The Washington Redskins are primed to bounce back with quarterback Robert Griffin III returning fully healthy, but the improved NFC East will be too tough to overcome.
2013 Season Recap
The Redskins had the worst season they could have possibly had with quarterback Robert Griffin III enduring a sophomore slump, mostly due to being rushed back into action after a brutal ACL tear in the previous year’s playoffs.
The defense did him no favors, allowing at least 30 points in seven games. They finished tied for 30th in scoring defense with 29.9 points allowed per game.
2014 Offseason Recap
The locker room became divided, and some of the Redskins players began to turn against Griffin, but head coach Mike Shanahan took the rap and was fired for a disappointing 3-13 record. Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was hired to replace him.
A shortage at wide receiver also contributed to Griffin’s struggles, so the Redskins made a splash in free agency by signing Eagles castoff DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts, who left the Arizona Cardinals. The defense was also upgraded with the addition of defensive end Jason Hatcher, who will boost the pass rush. It will miss the leadership of inside linebacker London Fletcher though, who announced his retirement.
In the draft, the Redskins were forced to watch the first round because of the Griffin trade, which has come back to haunt them so far. They picked some promising players such as outside linebacker Trent Murphy and offensive tackle Morgan Moses. Murphy will give Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan rest, and Moses may start right away at right tackle.
Position of strength
There are plenty of capable running backs on the Redskins, and they have an excellent starter in Alfred Morris, who rushed for 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns. Even though Morris offers nothing in the passing game, Roy Helu is a great pass catcher and change-of-pace back. The No. 3 running back battle is fierce with Chris Thompson and rookie Lache Seastrunk battling for the job, and they are good enough to make just about any other roster.
Position of weakness
Inside linebacker is the weak spot for the Redskins since London Fletcher retired, and Perry Riley is the only decent and proven player in the unit. The other starting spot is still up for grabs, and none of the contenders for the job have extensive experience to reassure Redskins fans that inside linebacker will be fine.
Best case scenario
If Griffin returns to his 2012 form, the offense will instantly become dangerous, and Jackson will open up the passing attack if he can keep up his production. Pierre Garcon will also be able to get open on plays since Jackson will have double coverage on him at all times. Tight end Jordan Reed will make the passing game dangerous if he can translate his nine-game production as a rookie into a full season.
The defense can only improve from last season’s disaster, so if the offense can bounce back, it will receive plenty of rest. Plus, there is enough talent for the unit to succeed and mold the Redskins into a playoff contender. They may be looking at an NFC East title if the Eagles take a step back.
Worst case scenario
If Griffin stays in 2013 form, the Redskins offense will be held back. Jackson regressing from his best season ever will also hurt the offense, and if his attitude issues persist, the locker room may have internal issues once again.
The defense will have a difficult task ahead of them in facing the Eagles and Cowboys twice, who each have prolific offenses. The Giants have an offense bound to improve as well.
The Redskins have a great offensive mind in Jay Gruden, who should help the team bounce back. It remains to be seen how their defense will do though. There is enough talent in the pass rush, so the pass defense will have an easier job than they did last year.
It will be difficult for the Redskins to contend for the playoffs since every team in the NFC East except the Cowboys has improved. The schedule is also difficult with the entire NFC West on the horizon, but they get to play the AFC South, which only has one good team in the Colts.
The potential is there for the Redskins to pull out a surprise NFC East title once again, but the firepower of the Eagles and the division’s improvement will prevent them from doing so this year.
Prediction: 3rd place in NFC East, no playoffs