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Why the Washington Redskins could be a sleeper pick in the NFC East

With so much offseason work in the books for the Washington Redskins, NFL watchers can begin to wonder. Primarily how good the 2019 edition will be.

While they still have some holes to fill, specifically at the defensive back position, the Redskins are good or getting better most every place else. Without question, the quarterback position looks to be a bright spot this season and beyond.

Yes, drafting Dwayne Haskins could be the game-changing kind of move that launches Washington back to the postseason. But beyond Haskins, the Redskins have Case Keenum who buys the organization time as they ready their rookie QB to be the franchise starter.

By all accounts, Washington should have been better than their eventual 7-9 record. Had Alex Smith, stayed healthy the NFC East could have ended differently. The Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys 20-17 in Week 7 and the New York Giants 20-13 in Week 8, running their record to 5-2. Then the wheels came off.

The balance of the 2018 season saw Washington lose Smith, and win only two of their remaining nine games.

Call it bad luck, karma, what have you, but last year the Redskins lost two quarterbacks in Smith and Colt McCoy. They’d eventually turn to journeymen types like Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson.

2019 will be different. Perhaps it’s the Haskins pick, or maybe that what happened last season just can’t happen again. Either way, the Redskins are a team who could surprise this season.

How the Redskins could figure in the NFC East

Taking a look at the NFC East, most would say it’s the Cowboys and then everyone else. That could be premature. Granted, Dak Prescott showed he could help engineer a playoff win, and Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper bring a solid game and the requisite star power.

But the jury may still be out on Prescott and the Cowboys. The organization that has been more hype than results is no lock to win the division.

After Dallas, it’s an absolute mixed bag. The Giants have an aging quarterback in Eli Manning and a questionable draft pick in Daniel Jones. It’s hard to see then being better than 5-11. The Philadelphia Eagles also have Carson Wentz returning from another season-ending injury. They also don’t have Nick Foles to bail them out again.

Without question, there is a lane for the Redskins.

Washington won’t, or at least should not feel rushed to get Haskins on the field. As I’ve already written, Keenum can win. While the one year stint in Denver wasn’t terrible impressive, neither were the Broncos as a whole. Keenum was solid in Minnesota and got the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game. The Redskins would be wise to go with a veteran rather than suffer the lumps a rookie would likely deliver.

If there is one fly in the ointment, especially if Washington goes with the rookie to start the season, is a challenging schedule. The Redskins open their season with the Eagles, Cowboys, Chicago Bears, and the Giants. They also play the AFC East, which won’t be a walk-over as the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills should be better than what they did in 2018.

For the most part, the NFL often produces surprises come playoff time. Given the unsettled state of the NFC East, there is no reason to automatically delegate the Redskins to the second division. From top to bottom, nothing is an absolute given, especially the Cowboys.

Washington will have an opportunity if they can get off to a hot start in September. If they can steal a road game at either Philadelphia or New York, a 3-1 start isn’t out of the question. If they roll with Keenum to open the season and have some success, like 3-1, Gruden would be smart to continue with the veteran who has had success.

The Redskins will certainly have some options at their disposal. Haskins looks to be a quarterback teams who picked before Washington may regret having passed on. While jobs aren’t won or lost in rookie minicamp or OTA’s, Keenum already knows he’s simply the guy who will eventually give way to the future Haskins will provide.

Washington is a smart pick to sneak up and shock the NFC East. All the ingredients are there for this team to make a run at a division title. If Keenum can find a way to reproduce that run he went on in Minnesota, the Redskins could be on deck for a huge 2019. But be it Keenum or Haskins, Gruden has the cards to win this season. It’ll be on him if he doesn’t.