The Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday take on their former offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and the Redskins, who he is leading in his fourth season as their head coach. The Redskins are 15-14-1 during the past two seasons with that tie coming last season against the Bengals in London. The Bengals gave up 546 total yards of offense in that game, which marked the first of four consecutive games in which the Bengals failed to win, dropping them to 3-7-1 and eroding any playoff aspirations. In the preseason dress rehearsal, Bengals fans will surely hope for a better showing from the defense. But what can we expect from Washington? We turn to our friends at Hogs Haven to get the inside scoop on the Redskins.
Scott Schulze: To the outside observer, the Redskins’ quarterback situation seems to be the never-ending story, from the trade for RGIII, to the debate on RGIII vs Cousins as the starter, and the current situation of Cousins not signing long-term. Who do Redskins’ fans see as their starting quarterback next season?
Ken Meringolo: I see Kirk Cousins as the starting quarterback of this team for years to come. If you look at what they are paying him this year ($24 million), or the average over the two years worth of tags ($21.5 million), it is kind of right in line with what teams are ponying up for their "franchise" guys. I don't think the Redskins feel like they are overpaying, and the salary cap savings went out the door when they didn't sign him up after the 2015 season. The issue regarding whether or not Kirk is a franchise quarterback is a righteous debate. I think people would be surprised to see Cousins currently listed as the THIRD all-time most accurate quarterback in NFL history. He has set single season passing records in Washington for two straight seasons. Just last week, he said he wants to be a Redskin for life, which is a big deal in a town where "words matter." There is always enough room under the NFL's salary cap to pay your quarterback, and my guess is that the Redskins and Kirk Cousins will get a long-term deal done next offseason, when the $34 million franchise tag puts the team well beyond what it wants to pay any player.
Scott Schulze: In the 2016 draft, many Bengals fans were enamored with TCU’s Josh Doctson, who the Redskins selected two picks before the Bengals made their pick. With DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon no longer playing for the Redskins, what are the initial thoughts of a receiver group led by Doctson, former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, and the 5’8” Jamison Crowder?
KM: With all due respect to DJax and Pierre, the Redskins should be fine at wide receiver this season. People were afraid the team wouldn't have a burner to take the top of the defense without DJax, but Pryor boasts 4.38 speed. Experts worried the Redskins lacked the toughness to make possession-extending catches in traffic without Garcon, but both Pryor and Doctson are huge bodies--both bigger than Pierre. Doctson came into the league as one of the preeminent receivers in the "catching contested balls" category. Scouts raved about his ability to bring down a ball in traffic. The key for Doctson, of course, is to be healthy and play, which we will need to see. As for Crowder, he is that modern-day NFL receiver that is impossible to cover. He is fast, smart and he seems to have built a pretty good connection to Cousins. No matter who plays outside for the Redskins, they will benefit from having Jordan Reed making defenses crazy out of the tight end slot.
Scott Schulze: Speaking of the draft, this year the Redskins drafted Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine in the fourth round. With the Bengals’ selection of fellow Sooner running back Joe Mixon this year, I feel compelled to ask about the other half of the Sooners’ running back duo. How has Perine looked so far? Does he have any chance of pushing Rob Kelly out of his starting role?
KM: The Redskins are one of those teams that say they have a starter determined (Rob Kelley), but ultimately it will be three guys splitting touches. I don't think Perine will "take" Kelley's job, but I think he will see the field a good amount. Chris Thompson, the pass-catching back the Redskins have worked more and more into the offense (think Giovani Bernard, but not quite as many touches), will likely increase his load this year, leaving the rest of the work to be divvied up between Samaje and Kelley. Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher has come on as of late in Washington's preseason, and is looking a lot more comfortable than he did a month ago, and I don't think Gruden is going to think twice about using him, potentially as a runner inside the red zone.
Scott Schulze: One of the biggest concerns for Bengals’ fans this season is the offensive line – especially in pass protection. Left tackle, Cedric Ogbuehi, is in his first season there after struggling at right tackle last year, which led to him getting benched. The right tackle this year is also a first year starter after doing little to instill confidence last year when he was a backup. And the team’s center is perpetually rated as one of the worst in the league. Will the Redskins’ pass rush offer a good test for the Bengals’ offensive line?
KM: I guess so...if you like multiple choice tests! We are pretty undecided on our defensive line at this point (outside of Phil Taylor at nose tackle), so you are likely to see a variety of combinations in terms of personnel from the Redskins. Ryan Kerrigan is always a hard worker, but Washington is waiting to see more from Preston Smith, Junior Galette, rookie Ryan Anderson and a host of other young players that actually have a chance of not just making the team but getting reps this season. The team’s 3-4 defensive line has yet to really impose its will on anyone yet, but it will be interesting to see when the Redskins put Jonathan Allen on the field in this game. The first-round draft choice out of Alabama looks pretty good so far, and if he is able to crack the starting lineup, that should result in a more efficient and effective pass rush.
Scott Schulze: Since fantasy football season is almost here, I’d like to ask a fantasy related question to get a little “inside scoop” on which Redskins I should be drafting this year in my league. Do you think Jordan Reed will be healthy this year, and is Kelly worth drafting as a fantasy starter?
KM: You are going to have to pay up for Reed as one of the top two or three tight ends in the league, even despite the fact he has failed to play 16 games...EVER. I am not sure where Pryor is being drafted these days, but I think he is going to get an insane amount of targets. Crowder is a definite starter in fantasy this year, and you can probably get him for decent value. I don't think people are getting any discounts on Cousins, but he is capable of 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. To me, the Redskins’ running back situation is not one that lends itself to any kind of fantasy excitement. I like Chris Thompson as a flex player in deeper leagues, but Perine and Kelley are going to share the ball.
Scott Schulze: Since it’s only the preseason, I won’t ask for a score or a winner, but what should Bengals’ fans look for from the Redskins this weekend? Any hidden gems or rookies who are impressing in camp who we should focus in on? Any interesting positional battles of note?
KM: Like I said above, Jonathan Allen can play ball and we need him to start, so seeing what he can do will be important. Doctson is still working his way back into game shape, but I would like to see him get some reps with Cousins in at quarterback. Ideally, the Bengals will get a taste of seeing Reed, Pryor AND Doctson on the field together--I have not seen that yet myself. I plan to keep a change of shorts handy in case it happens. On defense for the Redskins, I think the outside linebacker spot is intriguing. I feel like a serviceable player in this league is going to get cut by Washington there--and that doesn't seem to happen too often for the team at linebacker.