How Can the Washington Redskins Bounce Back in 2012?
There's not a whole lot you can say about 5-11.
Unless, of course, you're Steve Spurrier, in which case you'd say, "Ok, we wound up 5-11! Not very good! But there was some worse 'un us. I guess that's one positive way to look at it, we weren't the worst team in the league. But it wa'n't very good. And we're disappointed."
Although Mike Shanahan thought the offense was playoff caliber last year, with Rex Grossman at quarterback, he has yet to offer up such a mind-boggling summation of a 5-11 record.
There's no doubt in my mind that the 2012 season will be nothing like 2011. The 'Skins have made significant progress this offseason and are primed to bounce back.
Turning around a sub-.500 record is going to be facilitated by three specific factors.
The Shanahans play to RGIII's strengths
The rest of the last line should read, "and don't overwhelm him." Let's be honest, ever since before he was even drafted by Washington, Robert Griffin III has been saying all of the right things.
RGIII said recently that he knows about 60 to 70 percent of the offense already while in the same breath saying that isn't enough to get by on.
The coaching staff, players and fans alike are all head over heels with the No. 2 overall pick. But it's up to the organization to facilitate his development and make sure it doesn't throw him overboard and tell him to swim.
As great as RGIII could be one day, the team needs to make sure he's not out there all by himself.
The 3-4 defense taking the next step towards becoming a dominate force by finally having the right personnel
I'll be the first to admit I loved the team's selection of LaRon Landry. I thought he would be a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But his freelancing and pension for trying to make the big hit would put the defense at risk.
Not to mention the fact that no matter who started the season opposite of Landry at safety, Reed Doughty would end the season starting.
New blood in the defensive backfield along with a healthy dose of competition will serve to improve one of the weakest groups on the team.
Also, with the emergence of Perry Riley and the release of Rocky McIntosh, Washington has been able to strengthen their inside linebacker corps with athletes who can thrive in the position.
Jim Haslett will definitely lean on London Fletcher to mentor the young squad and help prepare them for life after their captain.
Ryan Kerrigan was one of the major missing pieces in the defense just two short years ago, and his progression in his sophomore campaign will help out Brian Orakpo and the defensive line.
Improved production from a battle-tested offensive backfield
The 2011 season ended with the Redskins ranking 25th overall in rushing yards. That stat is far from a typical Mike Shanahan offense, but the platoon at running back was far from healthy.
The one luxury it did afford the team was starting time for rookies Roy Helu and Evan Royster. If Tim Hightower hadn't gone down with the knee injury early in the year, Helu and Royster would have had significantly reduced roles and wouldn't have had the chance to prove themselves as they did in 2011.
Mike Shanahan can now confidently play any of the three running backs in a tight situation this season and not have to worry if they can preform. Both rookies proved last year that they can play at this level.
The major question will be Hightower's progression with his rehab and whether or not he'll be 100 percent to start the season. Either way, a solid running attack will take a large amount of pressure off of RGIII in terms of the blitz packages he's seeing.
Play-action passes, bootlegs and options will all become much more dangerous with a solid running attack on offense.
The Redskins are poised to significantly improve upon their 5-11 record from a year ago. They may not go from worst to first, and I don't expect a Super Bowl parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, but Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen have the franchise back on track.
The three factors listed above are not the only things that will help the Washington Redskins improve in 2012 but may have the biggest impact. Some other changes that will help the team improve upon its record from last year include a healthy Chris Cooley, Jammal Brown, Jarvis Jenkins and Leonard Hankerson; added depth at wide receiver with Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan; and Raheem Morris' influence over the defensive backfield.
If you think there's a major factor that will help the 'Skins bounce back in 2012 that I didn't include, please feel free to include it in the comments below.
For more by Scott and his cohorts, check out The Recap.
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