A team led by Rex Grossman and John Beck hardly warrants excitement. It doesn’t matter how good your defence is, your running game is, or any facet of your team is, if the guy that leads your team doesn’t inspire confidence, a team and its fanbase will decline.
Fortunately for Redskins’ fans, excitement is just what the Redskins had in mind for 2012. Enter RG3. The second overall pick in April’s draft, Robert Griffin III brings speed, arm strength and agility to a position that has been begging to be filled since the days of Mark Brunell.
Mike Shanahan now coaches a team fuelled by excitement. Excitement of what could possibly be achieved now that a true franchise quarterback resides in Washington. With a defence that finished 12th overall and some new offensive additions at the skill positions, the Redskins are ready to begin their transition. They are ready to begin winning.
2011 Record: 5-11
Head Coach: Mike Shanahan
Off. Cord: Kyle Shanahan
Def. Cord: Jim Haslett
Neither Grossman nor Beck performed well in 2011. Grossman is still on the team thus far, but his role has been severely diminished as the Redskins also drafted another quarterback in 2012. Kirk Cousins comes into to develop with Griffin and serve as his faithful backup.
But the onus is very much on RG3. While his Heisman may mean very little if Griffin starts to struggle, but his collegiate success is not to be discarded. And let’s not forgot he is still a rookie. Any struggles will be normal and must be given support during his first NFL season.
Griffin has the ability to succeed at the professional level. It’ll be up the Washington brass to surround him with talent for him to wield and use to push the Redskins into contenders.
In the Backfield
While Washington now has an athlete as a quarterback, the Redskins will be looking at the trio of Tim Hightower (321 yards, 1 TD), Evan Royster (328 yards) and Roy Helu (640 yards, 2 TDs) to lead a rushing attack that will keep the offense balanced and the pressure off Griffin to move the ball at all times.
If Griffin can play in the knowledge that the ‘Skins can run the ball effectively, he will be able to play with more freedom and in greater comfort. But to play devil’s advocate, Griffin could come into this league as the most agile and speedy quarterback currently starting in the National Football League. He will no doubt contribute with his legs, and every time he does and fanbase will draw an uneasy breath.
Newcomers Josh Morgan and Pierre Garcon will be counted upon to make an immediate impact, with Garcon especially looking like he has already made quite a connection with RG3.
Jabar Gaffney was a big contributor in 2011 and he will be missed. Veteran Santana Moss is still going strong with 584 yards and 4 TDs last year, but it will be his leadership the Redskins will be looking for in 2011 as the Skins have a number of youngsters on the roster that could dearly use any advice he could give them. Leonard Hankerson and Anthony Armstrong are two such players that will hope to develop a rapport with Griffin as they try and improve their own game.
Tight ends Fred Davis and Chris Cooley form a partnership that blends youth and experience. Davis will be a major target for Griffin in 2012, while Cooley will hope he still has a job with the Redskins in 2013 after his play has started to decline.
The Big Uglies
Ever since the twilight years of the great Chris Samuels, the Redskins have had more than their fair share of oline issues. While current left tackle Trent Williams is a bright spot on the line, it is still a line that gave up way too many sacks in 2011, 41 to be exact.
Granted, that number may well and truly go down next year, what with Griffin’s ability to use his legs for big gains and to escape pressure, but Shanahan will not want to have his rookie quarterback scrambled too much unnecessarily.
Players such as Tyler Polumbus, Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester and rookie Josh LeRibeus have to step up in 2012 in order to give the future of their franchise a stable pocket to throw from. If they do that Griffin will improve as the season goes on. If this happens, the Redskins will start to win.
The Redskins did a good job in 2011 applying pressure from their defensive line. New additions Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield played brilliantly with Bowen notching 6 sacks and 41 tackles while Cofield registered 3 sacks and 25 tackles.
Other contributors included Kedric Golston and Chris Neild who put up 3.5 sacks between them. The Redskins may not have much depth behind these four players and the Redskins will need to bring in more players to fill the rotation in order to keep the linebackers free of blockers. Despite this lack of depth, the Redskins should have another good showing from their defensive line in 2012.
Led by ageless linebacker London Fletcher, the Washington’s linebacker corps is only getting better with age. In the middle, Fletcher (166 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 2 INTs in 2011) is joined by Perry Riley (68 tackles, 1 sack) and 2012 fourth round pick Keenan Robinson.
On the outside, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan have transformed into a fearsome pair that terrorises quarterbacks from both sides. Orakpo made 59 tackles and 9 sacks, while Kerrigan had 63 tackles, 7.5 sacks and an interception. The pair also forced 7 fumbles between them, a fruitful partnership that is likely to continue in 2012.
Influential enforcer LaRon Landry left for pastures new in New York and leaves a big hole to fill, literally. To help with the loss and to improve depth, the Redskins brought in Brandon Meriweather, Madieu Williams and Tanard Jackson.
Returning from last year are the quintet of DeAngelo Hall (90 tackles, 3 INTs), Reed Doughty (88 tackles), DeJon Gomes (35 tackles), Kevin Barnes (26 tackles and 2 INTs) and Josh Wilson (62 tackles).
The unit wasn’t exactly impressive in terms of interceptions or passing yards allowed on average per game, but Washington’s strength is in its depth, and has a lot of experienced players will come in and see plenty of game time in 2012 as Jim Haslett will try to keep his players fresh.
Brandon Banks did a good job in 2011 manning both kick-off and punt returns. While not posting stellar averages (23 yards per KO, 9.1 yards per PR), or taking a return back for 6, Banks played solidly and should continue playing well in 2012. The coverage units also played well not allowing an opponent a special teams touchdown.
Graham Gano had a season to forget with a disappointing 75.6% field goal accuracy and his job is now in jeopardy with Neil Rackers now on the roster. Rackers should easily take over the starting job and team up with Sav Rocca as Washington’s kicker and punter respectively for 2012.
The Redskins finally have their franchise quarterback in Robert Griffin III, and their success and failures now rest on his head. He has all the skills it takes to be an elite quarterback in this league and all he needs now is the support of his offense and experience.
New receiver Pierre Garcon seems ready to start fresh after his stint in Indianapolis and will hope to become RG3’s favourite target in 2012. While the running game may not be as stable as it was with Clinton Portis at the helm, with Griffin’s speed, the overall rushing attack looks to receive a massive bump this year.
The defence has seen an influx of new players over the last couple of years, but the unit they have is solid and well coached. They will be targeting a top 10 finish in 2012 and will strive to help Griffin not have to chase games and get involved in shootouts.
Mike Shanahan, in his third season in Washington, will be looking to mould his new superstar into a champion. Will it may take a few more seasons to become contenders, make no mistake, the Redskins are on their way up.
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