Trading to draft Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III has raised expectations for the Washington Redskins. Many fans and pundits believe the franchise has finally solved its long-standing issues under center.
Yet Griffin alone won't take the Redskins back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. He will need the help of the weapons around him, the support of a credible running game and the continued improvement of an emerging defense. Here are three reasons why Griffin will have what he needs to spark a postseason return in 2012:
Powerful front seven
The Redskins' defense has major questions in the secondary, but their powerful and deep front seven is a match for any in the league. The three-man line of defensive ends Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker and nose tackle Barry Cofield is capable, rugged and experienced.
The linebacking quartet has the potential to dominate this season. Ageless wonder London Fletcher continues to roam the middle with tenacity and expertise. Youngster Perry Riley has a real chance to hone his craft next to such a skilled veteran.
Outside duo Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan can defeat most NFL offensive tackles. The pair should be expected to combine for 20-plus sacks this year.
The Redskins further boosted their options by adding ex-New York Giants starter Jonathan Goff. They will also welcome the return of Jarvis Jenkins. The second-year defensive tackle is loaded with potential.
A mismatched secondary will prevent Washington's defense from joining the ranks of elite, but the front seven will still make plenty of big plays and keep the team in games.
The emergence of another Mike Shanahan star at running back
The Redskins currently have a quartet of talented runners to choose from. The group is comprised of veteran Tim Hightower, promising second-year duo Roy Helu and Evan Royster and rookie Alfred Morris.
Given Mike Shanahan's career-long knack of producing 1,000-yard rushers in his zone-based ground game, one of this foursome could be set for stardom this season. Hightower impressed before injury derailed his first year in D.C. Helu and Royster, meanwhile, both produced exciting performances towards the end of 2011.
The Redskins are in their third year running Shanahan's famed zone blocking scheme. That means one of these running backs has a great chance to rush for more than 1,000 yards.
Better weapons in the passing game
Shanahan and Bruce Allen did an excellent job of upgrading the receiving options this offseason. Griffin will certainly benefit from the additions of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan.
Add in the presence of dependable veteran Santana Moss, along with promising second-year pro Leonard Hankerson, and the Redskins' receiving corps is stronger than 2011's version. Fred Davis will continue to be a playmaker at tight end, leaving Griffin with no shortage of quality targets to aim for.
The success of the Redskins' 2012 campaign will largely depend on Griffin. However, the supporting cast is better and can make them one of the year's surprise teams.