, the Redskins would wear teams down by running the ball and turning their defensive line lead by Dexter Manly and Charles Mann loose on opposing quarterbacks.
The defensive front this season could be special if Matt Ioannidis, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Tim Settle can continue to take the next steps in their development. The additions of Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins and rookie edge rusher Montez Sweat should fit in nicely with Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan and cornerback Josh Norman.
The Redskins could be a team that stays under the radar to start the season as they have a brutal first five games, but if they can gain a few wins and confidence from the onset, they could be a team to watch.