To say the Redskins had unfortunate luck at the quarterback position in 2018 would be the understatement of the year. Losing both quarterbacks on the roster, Alex Smith and Colt McCoy, to leg injuries two weeks apart is never an easy task to overcome, and the Redskins found out firsthand.
Washington did get some renewed hope when Josh Johnson took over for Mark Sanchez late in the year, then led the Redskins to a comeback victory over the Jaguars. But the magic ran out against the Titans and the team missed the playoffs for the third straight season.
Here’s a look at the four starting quarterbacks from this year:
Take a look at photos from Alex Smith's first offseason with the Washington Redskins.
Review Of The Unit:
The Redskins moved on from Kirk Cousins last offseason, and in doing so moved on from using the franchise tag on the quarterback position for what could have been a third straight season. In the meantime, they traded for Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, exchanging cornerback Kendall Fuller in the process.
The injury hits to the Redskins from the previous year impacted Smith’s transition and chemistry with his targets throughout OTAs and some of training camp, as he was unable to work multiple receivers, including Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson, who were still recovering from offseason surgeries. Losing other offensive weapons in the preseason – most notably Derrius Guice – didn’t make the transition into Jay Gruden’s offense much easier. (The team waived third quarterback Kevin Hogan after preseason).
Which is to say it took a while for Smith to feel fully adjusted to the Redskins offense. As fate would have it, as he began to handle the scheme despite more of his targets and offensive linemen subtracted with injuries, Smith’s season ended in a flash. He fractured his fibula and tibia against the Texans and was carted off the field. The team placed him on IR the next day.
To that point he’d been having close to another Alex Smith type of season, leading the Redskins to a 6-3 record. Through his tenth game, Smith had thrown 10 touchdowns and five interceptions (two against the Texans that day, a very uncharacteristic showing), throwing for 2,180 yards and completing 62.5 percent of his passes.
Colt McCoy took over in that game and nearly led a comeback with time winding down. He made his first start in four years with little time to prepare against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving but the Redskins couldn’t escape a slow start.
He started the next game against the Eagles, but not long into the first half, McCoy fractured his fibula and the team inserted newly signed quarterback Mark Sanchez under center. After a handoff that saw Adrian Peterson storm 90 yards for a touchdown, Sanchez struggled to move the offense effectively, and the absence of Smith (and McCoy, for that matter) grew larger.
McCoy finished his short season throwing for 373 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Sanchez started his next game against the Giants, but the offense stagnated. With the game turned into a blowout, Johnson entered in the second half and sparked some life into team, enough to convince head coach Jay Gruden to let him start the final three games of the season.
Johnson led the team to victory, the first of his career, against the Jaguars, which kept playoff hopes alive. He nearly kept them around the next week in Tennessee but a late interception sealed the game for the Titans. In four games, Johnson completed 57 percent of his passes for 590 yards, with three touchdowns and four interceptions, finishing a second half ruled by injury.
Well, that’s a tricky question for the Redskins, and one that will likely be asked a lot over the next several months.
The challenging part about answering that question is the uncertainty regarding Smith’s recovery and rehab from injury. It’s unclear whether he’ll be able to participate in training camp, meaning there are multiple options for adding quarterbacks to the roster.
“I haven’t talked to Alex in a few days,” Gruden said last week. “I texted with his wife once, but he's recovering, that’s all I can say. I know it's going to be a long process for him. We're obviously hopeful he can turn a corner and start the rehab process and possibly get back on the field. That’s all we can hope for right now. In the meantime, we still have Coly [McCoy] and Josh [Johnson] and [Mark] Sanchez – got a good look at those two guys. So, that’s where we're at."
For the purposes of having quarterbacks on the roster for OTAs, the Redskins will lean on Colt McCoy, who could have potentially played Week 17 against the Eagles had the team still been mathematically alive. He should be ready for the spring, but for backups, there are many options. Gruden was able to see a lot of tape from Johnson and Sanchez, and the Redskins could look into drafting a quarterback, too, to groom over the next season.
“Every year is different. Like I said before, the numbers are very thin, especially when you have injuries,” Gruden said when asked whether he would consider holding three quarterbacks on the roster next year. “Guys have three, four week injuries and they're on your 53 but they're not playing and those guys add up. It's hard to keep a third quarterback just to sit around and hold a clipboard, but that would be a luxury we'd like to have. We've never really wanted to hold just two quarterbacks. We want to hold two quarterbacks and maybe one on the practice squad.”