There is a lot of hype going into the 2013 season for the Washington Redskins. They finally have a quarterback capable of carrying the team on his back, a running game that can dominate the front lines AND they are coming off of their first division title since 1999.
There are also a lot of question marks heading into the season. First of all, everyone knows Robert Griffin III is injured and no one knows how well he will play when he comes back. Second of all the Redskins gave up the second most total yards with the third most passing yards allowed in 2012. Will the new additions on defense improve the defense this year? Will the running game continue to be the best in the league? Or will it falter with a hobbled RGIII? Well, here’s my preview.
Let’s start with the strengths of this team moving into 2013.
- A strong running game, with an established front line.
- With a healthy Robert Griffin III, one of the most dynamic offenses.
- A creative coaching staff that can adjust on the fly.
- A healthy defensive front seven for the first time since 2011.
- Basically the same core on offense for the second consecutive year
- Added versatile weapons around RGIII with Jordan Reed, Devery Henderson, Chris Thompson. Granted there is no guarantee all of these players will see significant play time, but they are still weapons at the Skins disposal.
- Everyone is still unsure about how healthy RGIII is and will be at the beginning of the season.
- Have added some new talent on defense with: E.J Biggers, Nick Barnett, Philip Thomas, David Amerson, Baccari Rambo and Chase Minnifield. A lot of additions, mostly in the secondary. Sounds like a strength, but the problem is that the last four players are rookies. So we don’t know what we are getting out of them. Nick Barnett is 32 years old so he has experience and still has some in the tank. But he’s 32 and most likely won’t have a major role. Also E.J. Biggers has been known to get burned (a lot like our corners last year). So there definitely is some talent and potential there, but I’m not getting too excited just yet.
- Will Fred Davis ever become the elite tight end he has the capability to be? Can he stay healthy or clean? (suspended for marijuana use in 2011).
- Can the front seven stay healthy the entire season? I’m talking to you Brian Orakpo.
- The Redskins haven’t made back to back playoff appearances since the 91-92 seasons.
Alright so now I’m going to pull out my crystal ball and make some predictions.
Offensive Sleeper: Pierre Garcon
Most of the time when you hear the term “sleeper” you think of someone most people don’t know about. What I mean by the offensive sleeper is that Pierre Garcon is a player that a lot of people tend to forget about. People forget about how good he was (when healthy) last year and how good he has the potential to be. I think this year could be a breakout year for Garcon if he remains healthy for 16 games. He had a huge impact on the Redskins offense last year as Washington was 9-1 with Garcon playing. Last year he reached his highest receiving yards per game with 63.3 ypg. He also tacked on 4 touchdowns in only 10 games with 44 receptions and 633 receiving yards. If he played all 16 games, he was on pace to beat his single season high’s in TD’s (6 in 2010 and 2011) and receiving yards (947 in 2011). Garcon has the speed to either go deep for a big play or to catch one short and outrun the entire defense (i.e. in his debut game against the Saints). He also has the ability to run clean routes with the courage to run across the middle. He is the closest thing to the full package that the Redskins have at WR and RGIII clearly has some chemistry with Garcon. If Pierre is healthy for all 16, I expect career highs in yards, TD’s and receptions. He could breakout to be the elite receiver I’ve always thought he could be.
Offensive MVP: Alfred Morris
Everybody expects this category to be owned by Robert Griffin III, but that’s too easy of a pick and I think Morris is more valuable than RGIII at this point. Alfred Morris was exactly the type of running back Mike Shanahan has been looking for since he arrived in Washington. A one cut, smashmouth, decisive running back that will always fight for extra yards and hit the right hole. He’s not the fastest guy (4.67 forty time) and he’s not the biggest guy (5’9 219). But he’s a well balanced Shanahan prototype. The 163rd overall pick in the 2012 draft came out of nowhere and set a new single season rushing yard record at 1,613 (second in the league behind Adrian Peterson) breaking Clinton Portis’ previous record. Morris also had the second most TD’s and yards per game in his rookie campaign. Morris showed out in the preseason and Shanahan stuck with the FIU product; making him the workhorse of the offense. He had 335 rushing attempts in 2012 which registers for third most in the NFL. He also averaged around 21 rushes a game. If RGIII is in the lineup week one or not, Alfred Morris will be the most valuable offensive player for the skins. Washington was third in rushing attempts, second in rushing touchdowns and first in rushing yards. With or without Griffin, the redskins will pound the rock with Alfred Morris and run that play action heavy passing attack. Kirk Cousins will be a serviceable backup as he was last year and the skins will continually control the game with the rushing attack. Oh yeah, and remember that last regular season game when Morris ran for 200 yards and 3 TD’s? That was pure dominance and shows what Morris is capable of if Washington wants to completely control the clock. If he lives up to and builds on what he did last year, then the offense will continue to prosper and defenses will continue to have to focus on two young stars in Griffin III and Morris.
Offensive X-Factor: Robert Griffin III
The X-Factor and MVP categories are interchangeable if you ask me, but with Griffin on the field, the Redskins offense is a lot more dangerous. Kirk Cousins is a solid game managing type of quarterback. But RGIII is the game changer. Whether it’s with his speed, exhibited on the 73 yard dash against Minnesota, or his arm strength and accuracy that was on display when he threw 3 TD’s in one quarter against the Cowboys. Robert Griffin III is the complete package at quarterback. He has the leadership ability, the speed, the arm and the mental toughness to be the franchise quarterback for years to come. The one question is: Can he protect himself from himself? He took way too many hard hits last year and showed his ineptitude to slide or throw the ball away.Robert is a smart guy and knows he is just as much at fault for his injury as everyone else is. I think he has learned from his mistakes and will make better decisions when leaving the pocket. His legs and arm make him one of the most unpredictable players in the NFL. I don’t think the Redskins will ask him to run as much as last year (He had 120 rushing attempts last year!). I think this year we will see RG3 unleash that cannon attached to his right shoulder. I have 100% faith that RG3 can deliver as a pocket passer. His 15.1 vertical yards per attempt (VYPA, a measure of productivity on passes thrown 11 or more yards downfield) ranked first in the league and his 16.4 stretch vertical YPA (SVYPA, a productivity gauge for aerials thrown 20 or more yards) ranked second. He had the lowest interception to pass attempt ratio in the league. The most yards per pass attempt and the third best passer rating at 102.4. All of this in his first year in the league. The guy is the real deal. Although, Washington has announced that they won’t completely change the game plan from last year. I expect to see more situational designed runs from the coaching staff instead of random option plays on first and second down like last year. The skins don’t want to put him at too much risk, but you can’t tell the dude not to run in SOME situations. It’s like telling superman not to fly.
Defensive Sleeper: Perry Riley
Heading into his 4th year in the NFL, I think Perry Riley is on the cusp of making a huge leap in his game. Ever since the second half of the 2011 season (when Riley started getting substantial playing time) the middle linebacker has progressively improved. 2012 was his coming out party in a sense. The jack linebacker (which is the second string linebacker in a 3-4 defense) was second on the team in total tackles at 129. Which was 10 tackles shy of London Fletcher’s 139 total tackles. He is a great blend of size (6-1 238 lbs) and speed (4.67 forty yard dash). He showed why his speed is so valuable by running sideline to sideline to track down the ball carrier. His speed also showed in coverage as he was an above average cover linebacker with the 5th most pass deflections on the team. His size came in handy when playing the run as he showed great vision and a knack for finding the hole. He also added a forced fumble, 3.5 sacks and two tackles for a loss in his first full season. These aren’t superstar numbers but it shows that Riley is coming into his own at middle linebacker and with mentor London Fletcher still controlling the defense, Riley has plenty of time to learn from one of the best. I think Riley could see an increase in sacks, tackles and pass deflections based on the reports I have read that claim Riley has finally gotten the knack of the defensive schemes. London Fletcher said what put Riley over the top last year was that he finally learned got comfortable with the system and didn’t have to worry about being in the wrong spot. With that kind of confidence and talent, Riley could be the heir apparent once London Fletcher retires.
Defensive MVP: Ryan Kerrigan
If London Fletcher didn’t exist, Ryan Kerrigan was hands down the defensive MVP last year. I like to compare Kerrigan to a poor mans JJ Watt. He was drafted in the same year as Watt five spots after Watt. He’s got great speed, strength and awareness. The thing that makes him so similar to Watt is there ability to swat the ball at the line. In his first two years in the league, Kerrigan has 2 TD’s. Both caused by Kerrigan swatting the ball at the line and then catching his own volley to take it to the house. He doubled the amount of his pass deflections in 2012 with 8 compared to 4 in his rookie year (mostly coming at the line). He is also a consistent pass rusher with 7.5 sacks in his rookie year and 8.5 last year. I expect him to eclipse 10 sacks this year with a healthy Orakpo on the other side of the rush. The dude is also a fierce tackler. He had two forced fumbles last year and four forced fumbles his rookie year (most of which came from strip sacks). He’s also solid in the run game with 52 total tackles last year. If Brian Orakpo can stay healthy for the entire season, I expect Kerrigan to reap the benefits and make his name as one of the top pass rushers in the game.
Defensive X-Factor: London Fletcher
Same thing here as in my Offensive MVP and X-Factor categories, they are interchangeable. But the thing that makes London Fletcher an X-Factor opposed to the MVP is the fact that he’s getting up there in age (38 years old). Yes, I know the guy is the NFL’s iron man (hasn’t missed a game since 2000), but he did look like he lost a step last year. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still one of the best middle linebackers in the league, but father time never loses. Nonetheless I still think London Fletcher will have another outstanding year at middle linebacker. He will probably lead the team in tackles as he has since he joined the Redskins. His presence is felt everywhere on the field. Whether it’s blocking a hole on a run play, dropping back in coverage, or blitzing the quarterback. Even at 38, he can do it all. He led the Redskins in interceptions last year with 5. That’s unheard of for a middle linebacker, especially one his age. He was also third on the team in pass deflections with 11. He sacked the quarterback three times last year, forced a fumble and had 3 tackles for a loss. All of these numbers are very consistent with the numbers he has put up his entire career. He is the game changer for the defense. The catalyst if you will. That is what makes him the X-Factor. Whenever he is on the field, he will have an effect the game in every facet of defense.
Other Notable Predictions:
-Roy Helu will be a damn good third down running back: As much as I love Alfred Morris, he just isn’t that great at catching the rock. That’s where Helu comes in. He looked to be the running back of the future in 2011 when he was a rookie. But due to injuries that hasn’t panned out. He still has a very valuable role in the offense as a pass catcher. In his rookie year, Helu caught 49 balls for 379 yards. He has great after the catch running ability. He has a good mix of explosiveness and elusiveness. Prime example: his run in 2011 against the Seahawks when he leaped over a defender, then upon landing broke a tackle and took it to the house. As long as he’s healthy, I expect to see Helu catching some balls in unique formations on key third downs. This is all based on articles I have read that say Helu is the clear cut 2nd string running back so far.
- The Redskins will repeat as division champions: The NFC East is always hard to predict, but I don’t think any team has made significant additions to dethrone the skins. I’ve got the Giants and Cowboys duking it out for the second spot (possibly the wild card). They both have basically the same offenses, with suspect defenses. The Giants will probably pull it out just because I don’t have any faith in Tony Romo winning a game when it matters. And enough already with the “new” Eagles offense with Chip Kelly. Everyone talks about how fast paced their team is going to be. But you know what? Will it be any faster than the Patriots hurry up offense that teams have started to figure out? I get that they have a lot of speed on that roster, but hurrying the ball up isn’t anything new. Plus, if it is that effective and they can score quickly. Then their defense will suffer because they won’t have any time to rest.
Final Standings in the NFC East
Follow me on twitter @Whats_The_Ward and let me know what YOU think the Redskins season will look like.