The Washington Redskins: 15 Teammates Robert Griffin III Must & Will Make Better
Robert Griffin III's arrival in Washington has already been met with great excitement and fanfare. And why would there be anything else? The Heisman Trophy winner has been impressive. After rookie camp and the start of OTA's, he has demonstrated that he is an excellent player with all the tools to be an NFL quarterback on the field and that he has a high level of maturity and leadership.
Yet even more is going to be expected of Griffin.
His role as the new leader of the Redskins and the face of the franchise means that he must not only bring the best out of himself but also out of his teammates. From the rookies to the veterans, everyone must show improvement with RGIII at the helm. He must improve the players around him, and in doing so, he will improve and play to his full potential.
Here are 15 players that Griffin must and will make better this year for the Redskins if they are going to be relevant.
1. TE Chris Cooley
Chris Cooley is one of the biggest question marks coming into the off-season workouts for the Redskins. After starting his career with 27 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards in his first four seasons, Cooley has only managed to stay healthy for one of the last three seasons and played just five games with eight total catches in 2011.
In his last four seasons, Cooley has only scored six touchdowns, equal to the number he had his rookie year.
Cooley, who turns 30 this July, knows that his time with the Redskins is running out if he does not improve. With players like Fred Davis showing signs of solid play, he knows that during this training camp and the first few weeks of the season, he needs to produce.
One of the ways Cooley can do that is by helping Griffin develop. Teach him about the offense, the organization, and what he may see on defense. Cooley can be a mentor to Griffin, and in return, Griffin will help give him the looks that he needs. With Griffin's running ability and good arm, there will be a lot of roll outs and broken plays, situations where Cooley has done well in the past. Cooley has never played with a quarterback of Griffin's talent level.
If he can stay healthy, look for Cooley to greatly increase his productivity.
2. RB Roy Helu
Roy Helu showed a lot of potential his rookie year, carrying the ball 151 times and averaging 4.2 yards per carry. He should greatly improve with a year of experience and a quarterback with the potential of Griffin.
With Griffin's arm strength, there is always going to be a threat of throwing the deep ball. With his running ability, defenses are going to have to account for him. This will open up to box for Helu, allowing him to average more yards per carry.
Also, do not be surprised if his receiving production increases. Helu had 49 receptions for 379 yards his rookie year, and with Griffin rolling out and looking deep, Helu is sure to be in the flat as a check down option.
3. WR Santana Moss
Santana Moss had 46 receptions for 584 yards last season, both the lowest in his time with the Redskins. However, reinforcements have been brought in in the form of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. These two receivers, along with Griffin, will free up Moss to be the slot receiver he is built to be.
With Griffin's deep threat capabilities and his ability to extend plays, Moss will be able to find soft spots in the defense and improve on his numbers for last year. His experience with the team will allow him to teach Griffin the offense early on, and in return, Griffin will know when and where to get Moss the ball.
4. LB London Fletcher
You might be a little surprised to see a defensive player on this list, especially a guy of Fletcher's caliber. Fletcher has been one of the top tacklers in the NFL for the past few years, and he led the league with 166 take downs in 2011. At age 37, Fletcher is a 14 year veteran and the team captain. At that age for a linebacker, most people expect to see a drop off in his productivity.
Fletcher's numbers will drop. Yet that is not necessarily a bad thing. Fletcher, who has yet to miss a game in his career, has put a lot of wear and tear on his body. The reason he has had so many tackles in the past is because of the inability of the Redskin offense to possess and move the football.
With Griffin at quarterback, that should change. Washington will be able to possess the ball and score, giving the defense time to rest. This will allow Fletcher to stay well rested, keeping him fresh for the season. Griffin as the face of the franchise will also help to take some of the leadership load away from Fletcher, allowing him to focus on his defense. Fletcher's numbers will drop, but he will play better overall.
5. TE Niles Paul
Wide receiver turned tight end Niles Paul is poised to have a breakout season. Despite the fact that Paul had only had two catches for 25 yards in his rookie year, the move to tight end will help him as he continues to grow as a player. With Fred Davis suspended for the last four games of last season and frachise tag this year, and the team’s uncertainty about Chris Cooley’s future, Paul will get a lot of reps with the first team offense during the off-season.
As Paul adjusts to his new spot and Griffin adjusts to his new team, they will be able to help and feed off of each other, learning along the way. With Griffin’s passing ability and Paul’s experience as a wide out, they should have no problem taking advantage of the safeties and linebackers that Paul gets matched up against.
6. WR Pierre Garcon
Pierre Garcon is coming off of his best season as a pro, having had 70 receptions and 947 yards. And, no offense Colts fans, he did it playing for the worst team in football with an...inept quarterback.
It should be no surprise then that coming to a better team with a much better quarterback and being the number one receiver Garcon is expected to have a big year. He should, with Griffin having so many viable options at receiver, his long arm and Garcon's deep ball ability, have an exciting year.
7. OT Trent Williams
This is a big year for Trent Williams. He has shown promise as a tackle in his first two years, but he's going to go from protecting Rex Grossman to Griffin. Having a mobile quarterback is a good thing, but it can also be tough for offensive linemen, because they never really know where their quarterback is.
Williams is tasked with the job of protecting Griffin's blind side, and the franchise quarterback is sure to be a target for a lot of players. In addition, Williams was suspended for the last four games of last season for failing the NFL's substance abuse policy. It is time for Williams to grow up and to play well, both things that Griffin can help him with. It will definitely be interesting to watch.
8. RB Tim Hightower
Tim Hightower played decently for the Redskins last year, rushing for 321 yards in 84 attempts before he got injured and had to miss the rest of the year. There was some question as to whether or not Washington would re-sign him with the emergence of rookies Roy Helu and Evan Royster.
His experience, albeit only four years, is more than anyone else in the backfield has and should help in its development.
Hightower seems to be a good fit as the third down back, and will help with blocking for Griffin. At the same time, he will also be a good option for slip screens and should be able to help Griffin if he gets in trouble. Look for his numbers to increase as the level of Griffin's play increases.
9. TE Fred Davis
Fred Davis has the biggest upside of any of the tight ends on this list. Despite the fact that he only played in 12 games last year, Davis had 59 catches for 796 yards. The Redskins seem to be very high on him, if he can stay on the field.
Like Trent Williams, Davis was suspended for the last four games of last season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. There are a lot of questions about his maturity and off the field behavior. That being said, the 6' 4" tight end is the biggest target that Griffin has.
Look for Griffin to use all of his tight ends as he learns the offense and progresses throughout the season. Davis had the highest numbers of his career despite missing four games; look for him to repeat that this year. And maybe with Griffin's leadership, Davis will learn to avoid these off the field issues.
10. LB's/DE's Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan
More defense. You can't help but imagine the practices these guys are going to have. They are going from rushing Rex Grossman, who probably would admit that he is not the most mobile quarterback in the world, to a quarterback with 4.3 speed in RGIII. Even though they will not be allowed to hit Griffin, it should improve their rushing ability.
Orakpo and Kerrigan combined for 16.5 sacks last year, and with another year of experience and a speedster quarterback to practice against, they should improve immensely. Also, just like with Fletcher, the new offensive firepower should help keep Orakpo and Kerrigan fresh. If Griffin can play well and give the defense a lead, the opposing quarterbacks will be dropping back to pass more.
Sounds like a sack lunch!
11. WR Josh Morgan
The second big off-season acquisition at wide out, Morgan will help Griffin by giving him another deep threat to go to. Despite the fact that Morgan only played in five games last year due to injury, the D.C. native will be ignited by playing at home and for a young and athletic quarterback.
Even though he did not play much last year, Morgan also knows what it feels like to be on a team that goes from a weak record to Super Bowl contender. That experience can help the Redskins who are looking to do the same thing.
Morgan has averaged 13.5 yards per catch in his career. With Griffin, expect that number, as well as his number of receptions, to increase this year. He will be the third option at receiver behind Garcon and Moss. The three of them will perform will with Griffin throwing them the ball, and they, in return, will help Griffin develop.
12. Kickers Graham Gano/Neil Rackers and Sav Rocca
For kickers, repetition and practice are what makes them the specialists they are. In-game experience is something that takes time and chances but is also what makes them really improve. For Gano or Rackers, whoever the Redskins decide to keep, having an offensive threat like Griffin will give them more opportunities to kick, more opportunities to score and more opportunities to succeed.
Gano made 31 field goals last year and hit 75.6 percent of his attempts last year for the Redskins. Rackers made 32 field goals and hit 84.2 percent of his attempts with Houston last year. No matter who the Redskins decide to keep, expect better numbers this year.
For Sav Rocca, his average distance will go down, but his kicks inside the 20 yard line will increase. Griffin will be able to move the ball more than the Redskins have in the past few years, giving him a chance to really pin opponents deep in their own territory.
13. WR Leonard Hankerson
Leonard Hankerson had somewhat of a disappointing rookie year, playing in only four games and making just 13 catches. The big issue was how often he dropped the ball. Hankerson just did not look completely comfortable on the field. Look for that to change in his second year with Griffin as his quarterback.
Griffin throws a better ball than Grossman, which should help with the drops. They also are both young and willing to learn and put in the work to fix the issues. Hankerson at 6' 2" is the biggest wide receiver on the roster, and height is something that has been lacking at that position in previous years.
Hankerson will be the number four receiver for Washington, but expect him to get a good amount of playing time. Just like with Garcon, Moss and Morgan, Griffin's ability will make Hankerson better. This pair could become a welcome sight for Redskins' fans for many years.
14. The Defensive Backs
Defensive backs go right along with Orakpo and Kerrigan. The skill level at practice that the defensive backs will be facing this year has definitely increased from last year, and practice makes perfect. With the addition of players like Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson, the departure of LaRon Landry and Oshiomogho Atogwe (unrestricted free agent), as well the addition of new defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, the secondary is the biggest question mark the Redskins have.
Going up against Griffin on a daily basis will help the secondary unit and will also help Griffin adjust to the pro game.
Look for both to benefit from each other. The longer Griffin can keep the offense out on the field, the fresher the defensive backs will be. This should lead to shorter drives, fewer receptions, and more turnovers by their opponents.
15. Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan
Okay, so Shanahan is not a player. Yet he still has a lot to prove based on his first couple of years with the Redskins. Known for his offense under Gary Kubiak and the Texans, Shanahan has tried to get Donavan McNabb, Rex Grossman, and John Beck to be the next big star in Washington. It has not gone too well. However, he has got himself something special in Griffin.
Griffin will allow Shanahan to open up the playbook and try more of the roll out style offense he would like to run. It will also give him the threat of the deep ball allowing for the offense to open up the middle of the field. Shanahan has a lot of flexibility due to the athleticism of RGIII, which should lead to more production on offense, a happier fan base in D.C., and a little job security, something that has been a topic of discussion in Washington.