(Sports Network) - The Washington Redskins haven't had much success drafting
quarterbacks the last few decades, but just don't tell that to Robert Griffin
The second overall pick in April's NFL Draft, better known as "RG3", has a
fan base chomping at the bit to get the 2012 campaign started and hoping the
team's long recent history of overspending and poor draft selections is in the
"I plan on being successful, and I hope the Redskins will join me in that
battle," Griffin said months ago. "I have to be a professional, and I plan on
doing my job at a high level."
The talented Griffin, the latest recipient of the heralded Heisman Trophy
Award after a sensational junior season at Baylor, not only inspires
confidence, but was arguably the most athletic player in the draft. His speed
and arm strength have drawn comparisons to Michael Vick, and his football I.Q.
is equivalent to that of seasoned veterans.
Griffin is aware of the high expectations, and it's not just because the
Redskins plucked him with the No. 2 overall pick.
He is now a part of a rich football tradition and will learn under a savvy
coach in Mike Shanahan, who has mentored the likes of John Elway and many
others along the way. Shanahan needs Griffin as much as his new quarterback
needs his head coach, and the two have tremendous respect for each other.
"We were really excited when we were able to move from the sixth spot to the
second spot," Shanahan said on picking Griffin. "We had a good feeling Robert
would be there. Just to be around him to see how he handles himself and to see
how he works, you can see what a class act he is and what sort of charisma he
"I just think he will bring a lot to this organization. You are always looking
for that franchise guy. He has not proven himself yet and we understand that.
We need to put a good supporting cast around him and play well as a football
Shanahan thought he had a franchise quarterback in Donovan McNabb, but that
experiment in 2010 failed miserably and the Redskins chalked up another poor
fit at the position. Adding to the laundry list of expired talent under
center, the Redskins went with Rex Grossman and John Beck last season en route
to a 5-11 campaign.
The Redskins have won 15 games over the past three seasons and have reached
the postseason twice in the previous 12. It's no wonder Washington has had
seven head coaches in that time.
Shanahan is 11-21 since taking over for Jim Zorn and will be on the hot seat
if he fails to get anything going positively with a new face at quarterback.
Of course, Griffin can't do it alone and will need help from a nondescript
offensive line and a new band of receivers that join veteran Santana Moss.
The Redskins added Pierre Garcon in the offseason to help a beleaguered
receiving corps and get the franchise back to respectability. Art Monk, Gary
Clark and Ricky Sanders are long gone, and Washington has tried to get by with
a handful of no-name wideouts in past years.
Perhaps playing under the radar with obscure talent will help the Redskins to
reach more than 10 wins for the first time since going 14-2 in 1991 and
winning the Super Bowl that year. That's a far stretch, but anything better
than five wins is an improvement, though that may not save Shanahan's job.
Below we take a capsule look at the 2012 edition of the Redskins, with a
personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:
2011 RECORD: 5-11 (4th, NFC East)
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2007, lost to Seattle in NFC Wild Card
COACH (RECORD): Mike Shanahan (11-21 in two seasons with Redskins, 157-119 in
18 seasons overall)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Kyle Shanahan (third season with Redskins)
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jim Haslett (third season with Redskins)
OFFENSIVE STAR: Robert Griffin III, QB (1st Round, Baylor)
DEFENSIVE STAR: Brian Orakpo, OLB (59 tackles, 9 sacks)
2011 OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 16th overall (25th rushing, 14th passing), 26th
scoring (18.0 ppg)
2011 DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 13th overall (18th rushing, 12th passing), 21st
scoring (22.9 ppg)
KEY ADDITIONS: QB Robert Griffin III (1st Round, Baylor), WR Pierre Garcon
(from Colts), SS Brandon Meriweather (from Bears), FS Madieu Williams (from
49ers), K Neil Rackers (from Texans), WR Josh Morgan (from 49ers), WR Dezmon
Briscoe (from Buccaneers), OT James Lee (from Buccaneers), ILB Bryan Kehl
(from Rams), CB Cedric Griffin (from Vikings), CB Morgan Trent (from Jaguars),
S Tanard Jackson (from Buccaneers)
KEY DEPARTURES: WR Jabar Gaffney (to Patriots), SS LaRon Landry (to Jets), FS
Oshiomogho Atogwe (to Eagles), QB John Beck (to Texans), FB Mike Sellers
(retired), WR Donte Stallworth (to Patriots), WR David Anderson (free agent),
OT Sean Locklear (to Giants), ILB Keyaron Fox (to Texans), ILB Rocky McIntosh
(to Rams), CB Phillip Buchanon (free agent), CB Byron Westbrook (not tendered)
QB: Griffin has a new contract under his belt and a ton of pressure to perform
at a high level. The agile signal-caller, who said practices are harder than
the actual game during the preseason, should be a perfect fit for Shanahan's
offense as long as the two can stay on the same page. With the ability to
stretch the field and also keep defenses honest with his legs, Griffin can
make all the throws and will be rolling out quite often in 2012. Grossman
(3151 yards, 16 TD, 20 INT in 2010) beat out Beck for the starting job a
season ago but made plenty of mistakes in leading the offense. He agreed to
return in the offseason and could be a reliable backup as long as his number
isn't called too often, as he did help Chicago to a Super Bowl behind a strong
defense in 2006. Rookie Kirk Cousins (4th Round, Michigan State) was also
drafted this year and will battle Grossman for the No. 2 spot behind Griffin.
RB: Tim Hightower (321 rushing yards, 1 TD) is back for another season with
Washington and hopes to return on a healthy note. He played in just five games
a year ago before suffering a torn ACL in Week 7. Hightower also can catch
passes, hauling in 10 for 78 yards and a touchdown last year, and one can only
imagine how much more effective he could have been had he stayed healthy. When
Hightower went down, rookie Roy Helu (640 rushing yards, 2 TD) took over and
played in 15 games. He won't be the starter if Hightower gets back to 100
percent, but will see his fair share of carries. So will Evan Royster (328
rushing yards), who saw time in six games last season and spent a lot of time
with the first-team offense in camp with Hightower still recovering. Rookie
Alfred Morris, drafted out of Florida Atlantic in the sixth round, will also
compete for time. Fullback Darrel Young will be paving the way for whichever
running back gets the call on that particular play in Shanahan's offense.
Tight end Chris Cooley can also spot Young at that position.
WR: As previously stated, the Redskins lack have lacked a top-tier wide
receiver for a while, and that could hurt the development of Griffin if that's
still the case. That's why Garcon (70 receptions, 6 TD) was added in the
offseason to provide an offensive spark. The former Colt learned from one
of the best quarterbacks in the game in Peyton Manning, and battled through a
tumultuous season with Indianapolis a year ago. Garcon, who can stretch the
field and has excellent hands, is replacing the departed Jabar Gaffney, who
led the Redskins with 68 catches for 947 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games
last season. Moss (46 receptions, 4 TD) is back for his 12th NFL season and
eighth with the Redskins, and still has game-breaking speed though his role as
a playmaker is diminishing each year. Josh Morgan was another added in the
offseason and spent his first four years with San Francisco. He also will be
asked to provide speed and a deep-ball threat for Washington, which still has
youngsters Leonard Hankerson (13 receptions) and Anthony Armstrong (7
receptions, 2 TD) as well.
TE: Fred Davis (59 receptions, 3 TD) has taken over the tight end spot from
Cooley and is a big target for Griffin who can also block and help open the
run game. He played well in 12 games for a Redskins offense that was 14th in
passing yards (235.8 ypg) and 16th in total yards (336.7 ypg) in 2011. Cooley
is a fan favorite, but must avoid the injury bug that plagued him last year to
be successful. He could see time in a two-tight end set as well as fullback.
Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen (11 receptions) are other options for Shanahan at
the tight end spot. The Redskins haven't had a dominant tight end in years,
but this could be Davis' year to shine if Griffin gets enough time to find
OL: The key to Griffin's success and health will be the offensive line.
Luckily for the rookie, he has the ability to escape, but that won't happen
all the time. Left tackle Trent Williams started the 10 games he played in
last season before being suspended for violating the league's substance-abuse
policy, and is one of the up-and-coming premier left tackles in the game.
Jammal Brown is expected to hold down the right side and didn't have a
strong 2011 campaign, and he's also been battling injuries in camp. The
Redskins are hoping things will change for Brown in 2012, otherwise Willie
Smith or Tyler Polumbus will push him for time. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger
is hoping to bounce back after blowing out his knee in Week 6 of last season
and is an excellent run blocker. Maurice Hurt is waiting behind him for time,
while rookies Josh LeRibeus (3rd Round, Southern Methodist) or Adam Gettis
(5th Round, Iowa) may be able fill in. Starting center Will Montgomery has
been with the Redskins the last three years and played in all 16 games a year
ago. At right guard, Chris Chester brings a strong pass-blocking reputation to
the table and made 16 starts in 2011.
DL: The Redskins' defense did their best to try to stem the tide a season ago,
finishing 12th against the pass (222.1 ypg), 13th in yards allowed (339.8
ypg), 18th against the run (117.8 ypg) and 21st in points allowed (22.9 ppg).
Jim Haslett is in his third season as the Redskins' coordinator after having
joined the team when Shanahan was hired in 2010. The 2011 unit improved from
its first year in a 3-4 scheme and welcomes back some familiar faces along the
front line in ends Adam Carriker (15 tackles, 5.5 sacks) and Stephen Bowen (41
tackles, 6 sacks), and nose tackle Barry Cofield (25 tackles, 3 sacks). The
front line may not strike fear into opposing offensive linemen, but can stop
the run and penetrate the pocket effectively. Kedric Golston (16 tackles, 1.5
sacks) and Jarvis Jenkins, who missed his entire rookie season of 2011 with a
knee injury, will see time in a rotation. Chris Neild (10 tackles, 2 sacks)
was another option for Haslett up front, but was placed on injured reserve
after tearing his ACL in the preseason.
LB: Perhaps the strongest area of defense for Washington is its linebackers.
Brian Orakpo (60 tackles, 9 sacks) is a perennial Pro Bowl selection and is
the leader of the group. When he isn't doing caveman commercials for Geico,
you can find him breathing down the backs of opposing quarterbacks. The
muscle-bound outside linebacker has missed just one game in his three-year
career and brings a mix of size and speed to the table. The same goes for
second-year pro Ryan Kerrigan (64 tackles, 7.5 sacks), who made his mark as
a rookie out of Purdue opposite Orakpo a year ago. Kerrigan's high motor and
relentless pursuit make him difficult to stop, and he and Orakpo are arguably
the top outside linebacker tandem in the NFC East. Defensive captain and
middle linebacker London Fletcher (166 tackles, 1.5 sacks) was rumored to be
headed elsewhere this offseason, but signed with the team back in April. The
veteran led the team in stops once again and was named to the Pro Bowl as a
replacement. Perry Riley (68 tackles, 1 sack) filled in well for the now-
departed Rocky McIntosh on the inside next to Fletcher, while rookie Keenan
Robinson (4th Round, Texas) replaces free-agent departure Keyaron Fox in the
rotation and will battle to get on the field. Bryan Kehl (35 tackles, 1 sack)
came over from the Rams in free agency and is currently backing up Riley.
DB: DeAngelo Hall (90 tackles, 3 INT) had his lowest interception total since
his rookie year of 2003 a season ago and turns 29 in November. He may be
getting up there in age, but is still a threat to quarterbacks and wide
receivers. Hall is a very durable player, having played in all 16 games in
back-to-back campaigns, but takes chance and sometimes gets burned way too
often than Haslett would like. He is flanked on the other side by Josh Wilson
(63 tackles, 2 INT), who played his first season with Washington in 2011 after
spending time in Baltimore and Seattle. Cedric Griffin (67 tackles, 1 INT), in
his first stint with Washington after previously playing in Minnesota, was
signed to be the nickel back, while Kevin Barnes (26 tackles, 2 INT) returns
as the other backup cornerback. David Jones (4 tackles) was signed from
Jacksonville to add depth, while rookies Richard Crawford (Southern Methodist)
and Jordan Bernstine (Iowa) were drafted in the seventh round as insurance.
Giving up yards against the pass was a problem for the Redskins last year, and
they hope safeties Brandon Meriweather (32 tackles with Bears) and Madieu
Williams (9 tackles with 49ers) can right the problem. Both were picked up as
free agents in the offseason. Reed Doughty (86 tackles) and DeJon Gomes (35
tackles) will be ready to step up when called on if either new safety
struggles, while Tanard Jackson (35 tackles, 2 INT) also joins the fray this
season after a stint with Tampa Bay.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Graham Gano made 72.6 percent of his field goal attempts and
had five blocked in 2011, so the Redskins brought in veteran Neil Rackers to
push for the starting job. Rackers connected on 32-of-38 field goal tries and
all but one of his 40 PAT's for Houston last season. He has made 80 percent of
his field goal attempts in a 12-year career. Punter Sav Rocca averaged 43.1
yards on 66 tries and landed 28 inside the 20-yard line last year and has a
knack for setting up opposing offenses deep in their own territory. Brandon
Banks is the favorite to handle return duties on both punts and kickoffs and
did so in all 16 games a year ago. The third-year pro, who can play receiver
as well, has tremendous speed and upside.
PROGNOSIS: The addition of Griffin alone could give the Redskins an extra four
to five wins, and that could mean a playoff spot. But he will likely go
through some rookie issues and needs to stay healthy and on the field in order
to learn from them. Like Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, Griffin doesn't have the
type of surrounding cast one would imagine from a playoff team, which is why
the Redskins will try to make do with its current roster. Adding Garcon to
play opposite of Moss was a nice addition to the Redskins, but it will take an
entire offseason, training camp and preseason for everyone to acclimated with
each other before Washington will be ready to go. Picked to win the NFC East
by Grossman last season, that may not be the case for the Redskins until next
year or 2014. However, a wild card spot is not out of the question if Griffin
catches on quickly. The defense is already a well-oiled machine, it's just
that the offense needs to catch up.
The Sports Network