It's hard to remember a Redskins' offseason that didn't feature big moves, new faces and overwhelming excitement.
You have to give Dan Snyder credit, even though he couldn't put together a winning team, he sure could rally the fans in the offseason. The 2012 offseason is no exception and represents a turning point for this group of Washington Redskins.
The 2012 offseason began with a few big name free agent signings (you knew Dan couldn't resist) in Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. However, these were not your typical Redskin free agent signings, and appear to fit more into Mike Shanahan's system than Snyder's business model.
The biggest move though came when the Redskins traded with the St. Louis Rams, to move up and draft Robert Griffin III at number two overall. Griffin carries the weight of the team, and the hopes of the franchise on his shoulders, as this fanbase has been consistently burned by quarterbacks over the last decade.
With new pieces in place, the Redskins headed into mini-camps and there are already early rumors concerning standouts.
Here, we will focus on three particular players that have stood out so far in 2012 and what their outlook and likely impact will be for the Redskins.
Robert Griffin III is the obvious choice for early standout in 2012, but that doesn't mean it should not be repeated.
By all accounts, RG3 is living up to the hype that made him the Heisman Trophy winner, and worthy of the bounty the Redskins paid to acquire him. On the first day of mini-camp, Griffin could be seen spreading the ball around to his veteran receivers and commanding the offense.
The former Baylor standout appears to have earned the respect of veteran players quite early through his play, work ethic and demeanor. Santana Moss has been quoted as saying:
I feel like he’s that guy for us. He’s gonna get it done. Because when you think of his mental, the way he approach the game mentally is how he prepares himself. He’s not a guy that’s just gonna come in there, and be in and out. He’s a guy that’s gonna sit around there, and know what we got going on.
One place Griffin has been especially promising, that he does not receive enough credit for, is his demeanor with the media. A good quarterback is able to convey confidence for his team in front of the cameras, as well as in the huddle. Griffin has demonstrated an ability to field difficult questions, and deliver honest and encouraging answers.
We are still in the beginning of the first chapter of the Robert Griffin series, but the early returns are positive. In his on the field play and off the field demeanor, Griffin appears to be exactly what the Redskins hoped they were trading for.
Niles Paul has been a player I have followed closely this offseason and for good reason, so is Mike Shanahan. Paul was drafted by the Redskins out of Nebraska last year in the fifth round, but saw little playing time last year.
With the additions of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, roster spots are limited for wide receivers and Mike Shanahan asked Paul to try out tight end.
Now the tight end position is a crowded situation for the Redskins with Chris Cooley and Fred Davis, but Paul is firmly in the mix for the third string job. Paul has already flashed impressive moves this offseason, hauling in a 75 yard touchdown in mini-camp. The strongest piece working in Paul's favor right now is Shanahan's public praise.
“I hate to compare anybody to a Hall of Fame player going into his second year, but Shannon Sharpe came into Denver exactly the same height. We moved him over to the tight end position, and [he] had a pretty darn good career.”
Calling anyone, especially a second year player with little experience, Shannon Sharpe is a bold move but this says quite a bit if Shanahan is willing to make the comparison. Sharpe was a converted wide receiver who had a Pro Bowl career at the tight end position.
Now it appears that Shanahan may have found another in Sharpe's mold.
Paul still has plenty to prove, and he'll need to beat out veteran Logan Paulsen for the third string position. With Chris Cooley's uncertain health, I expect the Redskins to keep Niles Paul on the roster, and do not be surprised to see him in games later in the season.
Chase Minnifield may be the most popular undrafted free agent in recent Redskins' history between his pre-draft value, and post-draft play.
Heading into the 2012 NFL draft, Minnifield was expected by many to be drafted in the third-to-fifth round range. However, injury concerns and an incredibly deep cornerback class lead to Minnifield going undrafted and signing with the Redskins.
Since offseason camps and activities have begun, Minnifield has been nothing short fantastic, earning praise as a consistent standout.
Minnifield appears to be demonstrating the coverage ability and instincts that once earned him a second-round grade. Outside of Robert Griffin III, Minnifield may be one of the most impressive story lines in Washington.
Minnifield has an excellent opportunity to not only make the final 53-man roster, but to also earn legitimate playing time with the Redskins. Outside of DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson, the Redskins are in serious need of talent at the corner position, and Minnifield appears ready to answer that call. The challenge for Minnifield will be staying healthy throughout the offseason before the final roster decisions are made.
There are still two full months left until Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen will be forced to shave the current 90 man roster down to its final 53. However, Minnifield appears to already be on the short list of players are expected to earn a roster position.
I expect Minnifield to make the roster as a backup corner and see playing time early on in dime coverages, or even more often if injuries occur.