ASHBURN, Va. — As Adrian Peterson stayed warm on the sideline at Green Bay, focused on the present, he witnessed another glimpse into the Washington Redskins‘ future. Rookie receiver Terry McLaurin, running down the right seam, twisted around to his left, reached up and made a one-handed grab in the end zone.
The catch provided a highlight for TV — and excitement for the older players. That’s why, in the locker room after the game, Peterson’s eyes lit up when asked if the young players provided him energy. He returned to one play.
“Yeah, definitely,” Peterson said. “You see that catch by McLaurin?”
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McLaurin and a handful of other young players allow the Redskins (3-10) to dream of better days — even during their worst season in some time. After the season, they will need a new coach and will possibly have a new or restructured front office. They have plenty of questions about their roster, too.
But the Redskins have 30 players who are 25 years old or younger. Of that group, 19 played key roles during Sunday’s loss in Green Bay. The previous week at Carolina, that group numbered 20. Of their 28 draft picks over the past three years, 24 remain with the organization. Thirteen of those picks either start or play a lot.
That’s the selling point to a new coach.
“I think it’s going to be awesome,” interim coach Bill Callahan said. “Start with the quarterback, then look at the receivers. You’ve got some young players out there at the skill positions. There’s a lot of good building blocks and you move across the ball [on defense] and you can see the same thing in that instance as well.”
The truth is, the Redskins have young players who provide hope — but also some, including Dwayne Haskins, who still face lots of questions.
The Redskins have a young defensive front that has flexibility and should continue to improve. If the Redskins want to switch to a 4-3 front next season, they can do so thanks to talent such as end Matt Ioannidis and tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. All are 25 or younger.
Ioannidis leads Washington with 8.5 sacks and has 16 over the past two seasons combined. He’s signed through 2022.
But it’s not just that group. Rookie outside linebacker Montez Sweat hasn’t produced flashy stats, with five sacks, but he has played the run well and has been more effective rushing the passer of late. Sweat has 3.5 sacks in his past five games. He also could play right end in a 4-3 if the Redskins make that switch — and would benefit from a scheme that creates more movement along the front.
McLaurin is the only wideout who appears to have a solid future regardless of the new coach or style of offense. He’s produced with team highs in receptions (46), yards (703) and receiving touchdowns (six). In fact, no other Redskins target has more than 334 yards — and the team only has 12 touchdown receptions.
The other under-25 receivers include rookies Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon. Both have shown flashes — Sims as a shifty underneath playmaker; Harmon as a physical target. Their futures might be dependent on the new style of offense. And the Redskins do believe they need to add more to this position to help Haskins.
The big questions
Haskins might be their quarterback for a long time. He also might not last long. He’s only started five games and the statistics aren’t good. He ranks 35th in both total QBR and passer rating among quarterbacks with at least five starts. From the driver of the pick — owner Dan Snyder — on down, the Redskins have preached patience.
It takes time and it takes someone willing to grind. Whether Haskins does that consistently remains to be seen; that wasn’t the case early in his tenure here, but he’s doing much more now. He’s talented, but that gets you to the NFL — the work leads to success. One member of the organization said Haskins is now seeing how the extra work can help pay off on Sunday. If he doesn’t develop, it’s a big setback to the organization. If he does, then it answers a question at the most important position.
There’s also running back Derrius Guice‘s durability considering he now has three knee injuries in the seven games he’s played in Washington, including two preseason contests. He has never carried more than 10 times in an NFL game and has a long way to go to prove he’s durable. The talent is obvious. Just in case: The Redskins drafted Bryce Love in the fourth round in April, knowing he’d be unlikely to play after tearing his ACL last season.
The Redskins have plenty of offseason needs — another left tackle, a cornerback and possibly a safety; at least one tight end. And more. But they will return a young core that already has been through a lot.
“Next year will be crazy for us knowing the kind of guys around me, the kind of guys that can play through anything,” Collins said. “From that standpoint, it’s going to be good.”