- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A first-round draft pick at quarterback, a hungry young defense loaded with potential and an All-Pro safety added through free agency. Plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Redskins’ upcoming season, right?

Well, sure, but don’t look at the preseason predictions.

Just about everyone is projecting the Redskins to be in the NFL’s bottom third this season, and some are more pessimistic than others, putting Washington at the bottom of their preseason rankings alongside the woeful Miami Dolphins.

Of the league’s 32 teams, the Redskins come in at No. 26 in NBC Sports Washington’s preseason rankings.

“You couldn’t script a worse second half than what the Redskins experienced in 2018,” NBC Sports Washington’s Ryan Homler wrote.

There is some positivity from NBC Sports’ prognosticators, who point out that the Redskins have a couple of talented young run-stoppers, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, anchoring the defensive line with another year of experience under their belts, and the team is counting on a boost from second-year running back Derrius Guice, back after an entire rookie season lost to injury.

Add in Landon Collins, the former New York Giants safety and 2016 All-Pro, who should bolster the Redskins’ shaky secondary, and there are reasons for the team’s fans to hope.

“Washington does have some upside. But, they’ll need everyone to remain healthy,” Homler writes. “And that is a lot to ask for considering the misfortunes of past years.”

Those misfortunes are part of the reason Sporting News has Washington as the second-worst team in the league, behind only Miami.

Sporting News predicted last week that rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins will replace Case Keenum, but warns that won’t solve the team’s problems.

“The Redskins will see some QB struggles either way, meaning it’s more about — wait for it a third time — the running game and defense to keep them afloat,” the publication’s Vinnie Iyer wrote.

If the season goes as poorly for the Redskins as he expects, Iyer said look for changes at the top next year.

“If they end up ranked at 31st at the end of the season, then it will mean the end of the Jay Gruden era,” Iyer wrote.

ESPN also has the Redskins rated as a disaster this season, putting them at No. 28 in their May 8 rankings. But ESPN’s John Keim acknowledges that this year’s team has the “best base of young defensive talent the Redskins have had in a while.”

NFL.com has 2019 as little more than a “bridge” year for the Redskins — a year for what they consider the league’s 28th-best team to find out whether Haskins is their quarterback of the future.

“Anytime a franchise can squeeze two or three first-round picks into its draft haul, it can mark a turning of the page — especially if one of those players is a quarterback,” NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison wrote.

“There are plenty of draft critics who are high on Dwayne Haskins (No. 15 overall), the Ohio State product who immediately provides hope on the quarterback front,” Harrison wrote. “Case Keenum can be the perfect bridge for the organization — and the rookie’s evolution — by simply treating every game like it’s part of the 2017 Divisional Round.”

Those gloomy predictions might be tough to swallow for a lot of Redskins fans, but it’s easy to see why expectations are so low, at least among football writers.

On the eve of the 2019 season, this is a franchise that, in the eyes of much of the league, is sorely lacking in star power.

On his list of the NFL’s best 100 players, just posted Tuesday, CBS football writer Pete Prisco has zero Redskins. Two of the team’s best — offensive lineman Trent Williams and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen — were honorable mentions. (No Tom Brady at the top of this list, by the way: Prisco has Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald as the top player in the NFL, followed by the Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes at No. 2.)

For comparison, the Philadelphia Eagles had five names on that list. The Dallas Cowboys, seven. Not surprisingly, both of those NFC East rivals are picked to finish ahead of Washington in the division.

And fans are picking up on the negative vibes.

Over at SBNation, an online poll of the site’s NFC East readers — including those who follow the Redskins through their Hogs Haven portal — puts Washington’s chances in the division below even the rebuilding New York Giants.

Readers gave the Redskins a 3% chance of winning the East. The Giants come in at 4%, the Cowboys are at 30% and the Eagles are the favorites of about two-thirds of all poll respondents.

• Katelyn Davis can be reached at kdavis@washingtontimes.com.

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