Washington Redskins 2012: How Does the Offense Stack Up Against NFC East?
The Washington Redskins haven't won the NFC East since 1999 (coincidentally, the same year Daniel Snyder took over as owner). Under his watch the team has made the postseason just twice, with only one playoff win. In the past six seasons, the team has finished last in the division five times.
Recent memory dictates that the division will come down to either the Giants or Eagles each year, despite the yearly prediction that the Cowboys will reach the Super Bowl. However, with the addition of Robert Griffin III, the Redskins may be poised to enter the conversation.
Last year's abysmal offense led to drastic change for the Redskins. The addition of Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Griffin add a tremendous amount of speed and playmaking ability to an offense built around misdirection and movement. However, with deficiencies all over the field for Washington, the question remains whether they did enough to be feared by NFC East defenses. Without a capable offense, the 'Skins managed to win five games, sweeping the Super Bowl champions twice. If the offense can come together there's a good chance Mike Shanahan's luck could turn around after three frustrating years.
So let's take a look at the pieces for each team, compare and see if the Redskins finally have enough talent to be relevant in one of the toughest divisions in football.
Offense: Wide Receivers
If Santana Moss can bounce back from a disappointing year the Redskins should be fine at receiver
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Cowboys: Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Kevin Ogletree, Danny Coale
Eagles: Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper
Giants: Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Domenik Hixon, Rueben Randle
Redskins: Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Joshua Morgan, Leonard Hankerson
It's safe to say that the most talented of this group play for the Giants. Cruz and Nicks are arguably the best receiving duo in the league, but the Cowboys and Eagles both have their own effective starters. The Redskins do lack a true No. 1 receiver, but their strength will come from depth.
Top to bottom, Washington has enough talent and speed at the position to compete, but two of those options are coming off season-ending injuries that could undermine the entire group. Morgan should be healthy in time for the season, but Hankerson's hip injury could be worrisome, as it could cause him to miss significant time.
Moss came into camp 15 pounds lighter and should be able to excel in the slot position while Garcon and Morgan work the outside. That setup should give the Redskins plenty of speed and the YAC ability that they've emphasized as the focus this offseason. Last season there were hardly any big plays in the passing game, which brought an already-stagnant offense to a grinding halt. Mike Shanahan and Co. hope that this new group of receivers can change that.
Tim Hightower is great in the passing game, but can he stay healthy?
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Cowboys: DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones
Eagles: LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis
Giants: Ahmad Bradshaw, David Wilson
Redskins: Tim Hightower, Roy Helu, Evan Royster
The theme of this group is feature back versus running back by committee. The Eagles and Cowboys will rely heavily on McCoy and Murray this season—not a bad decision since the two have shown the ability to carry the load. The Giants know the health issues of Bradshaw all too well, but with the addition of the very talented Wilson they could have a formidable duo.
The Redskins are an entirely different enigma. Hightower is the best all-around back, but is coming off an injury and doesn't have the speed to break plays open. Helu showed potential to be a star last season, but also showed some durability concerns and isn't as good in pass protection. Royster doesn't quite have the speed you look for in a typical back, but he is the best natural runner of this group and knows how to fall forward and get yards.
You'll notice that only the Redskins are listed with three running backs. Mike Shanahan loves to rotate his running backs so that he always has fresh legs on the field. This means that Helu and Royster will see significantly more playing time than their counterparts on other NFC East teams, regardless of their spot on the depth chart.
If you're a fan of the feature back, the Eagles are the clear winner here with one of the best backs in the league. However, if you believe in sharing the load, the Redskins have a strong argument for the best backfield in the division.
Fred Davis was on pace for a 1,000 yard season before his suspension last year
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Cowboys: Jason Witten, John Phillips
Eagles: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor
Giants: Martellus Bennett, Bear Pascoe
Redskins: Fred Davis, Chris Cooley
Finally, a position where the Redskins are the clear-cut winners. The receiving duo of Davis and Cooley should be the strength of this team on offense. While the two leave something to be desired in the blocking game, both are serviceable in the task.
The only other argument can be made for Jason Witten in Dallas, who can both block and catch. While Witten may be the best individual tight end of the group as of now, there's no doubt that Cooley is a better backup than Phillips at the position, if he can recover from last year's injury (seems to be the theme for every position in Washington).
Davis faces his own troubles with drug violations. If he can get his act together, there's nothing to prevent his return to the top receiving option for the Redskins.
Trent Williams has to avoid another suspension this season
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Cowboys: Tyron Smith, Nate Livings, Phil Costa, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Doug Free
Eagles: Demetress Bell, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans
Giants: Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe, David Baas, Chris Snee, David Diehl
Redskins: Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Jammal Brown
Offensive line is not a strength of any team in the NFC East. Before the injury to Jason Peters, the Eagles seemed strong as a unit. But while Bell can play, he's not nearly the talent that Peters was. Apart from Philadelphia, the NFC East is in the bottom half of the league in offensive line rankings. Despite that, no NFC East team has made huge strides in developing a strong group up front.
The Redskins decided to go the way of continuity, which has it's pros and cons. On one hand, the line could use an infusion of young talent and athleticism, especially at the right tackle position. On the other, Shanahan's zone-blocking system takes time to learn, and in year two we could see the line gel together and master the scheme.
The weakest line in the division is by far the Cowboys, with only Tyron Smith standing out last year. Even with his success, he could regress in the transition to left tackle. The Giants won the Super Bowl with questions all along their line, but they worked through it with depth and Eli Manning playing out of his mind. Given the state of offensive lines in the NFC East, there's no reason to feel bad about how the Redskins stack up here.
Darrel Young has quietly blossomed at the Fullback position
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Cowboys: Lawrence Vickers
Eagles: Stanley Havili
Giants: Henry Hynoski
Redskins: Darrel Young
Fullback is a controversial position in today's NFL. Many see the position dying out, as running backs get bigger and tight ends get faster, but that doesn't mean there aren't good players to be found around the league. The Giants' Hynoski is probably the most solid option in the division. Vickers, who was pulled out of OTA's in Dallas because he had fire ants in his pants, has bounced around the league for a few years and Havili was given the job after Owen Schmidt left Philadelphia.
Darrel Young made some noise as a blocker during his two years in Washington, and also showed some potential receiving out of the backfield. He probably won't see much in the way of stats, but he will be a big piece of the puzzle in protecting Robert Griffin III.
Kirk Cousins was a Shanahan favorite in the draft
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Cowboys: Tony Romo, Kyle Orton
Eagles: Michael Vick, Mike Kafka
Giants: Eli Manning, David Carr
Redskins: Robert Griffin III, Rex Grossman/Kirk Cousins
Ah yes, the quarterbacks. Everyone's favorite talking point recently when it comes to the NFC East. We all know the starters well, and all are extremely talented in their own right. Manning and Romo are the top two options, although many would argue that Romo doesn't have what it takes to win a championship. Vick has been everywhere from breathtaking to terrible in Philadelphia, and we'll see this season if he can play to his potential.
It's no surprise that RGIII is the big mystery in all this, as he has yet to actually take a snap. His rookie year will have ups and downs like everyone else—even Cam Newton had his rookies moments last season. But if Griffin can limit his turnovers and avoid injury, he has the potential to reach the level of his NFC East colleagues.
There is an interesting group of backup quarterbacks in the division, with former starters Grossman and Orton forced to ride the bench. Kafka isn't the strongest player, but the Eagles believe he can step in if needed. David Carr is another veteran who shouldn't expect to see the field since Manning has proven to be quite durable throughout his career. The Eagles did draft Nick Foles this past year, and there's always a chance he could turn out to be a serviceable backup, but as of now he sits at fourth on the depth chart.
Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman will form the most intriguing camp battle this offseason for the second-string spot. Redskins fans know all too well that Grossman is a turnover machine, but he does have experience on his side. Cousins, on the other hand, is beloved by the coaching staff and has the work ethic and leadership to be a fan and locker room favorite this year. Washington fans hope that he can overtake Grossman and turn into Kevin Kolb 2.0, so that they can trade him away to make up for some of the draft picks lost in the Griffin trade.
Overall, the Cowboys are the strongest at the position by way of Orton over Carr, but that is a meaningless title in a division filled with talent under center that could shift the rankings at any point in time.