The Washington Redskins’ offense wasn’t exactly a juggernaut under the direction of Alex Smith in 2018, but it was efficient enough for the team to start 6-3 before the quarterback went down with a career-threatening broken leg. The team addressed uncertainty at the position by trading for veteran Case Keenum and drafting Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins with the 15th pick.
The quarterback competition will continue to be a focal point of the offense during training camp, as will the status of tackle Trent Williams, who skipped mandatory minicamp over frustration with the team’s medical staff. But those are far from the only story lines affecting the offense before camp opens in Richmond in late July. Let’s take a look at four big questions for a unit that ranked 29th out of 32 teams in scoring offense last season.
Will Josh Doctson finally have a big year?
Doctson has something to prove, even if the wide receiver doesn’t want to look at it that way. The team declined to pick up his option, and the 2016 first-round pick is set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2020. Doctson needs to show the Redskins, and the league, that he deserves a significant deal after this season, and there’s no question the Washington offense would benefit from a breakout year from at least one member of its receiving corps.
The problem is Doctson may not get the opportunity to put up big numbers in an offense Coach Jay Gruden hopes is balanced and heavily reliant on the running game. Gruden wants to give plenty of opportunities to running backs Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson while spreading the ball around through the air to Paul Richardson Jr., Jordan Reed, Trey Quinn, Vernon Davis and rookie Terry McLaurin, in addition to Doctson.
“I can’t promise he’s going to get a ton of opportunities with the group of guys that we have,” Gruden said. “The whole intent of this offense is to spread the ball around … and everybody taking advantage when their number is called.”
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Will Brandon Scherff’s contract extension get done?
Right guard Brandon Scherff has yet to agree to a contract extension as he enters the final season of his rookie deal. He’ll make $12.5 million this season after making two Pro Bowls and the all-rookie team in his first four years. Scherff had been durable — he played 46 of 48 games in his first three seasons — before a torn pectoral muscle landed him on injured reserve after eight games last season. Pro Football Focus ranked Scherff as the ninth-best guard in 2017 and No. 14 during his injury-shortened 2018.
Team president Bruce Allen has said that extending Scherff is a priority, and he is likely to command a top-five salary at the position. The Dallas Cowboys’ Zack Martin is the highest-paid guard in the league; he has a six-year, $84 million contract.
Scherff could gamble and wait to sign a multiyear extension until after the new collective bargaining agreement is signed. Former Redskins salary cap analyst J.I. Halsell said Scherff could decline a long-term deal, force the team to use the franchise tag on him for the 2020 season and negotiate a multiyear contract worth more money under the new CBA.
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Will Samaje Perine see any playing time?
Gruden continues to praise the running back, insisting the 2017 fourth-round pick deserves more chances. But how? Running backs coach Randy Jordan has said he envisions a 50-50 or 60-40 split between Peterson and Guice, with Thompson getting snaps in passing situations. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of opportunity for Perine.
“Samaje really has been the guy that has been most impressive,” Gruden said during minicamp. “He’s been out here taking all the reps. He’s really improved in not only the running game but also in the passing game. . . . He’s a powerful running back and he has not had the opportunities that he probably deserves or needs.”
The Redskins made something of a surprise move last fall when they kept five running backs. The numbers could be interesting again with fourth-round pick Bryce Love joining the fold once he recovers from a torn ACL.
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Will Trey Quinn excel as the slot receiver?
Expectations were low for Quinn when he was the last pick of the 2018 draft, but he quickly impressed with good hands and precise route running during workouts and training camp. Ankle injuries landed him on injured reserve twice, but he is poised to replace Jamison Crowder as the starting slot receiver.
“Trey’s done an excellent job,” Gruden said. “He’s come in here and stepped to the head of the class as far as his position is concerned and done a great job. He understands raw concepts, he’s physical, he’s got strong hands, he can separate, and he can block. He’s also a punt returner for us, so he’s a valuable member of our team right now. . . . That slot position is critical for us.”
That’s a lot of praise for a seventh-round pick with three games of NFL experience and nine career receptions, but Quinn continues to make believers of those around him.