NFC East Rank: 3rd
Projected Record: 7-9
With the Washington Redskins and owner Dan Snyder facing incessant criticism about the team’s name, few have paid attention to the team itself. Snyder has made it clear that he is not being deterred by the opinions of others. The name will stay the same, so we’ll have to move onto the more pressing issues. The Redskins team had a disastrous 2013 campaign finishing with a 3-13 record and last in one of the league’s worst divisions. A season after Robert Griffin III’s outstanding rookie season and a 10-6 record, the team fell off a cliff in terms of production. This is certainly attributed to the overwhelming number of injuries suffered to players on both sides of the roster. Nevertheless, the new-look Redskins have a new head coach in Jay Gruden and a revitalized RG3 coming into next season.
Griffin looked like an entirely different player last season. He never looked like he fully recovered from the ACL and LCL tears he suffered in the prior postseason. The organization told him to play more conservatively and he did so. He looked like he lacked any aggression and didn’t use his feet as much as he’s capable of. The element of surprise and his ability to evade defenders in the pocket made him so versatile at Baylor and even in his rookie season. Again, that was lacking all of last season. His passing numbers inevitably improve if he’s not afraid to rush sometimes. He threw 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions in his rookie season and 16 touchdowns to 12 interceptions last year.
RG3 certainly regressed last year. His value to Washington was apparent in his rookie year. He helped them ascertain seven straight victories to end the regular season and a Wild-Card berth. The team went from first to last in the NFC East over the span of one season though. It’ll be difficult to find them in that position again with a healthier RG3. All signs during the offseason point to his health being great. Hopefully, he’ll be able to re-produce his rookie form or even improve upon it.
The receiving corps will greatly benefit Griffin in the upcoming season. This offense, Washington added star WR DeSean Jackson and an improving WR Andre Roberts from Philadelphia and Arizona respectively. Jackson caught 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns with the Eagles last year. He will start opposite of WR Pierre Garcon who played exceptional last year despite internal issues within the offense. He led the NFL in receptions last season with 113 and finished eighth in receiving yards with 1,346. Garcon has additionally been very successful in yards after catch with 667, which is good enough for third in the league. He’ll provide invaluable insight to Jackson along with his regular production. The organization has a decent third option at wide receiver as well. Veteran WR Santana Moss offers a reliable route every play he stays on the field. In the last couple seasons since Griffin came aboard, Moss has hauled in 83 receptions with over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. This group of receivers adds a greater level of dimension to the offense and will undoubtedly contribute to Griffin’s numbers in the coming year and beyond.
This offense along with several others around the league is beginning to incorporate more of the read-option. Fortunately, this play has proven to be successful in the recent past. The read-option can only work effectively if both the quarterback and running back are very agile and mobile, both of whom fit the bill in Washington. RB Alfred Morris has played tremendously within the context of his offense in his first two seasons in the NFL. Morris has rushed for 20 touchdowns and just shy of 2,900 yards in a couple years of work. He’ll look to continue the trend in the upcoming year. His numbers last year were a bit lower than his rookie season’s. This is certainly attributed to the lesser degree the read-option played within the offense as Griffin hit a lull. If the offensive line can remain healthy for the duration of the season, Morris could land in the top three in the league for rushing yards. With a healthy RG3 though, Morris will surely turn in another Pro Bowl-caliber performance.
This offseason has proved to be critical for the maturation of the defense. They lost iron man LB London Fletcher, who was a constant fixture on the team for seven seasons. The linebacker corps will miss his fierce tackling, but the organization did a great job fixing other aspects of the defense. Washington decided to draft LB Trent Murphy from Stanford, who will hopefully add more depth to the group. They were close to the cellar of the league in terms of points allowed last season ranking 31st, so neither the pass or rush defense could have performed extraordinary.
Thus, GM Bruce Allen decided to sign players to bolster both the front seven and the secondary. He signed DT Jason Hatcher and CB Tracy Porter in the process. Hatcher will automatically strengthen the shaky rush defense. He drastically improved his ability to get to the quarterback during his time with the Cowboys, culminating in 11 sacks during his final year with the team. Porter may also be able to start immediately opposite of Pro Bowl CB DeAngelo Hall. Even if he does not get to start, his depth will be vital for a team that has dealt with numerous injuries in the past few years. The defense is set to improve after a disastrous campaign where they ranked towards the bottom of essentially every defensive metric.
Currently, the organization is moving in the right direction. There still exist some issues that have carried over from last year, but those hitches can only be resolved with time. Jay Gruden and Washington will not demonstrate their true potential in the first few games. Those growing pains will be solved quickly though with the quarterback controversy from last year subsided. QB Kirk Cousins had flashes of brilliance but RG3 is still the franchise quarterback. Washington sacrificed too much for Griffin and is not willing to keep him on the bench. He will begin to click within the offensive unit towards the middle of the season but Alfred Morris will consistently produce for the entirety of the season. With more weapons at the receiver position, RG3 is bound to hit his stride sometime. It will be an uphill challenge from the onset, so playoff contention is unlikely for at least another season.
Pics and Stats from ESPN.com