Last season, the Redskins won 10 games, including their last 7 regular season games, and could have easily won at least one playoff game, up 14-0 before Robert Griffin hurt his knee and became a shadow of his healthy self for the remainder of the game, before eventually tearing his ACL late in the 4th quarter. Injuries were the story of the season for the Redskins. Three of their 6 losses (their first 3 losses of the season) were largely the result of injuries.
First, the Redskins lost Josh Wilson, Adam Carriker, and Brian Orakpo in a week 2 loss by a field goal in St. Louis. Then, they lost Trent Williams in an eventual loss to the Bengals. Finally, Griffin himself went down with a lead in an eventual loss to the Falcons. If not for those injuries, they could have had an even better record. Overall, they ranked 29th in the NFL in adjusted games lost to injury last year. And in spite of that, they still made the playoffs with a good chance at a playoff win, and they finished the season as ranked 8th in DVOA (6th in weighted DVOA, which puts higher weight on games later in the season).
However, injuries remain a concern going into 2013. Brian Orakpo is expected to return and he’ll be a big time “addition” and they may, overall, on the season lose less to injury, the status of Robert Griffin’s knee is a serious concern. His knee knocked him out of action twice (after a concussion knocked him out the first time around), causing him to miss the end of the Baltimore game, the entirety of the Cleveland game, and severely limited him against Seattle in the playoffs, before knocking him out for good.
He’s expected to be ready for week 1 of this season, but he has a history of knee problems so it’s unclear if he’ll be able to stay healthy for all 16 games and at what percent of his peak ability he’ll be able to play. They’re already talking about limiting his carries, which is such a big part of his game. There’s significant sophomore slump potential for him for that reason.
The sophomore slump isn’t limited to individual players. Teams who have big win improvements usually the regress the following season, on average about half of the improvement. The Redskins improved 5 games last season so they can be expected to regress about 2.5 wins, though that’s obviously just an average. They could regression fewer or more wins than that or even improve, but the concept is worth noting.
I think they’ll lose fewer than 2.5 wins off that 10 win total, but I do expect some regression because they were so reliant on winning the turnover battle last season. The Redskins turned the ball over just 14 times in 2012, as opposed to 31 takeaways, a +17 differential. That tends to be inconsistent on a year-to-year basis, however.
For example, teams with 20 or fewer turnovers on average turn the ball over 25.5 times the following season, while teams that turn the ball over 35 or more times turn the ball over 28.1 times the following season. Teams with 20 or fewer takeaways take the ball away an average of 25.3 times the following season, while teams with 35 or more takeaways take the ball away an average of 27.3 times the following season. Teams with a turnover differential of +15 or higher have a turnover differential of +3.6 the following season, while teams with a turnover differential of -15 have a turnover differential of +1.5 the following season.
Griffin threw just 5 interceptions all season on 393 attempts, a ridiculous, but unsustainable 1.3% interception rate. For comparison sake, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have career interception rates of 2.7%, while Tom Brady has a career interception rate of 2.1%. Even Aaron Rodgers, who has the lowest interception rate in NFL history among eligible quarterbacks, has a career interception rate of 1.7%.
Griffin is good, but he’s not THAT good. Tom Brady had an even better interception rate of 0.8% in 2010 before seeing that “balloon” to 2.0% in 2011. Griffin will see his “balloon” as well, especially if he plays hurt. And if Kirk Cousins has to play several games, it will really hurt their team turnover rate. Cousins flashed in limited action last season, but still had an interception rate of 6.3%. That’s unsustainably high and a small sample size, but he’ll be a clear downgrade interception-wise if he has to step into the lineup for a significant period of time.
Griffin is never going to throw a ton of interceptions though, and not just because he’s a great quarterback. It’s because, at least the way they ran things last season, they are a run heavy team. They rely heavily on Alfred Morris on the ground and Robert Griffin taking off on his own, and Griffin averaged just 26.2 pass attempts per game in his 15 starts, among the lowest in the NFL. He could see that number increase if they want to cut his carries to protect him, but he’ll probably never be tossing it around 35 times per game.
However, when you run as much as the Redskins do, you run the risk of fumbling and the Redskins certainly did a lot of that last season, fumbling 26 times, tied for 4th most in the NFL. However, they lost just 6 of those fumbles and overall they recovered a league leading 67.4% of fumbles that hit the ground, best in the NFL. That’s unsustainable and largely luck. For example, they wouldn’t have even made the playoffs last season if they hadn’t recovered their own fumble in the end zone against the Giants in a must win game last season. I don’t think they’ll dominate the turnover battle nearly as much as they did last season and that will lead to some of the win total regression that usually follows big win improvements.
I wrote about Griffin’s unsustainable interception rate in the opening, but other than that I have nothing but positive things to write about him. He was the rightful Offensive Rookie of the Year in a stacked year for that award and if it weren’t for his injury concerns, I’d say he has the best future of any of the young quarterbacks in the NFL today. Here was my argument for him being Offensive Rookie of the Year.
I’d like to start this by saying that I don’t see Andrew Luck as a legitimate contender for this award. Stats aren’t everything, but sometimes stats are too blatant to ignore. Griffin and Wilson were 3rd and 4th in QB rating, Luck was 26th. He took the Colts from 2 wins to 11 wins, but he did it against an incredibly easy schedule and with almost no convincing wins. He won just 2 games by more than a touchdown and just 3 games against .500 or better teams. A 9-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less is impressive, as were his league leading seven game winning drives, but when you remember most of those came against the likes of Tennessee, Detroit, Kansas City, and Buffalo, it’s not so impressive.
So that leaves us with Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson from arguably the best rookie quarterback class ever. I’m going with Griffin. Russell Wilson was never counted on to be a savior. The Seahawks won 7 games last year with 14 games of a banged up Tarvaris Jackson (7-7) and 2 games of Charlie Whitehurst (0-2) under center. They had the #7 scoring defense in 2011 and the #1 scoring defense in 2012. Wilson, as good as he was, had plenty of help.
Griffin, meanwhile, was the Redskins’ savior. They literally put all of their eggs in one basket with him, trading away three 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick for him, naming him the starting quarterback about 2 days after the draft, and building their entire new innovative offense around him. They asked him to single handedly turn around a 5-win team and he did that.
The Redskins’ had the league’s 21st rated defense in 2011 and it was even worse in 2012, despite having much less pressure on them thanks to the offense, as they ranked 22nd. Injuries were to blame as they were without top pass rusher Brian Orakpo for most of the year and also lost starters Brandon Meriweather and Adam Carriker for most of the year as well.
Injuries weren’t limited to defense, as Griffin was playing without expected right tackle Jammal Brown all season, lost talented tight end Fred Davis midseason, and played without #1 receiver Pierre Garcon for most of the year. And he still took them to the playoffs, where they were leading Wilson’s Seahawks 14-0 before he got hurt (it’s not a post-season award, but this is worth mentioning).
Plus, unlike Wilson, Griffin played well all year. Through 8 games, Wilson had 8 touchdowns to 7 interceptions (with one touchdown that should have been an interception) and the Seahawks were 4-4. After a 5 interception in two weeks stretch, in which the Seahawks lost to the Rams and barely beat the Panthers, there were calls for Wilson to be benched. Griffin never played that badly. He never had a multi-interception game, throwing just 5 all year, and even when the Redskins were 3-6 heading into the bye, Griffin still had an 8 to 3 touchdown to interception ratio.
Again, injuries are the one concern. He takes a lot of hits because of his style of play and unlike guys like Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton, he’s not particularly big and sturdy. He now has a concerning history of knee injuries dating back to his collegiate days and he might also be a walking (well…running) concussion. Injuries are the reason I even have to discuss Kirk Cousins here when I usually don’t talk about backup quarterbacks. We could be seeing him play significant action this season.
Cousins was an unconventional pick, to say the least, when the Redskins drafted him in the 4th round in the same draft they traded 3 first round picks and a second round pick to acquire Robert Griffin. However, there’s nothing wrong with using a mid-round pick on a backup quarterback. Teams with established starting quarterbacks (Giants, Patriots, Steelers, etc.) have done it in the very recent past. If you’re drafting for starting needs in the 4th round, you’re in trouble.
There was never going to be any quarterback controversy considering their relative price tags and it was highly unlikely that Griffin would be threatened by Cousins. Griffin once had the confidence to say he’d go to Indianapolis and beat out Peyton Manning if that was what he had to do to start. It was a non-story. Any idiot could have seen that (hello Skip Bayless).
However, Cousins is now seen as one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL and I don’t think that’s quite deserved yet. He’s known for leading the comeback against Baltimore and beating Cleveland in a spot start, but he attempted just 2 throws against Baltimore and the Browns are, well, the Browns. He also struggled mightily in relief against both Atlanta and Seattle, combining to go 8 for 19 for 142 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. There’s a reason he went in the 4th round and he’s yet to prove he’s anything but a backup quarterback in the NFL. If they have to count on him to play significant snaps in 2013, they’re in trouble.
It can be easy to forget because of what Robert Griffin did, but RG3 wasn’t the Redskins’ only rookie sensation. 6th round rookie Alfred Morris surprisingly won the starting job week 1 and did his best Terrell Davis impression for the rest of the season, rushing for 1613 yards and 13 touchdowns on 335 attempts. However, Morris owes a lot of his success to Griffin taking the attention off of him. Defenses had to focus on Griffin’s arm strength and running ability and, as a result, Morris had a lot of running room in their read option offense. Credit Morris for his vision, intelligence, and for wasting no movement, but it’s definitely worth noting that Morris rushed for just 3.2 yards per carry without Griffin against Cleveland.
Morris’ running success will largely be tied to Griffin’s success and Morris also provides very little on passing downs, catching just 11 passes for 77 yards. Even though Morris had 324 more carries than him, Evan Royster actually played 180 pass plays to Morris’ 293. Royster is the favorite to continue that passing down specialist role, but he’ll have to hold off the oft injured Roy Helu, who might be more talented. They also used late round picks on Chris Thompson (5th round) and Jawan Jamison (7th round) because that’s just Mike Shanahan’s thing.
I also have to give mention to fullback Darrel Young, even though I don’t normally mention fullbacks. Young had a major breakout season in his 4th year in the league last season as he was a perfect fit for the read option offense and their zone blocking scheme. He was as big a part of their offensive success as any fullback in the NFL. He graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 6th ranked fullback, 8th in run blocking, and also contributed as a runner and a pass catcher, with 14 carries for 60 yards and 8 catches for 109 receiving yards.
I mentioned Trent Williams earlier in the introduction in the injury section. He didn’t miss serious time or anything, but his absence for the majority of the game against Cincinnati really hurt their chances of winning that game in an eventual 7 point loss. That’s because the former 4th overall pick from the 2010 NFL Draft class has emerged as one of the best left tackles in the game. His movement ability makes him a perfect fit for this offense.
He was ProFootballFocus’ 19th ranked offensive tackle last season, 13th among left tackles, and the prior season he graded out 26th overall despite missing 6 games with injury and suspension. He’s very good in both pass protection and run blocking and his only issue is penalties and he’s totaled 16 in 26 games in the past 2 seasons. He is their only offensive lineman who had a strong season in both 2011 and 2012 and he’s a strong bet for another strong season.
Overall, they were a better offensive line in 2012 than 2011 without a lot of difference personnel wise. They went from being ProFootballFocus’ 30th ranked run blocking offensive line to their 9th ranked. They also improved in pass protection as well. They went from being 26th ranked in pass protection grade and 28th in pass block efficiency to 19th and 17th respectively in those two categories.
One of the big reasons for their improvement was the breakout season of center Will Mongtomery, who improved from a below average starter to ProFootballFocus’ 5th ranked center in 2012. He’ll have to prove he can do it again, but he should be an asset for them. Chris Chester at right guard also had a big improvement, going from ProFootballFocus’ 8th worst eligible guard in 2011 to their 15th best in 2012. 2011 looks like the outlier when you look at his career, as he’s usually been an above average starter, though he’s never done anything like what he did in 2012.
Right tackle Tyler Polumbus is the only player on their offensive line who has graded out below average in each of the last two seasons, playing really poorly in both seasons. In 2011, he only played 289 snaps as a reserve and wasn’t eligible for ProFootballFocus’ rankings, but if he had been, he would have ranked 64th out of 77 despite such a limited snap count. In 2012, he ranked 76th out of 80 eligible and if he does win the starting job again this season, he won’t be any better. He’s been a terrible player whenever he’s been called upon in his career.
He will have to beat out Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos for the job, but that won’t be that hard, even for Polumbus. Trueblood ranked 72th out of 76 eligible in 2011 and barely played in 2012, losing his job. Pashos, meanwhile, is heading into his age 33 season and coming off a season in which he didn’t play at all due to injury so while he’s had some solid years in the past, those days are probably long behind him. Tom Compton, a 2012 6th round pick, could also be in the mix, but they seem to prefer him as the backup left tackle. Whoever starts at right tackle, probably Polumbus, it will be a position of serious weakness.
The other position of weakness on their offensive line last season was left guard, where Kory Lichtensteiger started after tearing his ACL and missing most of the 2011 season. Lichtensteiger held up very well in pass protection, but was terrible as a run blocker. There’s a reason they averaged just 4.4 yards per carry behind the left guard, as opposed to 5.5 yards per carry elsewhere. He was ProFootballFocus’ worst ranked run blocking guard and also commited 10 penalties, grading out 72th out of 81 eligible overall. He’s never really been that great. 2012 3rd round pick Josh LeRibeus could push him for the job in camp, but I don’t know how much better he’ll be. Like right tackle, it’s a position of weakness, but they have a strong starter at left tackle and they should get good play at center and right guard again. It’s not a bad offensive line.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
One area particularly hit by injuries was their receiving corps. The Redskins gave Pierre Garcon a 5-year, 42.5 million dollar contract last off-season, even though he had never had a 1000 yard season, despite playing with Peyton Manning for most of his career. The Redskins took a major chance giving Garcon that kind of money, banking on his natural athleticism and skill set allowing him to break out as the X receiver in Mike Shanahan’s offense, as the #1 target out of the shadows of others in Indianapolis’ loaded receiving corps, with Robert Griffin leading a downfield throw based offense. Garcon was only 25 and that point and the Redskins were really expecting a breakout year from him.
Midway into the 1st quarter of the Redskins’ week 1 game against the Saints last year, the Redskins looked pretty smart. Granted it was very, very early in the season, but Griffin targeted Garcon on 4 of his first 5 throws, including an 88 yard touchdown, as Garcon had 4 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown midway through the first quarter of an eventual upset of the Saints in New Orleans. However, Garcon hurt his foot and left the game immediately following his touchdown and did not return to the game, playing only 8 snaps total.
Garcon would return for week 4 and week 5, but he would only catch 4 passes for 44 yards in those 2 games, struggling through his injury and would not return again until week 11. Garcon was still not healthy after returning, only playing in 306 of his team’s 445 snaps over those 7 games, not exactly what the Redskins were hoping to get from their #1 receiver. However, Garcon was still very productive, in spite of his more limited role, catching 36 passes for 480 yards and 3 touchdowns in those 7 games.
Overall on the season, Garcon had 633 yards on 215 routes run, good for 2.94 yards per route run, 2nd in the NFL among eligible wide receivers behind Andre Johnson. He was targeted 63 times, giving him a very impressive yard per target rate of over 10 per and with 63 targets on 215 routes run, he was by far Robert Griffin’s favorite target to throw to when he was on the field. Griffin was also very efficient when throwing to him, completing 69.8% of his passes for 10.0 YPA, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, a QB rating of 116.7, 14th in the NFL among eligible wide receivers. It’s clear that Garcon has a ton of upside in his role in Washington’s offense.
Garcon’s issue remains injuries as his foot is still not 100% and in addition he had off-season shoulder surgery. However, the shoulder is expected to be a non-issue and his foot should be better than it was last season. Assuming he plays close to a full set of snaps and isn’t overly limited on the field by his foot, Garcon could have an incredibly productive season, though much depends on Griffin’s health. Griffin is expected to throw more and run less to protect himself from injuries so the Redskins figure to pass more than the 442 times they did last year. Garcon could easily end up as one of the league’s top-10 receivers and a Pro-Bowler in 2013, but this is all speculative.
Despite all his issues, Garcon still led the team with 633 receiving yards, which speaks to their lack of depth after him. It’s not that their other receivers are bad, but they lack another impact receiver. In Garcon’s absence, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, and Santana Moss led the team in snaps played from the wide receiver position.
Josh Morgan, a marginal talent, had 48 catches for 510 yards and 2 touchdowns on 393 routes run and caught just 4 passes for more than 20 yards. Moss caught 41 passes for 573 yards and 8 touchdowns on 328 pass snaps as the primary slot receiver, but, at age 34, he could be very close to done. Hankerson, a 2011 3rd round pick, caught 38 passes for 543 yards and 3 touchdowns on 307 routes run. He’s got the most upside of the aforementioned trio, but may never be anything more than a decent starting receiver. He’s going into his 3rd year though and that’s when receivers tend to breakout, so we’ll see what he has.
Garcon wasn’t the only receiver they had miss serious time with injury. Tight end Fred Davis went down with a season ending torn Achilles early in their 7th game of the season. He was brought back on a one year prove it deal that could pay dividends if he’s healthy. He’s only played in 18 full games over the past 2 seasons thanks to injury and suspension, but he has caught 82 passes for 1110 yards and 3 touchdowns in those 18 games, despite playing 12 of them with Rex Grossman as his quarterback. We’ll see how he bounces back after his injury, but he has great natural receiving ability. He’s not much of a blocker though.
In Davis’ absence, Logan Paulsen moved into the starting lineup. He’s pretty much the opposite of Davis, a good blocker, but little else. He caught just 25 passes for 308 yards and 1 touchdown on 265 pass snaps. He and Davis would work well together on two-tight end sets if Davis can stay healthy and bounce back. If Davis and Garcon can stay healthy and play well, this will be an improved receiving corps.
I mentioned Adam Carriker in the injury section. He wasn’t exactly a big loss, but he was an injury worth noting. A well below average starter in 2011, Carriker went down with injury week 2 this season so he barely saw any action. He was replaced by Jarvis Jenkins, who actually played better than Carriker did in 2011, though he graded out below average overall because of his inability to get to the quarterback. They’ll compete for that job this season, but Jenkins likely has the upper hand. He also has the higher upside, as a 2011 2nd round pick. Last season was his first in the NFL after a serious injury caused him to miss all of 2011. He could easily be better this season.
Whoever wins that battle will only play in base 3-4 packages as a 5-technique end. The other two starting defensive linemen, Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield, play every down and stay in when they go to sub packages. Cofield lines up on the nose in base packages, but he’s really playing out of position. The 6-4 303 pounder is undersized for the position and has never been a good run player even back when he played with the Giants in their 4-3. Last year, he was at his worst against the run, as only one player graded out worse than him against the run on ProFootballFocus.
However, his pass rush ability makes up for it and it’s what makes him a dangerous player in sub packages. He had just 3 sacks last season, but 15 hits and 17 hurries on 505 pass rush snaps, a 6.9% pass rush rate. He’s a decent starter overall. Bowen is a decent starter overall as well, grading out just below average in each of the last 2 seasons as a starter, after excelling as a reserve in Dallas in 2010. Chris Baker is another player to note as a solid situational run stopper. He graded out above average on 206 snaps last season.
The big player returning from injury is Brian Orakpo, a top level rush linebacker who was also lost for the season in that week 2 game, tearing his pectoral. In 2011, he was excellent, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 7th ranked 3-4 outside linebacker, struggling against the run, but excelling as a pass rusher. He had 10 sacks, 6 hits, and 43 hurries on 390 pass rush snaps, a 15.1% pass rush rate. He ranked 4th at his position in pass rush grade and 5th in pass rush efficiency. His return to full strength would be huge.
Opposite him, Ryan Kerrigan stepped up big time in his 2nd season in the league. The 16th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft did struggle against the run, but had 9 sacks, 9 hits, and 51 hurries on 587 pass rush snaps, a 11.8% rate. He was ProFootballFocus’ 9th ranked rush linebacker overall, 7th ranked in terms of pass rush, and ranked 8th in pass rush efficiency. He could be even better with another year under his belt and with Orakpo back to take the pressure off of him. They could be a very formidable duo and, at the very least, they’ll benefit from Rob Jackson and Lorenzo Alexander not splitting reps at one rush linebacker spot. They did some nice things, but struggled to get to the quarterback. Alexander is gone and Jackson will be a reserve.
At middle linebacker, their situation is not nearly as good. Perry Riley, who played very well in the 2nd half of 2011 after taking over as the starter, did not continue that in 2012. He wasn’t bad, but the 2010 4th round pick did grade out below average. I don’t know if he’ll be much better than that in 2013. London Fletcher, meanwhile, is the bigger name, but he did not play well at all, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 51st ranked middle linebacker out of 53 eligible.
He couldn’t cover or shed blocks in the running game at all. Only 34 of his 115 total tackles were within 4 yards of the line of scrimmage on 1st down, 6 yards on 2nd down, or the full distance on 3rd or 4th down and he also missed a position leading 21 tackles, among the most in the NFL at any position. He also allowed more receiving yards and receptions in coverage than any other middle linebacker and only Perry Riley allowed more touchdowns among middle linebackers.
He made his 4th consecutive Pro-Bowl, but only on name recognition (and maybe to make up for the fact that he somehow didn’t make a Pro-Bowl until 2009). Fletcher has had a great career and is arguably the all-time leader in tackles depending on who you ask and his 240 consecutive games streak is incredibly impressive. He’s been long overlooked and should be a Hall of Famer eventually and he might be the best undrafted free agent of all time, but now he’s actually overrated based on name. Heading into his age 38 season, he’s the oldest defensive player in the NFL and should hang them up soon. This is probably his last season.
If either Riley or Fletcher struggles to the point where they are benched, Keenan Robinson, drafted in the 4th round in 2012 to be a potential successor to Fletcher, would enter the starting lineup. I don’t know how much positive we can expect from him though. He played a nondescript 68 snaps as a rookie and 4th rounders rarely become starters.
The Redskins ranked 22nd in the NFL, allowing 7.4 yards per attempt last season, and it doesn’t look like things will be much better this season. They only made one change in their top-3 cornerbacks, swapping out Cedric Griffin as the 3rd cornerback for free agent acquisition EJ Biggers. Biggers actually graded out above average last season with Tampa Bay, but the 2009 7th round pick was one of the worst cornerbacks in the league in 2011 and graded out significantly below average in the two seasons he saw significant action in Tampa Bay. He reunites with former Head Coach Raheem Morris, who is the defensive backs coach in Washington, but Biggers had his worst years under Morris so I don’t know how that will help.
The Redskins did cut starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall this off-season, but he returns after taking a significant pay cut. He couldn’t find much money on the open market and it’s understandable why. Hall has graded out negatively in 4 of the last 5 seasons after signing that massive contract with the Raiders before the 2008 season (he didn’t even last a whole season before being cut). In 2012, he allowed 76 catches on 114 attempts for 1050 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions, while deflecting 9 passes and committing 8 penalties. Only Sean Smith was thrown on more than him, only Patrick Robinson allowed more passing yards, and only Cortland Finnegan allowed more receptions. He played the run well and blitzed well to save his grade, but he’s not good in coverage at all. He ranked 90th out of 113 eligible cornerbacks in pure coverage grade.
The lone solid player they had at cornerback last season was Josh Wilson, their de facto #1 cornerback. He’s been slightly above a league average starter in the past 2 seasons since an improbable breakout season in Baltimore in 2010 landed him a 3-year deal. They also have 2nd round rookie David Amerson in the mix, but he probably won’t see much action this season. He was drafted more for the future with Hall and Biggers signed to 1-year deals and Wilson entering his contract year.
Things aren’t much better at safety. Their best safety is probably Brandon Meriweather, but he can’t stay healthy. He played just 44 snaps last season thanks to a lingering knee injury, which he had 2 separate setbacks on, including a torn ACL suffered week 11. His status for the start of the season is in doubt and it’s not like he’s that great of a player when healthy anyway. He’s made 2 Pro Bowls, but that was largely a farce and he bounced around to 3 different teams in a calendar year after being a final cut of the Patriots before the 2011 season. Before grading out positively on those mere 44 snaps last season, he graded out negatively in each of the last 2 seasons.
Assuming he’s healthy, Meriweather will start in one spot, but that’s a doubt and it’s unclear who will start in the other spot. None of the options are that impressive. Reed Doughty, Jordan Pugh, and DeJon Gomes have never shown themselves to be starting caliber players while Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo are mere rookies, Thomas going in the 4th round and Rambo in the 6th. Amerson could also be in the mix because he has safety size, but he’s just a rookie too and he’d be learning a new position. Thomas is probably the early favorite, and while he has talent, it’s very, very hard to rely on a 4th round rookie starter. There’s just not a lot of talent in this secondary overall.
There was some doubt for a while in his first 2 seasons in Washington, but Mike Shanahan showed last season why he is still one of the better Head Coaches in the NFL. He has two Super Bowl rings and while he hasn’t won one since 1998, he has the pieces in Washington that you could envision him eventually winning another one. Robert Griffin and Alfred Morris did their best John Elway and Terrell Davis impressions as mere rookies last season.
While this team rightfully has very high hopes for the future, I think they’ll take one step back this season before taking two steps before in 2014 and beyond. It’s just how these types of things work. They’ll have a bit of a sophomore slump. While they’ll have better injury luck overall, Griffin’s situation with the knee and the fact that they were so reliant on winning the turnover battle last season will hurt them.
In the division, I have them going 3-3, either splitting with all 3 teams or splitting with one of Dallas or New York, getting swept by the other and sweeping the Eagles. They’re the 3rd best team in this division, though it’s a tight one. Outside of the division, they have the toughest schedule of any team in the division because they won the division last season. They host Detroit, Chicago, San Diego, Kansas City and San Francisco. San Francisco will be a really tough game, but they should win at least 2, probably 3 of the other 4 games. On top of that, they go to Green Bay, Oakland, Denver, Minnesota, and Atlanta. Green Bay, Denver, and Atlanta will be tough places to win, but they should win the other 2, giving them 8 total wins. That’s not quite that aforementioned 2.5-game expected decline, but it’s close. That sounds reasonable.
Projection: 8-8 3rd in NFC East