NFL: A New Horizon for the Washington Redskins

In the final part of his preview of the NFC East, Ben Sathananthan looks to the positive future surrounding star recruit Robert Griffin III and the struggling Washington Redskins 

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Must Watch Games

Week 2 @ Rams
Week 3 vs. Bengals
Week 11 vs. Eagles
Week 13 vs. Giants
Week 15 @ Browns
Week 17 vs. Cowboys

Preseason Results

W @ Bills 7-6
L @ Bears 31-33
W vs. Colts 30-17
W vs. Buccaneers 30-3

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Fans should expect great things from this man, just don’t expect wins straight away

Washington have been lacking in direction for the past 4 years since the departure of former coach and current NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs. One of the proudest franchises in the NFL has had very little to cheer about, either with prospects or results. One of the major problems has been the lack of production from their quarterbacks: Robert Campbell, Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck, the list goes on. After losing superstar running back Clinton Portis to chronic injury problems, it seemed the Redskins would be mired at the bottom of the NFC East while they persisted with second string quarterbacks in a conference where quarterback play is so crucial.

But there might be some light at the end of the tunnel after they drafted QB Robert Griffin III at pick 2 in 2012. The former Baylor product has been touted by some as the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draw, surpassing even Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck who was drafted at pick 1.  The 2011 Heisman trophy winner has drawn comparisons to both Michael Vick and Cam Newton, and we know what Newton did in his rookie year. If Griffin can produce numbers anywhere in the region of Newton’s (and most likely, Luck’s) rookie year, the Redskins will be set for the next decade at quarterback. Griffin’s ability to run has won him many pundits but with such an aggressive style of play, it begs the question: Can Griffin keep healthy? Fans and enthusiasts alike will hope he doesn’t inherit Vick’s injury curse. Even if that isn’t the case, the Redskins also picked up Kirk Cousins in the draft. While he is no Griffin III, he has performed well enough in the preseason to earn himself the backup spot over turnover king Grossman. Many fans will point at the offensive line if Griffin can’t be healthy, after allowing a total of 41 sacks last season. Improvements are expected, but don’t hold your breath in a division littered with quality pass rushers.

In light of Portis’ demise, running back Roy Helu emerged to shoulder most of the rushing load last season. Now in his 2nd season, bigger things will be expected of him after providing great spark to the Redskins rushing attack. After drafting Alfred Morris this year, who also ran powerfully in the preseason averaging 5 yards per gain, and picking up Evan Royster the previous season, the Redskins seemed destined to improve on the 25th ranking last season. However, injuries have struck down all of the Redskins running backs and all are probable starts for the Redskins opening game at New Orleans. Helu was also used heavily as a short yardage target last season with Grossman and Beck under coach Shanahan so it will be interesting to see if he is utilized in this way again with Griffin III as quarterback, who is more adept at firing long passes down to the wide receivers. Former Colt Pierre Garcon will be the top receiver after coming across from Indianapolis in the offseason. Combined with Jabar Gaffney, Fred Davis and Santana Moss, the Redskins are deep at wide receiver and will give Griffin the targets he needs to succeed in the league.

The Washington defence, led by the evergreen linebacker London Fletcher were ok throughout 2011. Solid but nothing special, across the board. Theres nothing wrong with a middle of the table defence if your offense is getting it done, which wasn’t the case for the Redskins. Fletcher can’t be relied on year after year to have Pro Bowl type seasons, leading the NFL with 166 tackles in 2011 yet the Redskins haven’t drafted anyone to replace him. Whilst being great as a tackling unit, they struggle to turn the ball over, especially when their offense was so good at it, making them spend more time on the field than most defensive units. Coming out of the transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4 will increase expectations after having 2 years for Jim Haslett’s system to settle in and defensive ends Adam Carriker, Jarvis Jenkins and Stephen Bowen need to combine for more than 11.5 sacks this year to cover for a patchy secondary. After losing LaRon Landry and O.J Atogwe in free agency will make the Redskins susceptible to the elite quarterbacks of the NFC and especially their division. Players like Brandan Meriweather and Dejon Gomes must have breakout years otherwise the Redskins will get torn to shreds on long yardage plays.

Whilst Griffin and Garcon are fantastic additions to the offensive, time is needed to gel the offense and however NFL-ready Griffin is, there is no substitute for match practice. The offensive line will need to protect their young quarterback like their lives depend on it and the defence must force more turnovers. However I just can’t see the Redskins winning more than 1 divisional game (and even that’s a stretch) against in a supremely tough division, and whilst the signs may point in the right direction, the final record will not. Expect the Redskins to go 5-10.

Read yesterday’s piece on the Philadelphia Eagles here.

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