Redskins remain stuck in the middle for Super Bowl contention

Here’s a look at the Super Bowl prospects of the Washington Redskins, who finished the season 7-9. The tiers consist of: Realistic Super Bowl expectations; Should contend, but there are question marks; Middle of the pack; Lots of work to do; and Nowhere close.

Westgate odds of winning Super Bowl LIII: 80-1

Middle of the pack: The Redskins have been in this category for a couple years now. They at least settled their quarterback situation, trading for Alex Smith and giving him a four-year extension (the move becomes official on March 14). Whether or not he’s an upgrade over Kirk Cousins can be debated, but they’re not far apart in terms of play level. But, regardless of who they have at quarterback, the Redskins need to give them more help.

One question will be how they handle their first full offseason with a realigned front office. They survived last offseason after firing general manager Scot McCloughan, but a lot of work already had been done. They’re more settled, but the Redskins will have some key people in roles they did not occupy a year ago. It helps that coach Jay Gruden is considered a good talent evaluator.

But the Redskins will need more pieces on offense. They were hit hard by injuries, with key players such as tight end Jordan Reed, running back Chris Thompson and left tackle Trent Williams missing a combined 22 games. When healthy, their line is good, though they have a hole at left guard.

Smith, coming off his best season, played like an MVP candidate for Kansas City at times in 2017. However, he also had receiver Tyreek Hill and running back Kareem Hunt -- two game-breakers with speed. The Redskins would like to add a speedy receiver and a dynamic full-time running back. If that happens, they could have an explosive offense, aided by the development of receiver Josh Doctson. They have the potential for a top-10 offense -- Kansas City was top 10 in points scored in three of Smith’s five seasons.

But to really escape the middle, Washington needs to -- finally -- fix its defense. Early last season it appeared the Redskins might have done so, but injuries hit and they were thin at most positions. Washington has ranked 17th or worse in points allowed for nine straight seasons. And the Redskins have ranked 16th or worse in yards per game for six consecutive years. As the Eagles showed, if you don’t have Tom Brady at quarterback, you’d better have a complete team.