Originally written on Cippin on Sports  |  Last updated 11/20/14

For the Washington Redskins, 2012 will mark the third year of the Mike Shanahan era. If there is one defining trait of the regime, it’s been inconsistency. When Shanahan arrived in Washington, the Redskins were a team anchored by sloppy play and an overpaid Albert Haynesworth. Since he took over, we’ve watched Haynesworth get traded, the arrival and subsequent departure of Donovan McNabb, and a revolving door at the running back position.

Despite all of this, Washington fans are hoping for the best in 2012. This would include a stellar rookie campaign by Robert Griffin III, their new Heisman-winning rookie quarterback and the second pick in the draft. It would also entail seeing some development from the new players and, with any luck, the forming of a foundation on a team that’s lacked one for several seasons.

All eyes will be on Griffin during the upcoming season. Like Andrew Luck, who was the only player drafted ahead of him, Griffin is entering the league with massive expectations. The expectations might be even greater in Washington since the team gave up a bundle to get him. The Redskins gave up their 2012 second round pick, as well as three future first rounders. Combine this with the fact that Griffin’s been tagged as being NFL-ready, and the hope in Washington is that he’ll develop into his role as the Redskins’ starter very quickly.

Still, history isn’t on the side of this happening. Rookie quarterbacks struggle. Elway struggled, Manning struggled and RG3 will struggle. What we should really look for in 2012 is how RG3 develops throughout the year. He’s talented enough that his development won’t be spread out over the course of several years, like most quarterbacks. The RG3 we see in Week Seventeen will be infinitely more polished than the guy we see in Week One, and that’s exciting for fans of the sport, not just Redskins fans.

A lot of focus will also be placed on the other new additions to the squad. Besides Griffin, the Redskins also drafted offensive linemen Josh LeRibeus, Tom Compton and Adam Gettis; cornberbacks Richard Crawford and Jordan Bernstine; halfback Alfred Morris and linebacker Keenan Robinson. The team also drafted QB Kirk Cousins in the third round, a somewhat curious pick considering that RG3 is expected to be their franchise player at the position. Realistically, four or five of these draft picks should see playing time right off the bat. Factor in the acquisitions of wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, and the Redskins are shaping up to look like a very different team this season.

Personnel overhauls aside, Shanahan will have to bring some consistency to the lineups if he hopes to coach a successful team next season. The most glaring example of Shanahan’s indecisiveness is at the running back position: Last year saw the Redskins maintain a revolving door policy at the position. Tim Hightower, Ryan Torain, Roy Helu and Evan Royster all led the team in rushing at some point. Instability in the lineups is part of the reason the team only saw five wins in 2011.

If Washington is going to finally turn the corner and close the door on the last half-decade of mediocrity, 2012 is the year to do it. The Redskins have the ninth-easiest schedule this year when considering the 2011 seasons of their opponents. Washington’s opponents have a combined record of less than .500, with only seven teams on the schedule that had nine or more wins in 2011. The team won’t make a surprise Super Bowl run, but teams like the Giants and Saints will provide a good measuring stick to see where the Redskins’ overall talent level lies. With any luck, RG3 will spend the season showing Redskins fans that he was worthy of the number two overall pick and that he’s ready to guide the team into the future.

This is a guest post by Don Phan, marketing analyst at Fanatics Inc. and part-time sports writer. Fanatics Inc. is a leading online retailer of licensed sports merchandise with several brands, and boasts an immense selection Washington Redskins football merchandise.

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