Washington has needed a franchise quarterback for quite a while, and the Redskins didn't make those offseason moves to take just another prospect at No. 2 overall.
Robert Griffin III is the answer, considering all the other NFC East quarterbacks and the fact that the Redskins have been the only franchise without much of a passing threat at the helm. Expectations have significantly increased, and despite a tough schedule, Washington has an optimistic future.
To that end, let's see how the Redskins will pan out in the 2012 NFL season.
The NFC East is one of the most evenly competitive divisions, because last season the Redskins swept the Giants and Philadelphia went 5-1 against everyone—however, both teams missed the postseason. Big Blue took home the division at 9-7, as well as the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
For the 2012 season, Washington doesn't face an NFC East opponent until Week 7 (at New York) and the other five division games happen during the final seven weeks. Therefore, expect the Redskins to perform better than expected, as RG3 will have gotten acclimated by midseason.
The Eagles pose the biggest threat. Michael Vick makes Washington's pass rush obsolete and its coverage is vulnerable enough to getting beaten early. The Cowboys always end up as a close game, so the difference there will be RG3's ability to escape pressure.
Against the Giants, expect Washington to present a more balanced attack, because New York is the best pass-rushing team Griffin will see. A lot comes down to how quickly he develops under center, as Washington's defense will be reliable throughout the year.
Another competitive division, the AFC North saw three teams make the postseason in 2011. Here, Robert Griffin's ability to sell play-action and quickly get outside on bootlegs will pay dividends.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh represent as the stronger pass-rushing teams, but both are vulnerable against the interior ground game and have weaker-than-advertised pass protection. Expect Washington to blitz quite a bit, so how the Redskins' coverage holds up will determine how explosive RG3 and Company must be.
Cleveland is the least threatening, because the Browns simply aren't high-powered enough offensively to keep pace with Washington. The Redskins must stuff the run and work the middle on offense to get the Browns off-balance.
Cincinnati is the tricky team here since the Bengals are on the rise. Cincy's offense is balanced and has explosive potential to fool Washington with play-action and burn 'em deep. The Bengals' defense will play solid coverage, so RG3's pocket awareness and patience is vital to ball control.
Arguably the most important part of Washington's schedule are its non-divisional NFC opponents. Six of the Redskins' first nine games are against these teams, and it's vital to contending for a Wild Card spot.
Three of the first four games are the Saints, Rams and Buccaneers, all on the road. New Orleans and its explosive offense are the biggest challenge, but the Saints' defense remains vulnerable to the pass (30th in pass defense last season).
Washington simply can't turn the ball over against the Saints and should just let RG3 sling the rock all over. It's not the most popular approach, but seeing what the kid has in Week 1 can determine how to adjust as the season progresses. The Bucs and Rams won't be nearly as difficult, as long as the defense can play sound and disciplined.
Tampa Bay has an improved offense and St. Louis still has Steven Jackson. Neither team has a quarterback with RG3's potential, so his effectiveness will be crucial against weak defenses.
Atlanta, Minnesota and Carolina all make trips to our nation's capital before the Redskins' bye week, and the Redskins will need the momentum. The Falcons are the biggest opponent here, because Atlanta fields a methodically efficient offense and an improved defense.
Griffin needs to really be on his A-game, otherwise the Falcons' defense will jump routes and make turnovers happen. Carolina is also tough as the Panthers' offense is extremely prolific. Washington will need to win a shootout here, because the Cats' defense remains susceptible.
Minnesota is expected to be a cakewalk, as the Vikings pass defense is weak and Jared Allen remains the only pass-rusher. Unless the Minnesota offense becomes fast-paced, chalk up a win here.
Although it won't earn a playoff appearance, the Redskins will improve from 5-11 to 8-8, and have increased expectations for 2013.
Washington faces a difficult schedule and plays in a rough division. Provided that head coach Mike Shanahan gets another year or two to help with RG3's development, the Redskins will continue to climb up the win column.
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