Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan took some heat earlier this week for stating that, for the rest of 2012, players would be auditioning for spots on the 2013 roster, which carried the implication that 2012 was a lost cause in the standings.
Shanahan has since backtracked, stating that he wasn't suggesting this season had gone down the drain. But we here at the NFC East blog have no incentive to sugarcoat it: The 2012 Redskins are done. They've lost three straight and don't have the talent on either side of the ball to charge back from 3-6 to compete.
The focus now has to shift to keeping key cogs—namely Robert Griffin III—healthy, and to groom young contributors for future seasons, where the stakes will be much higher. I'm looking at the seven games following the bye week as a rare opportunity to hold an extended dress rehearsal under legitimate regular-season circumstances,
The 'Skins have to take advantage, and in doing so have to find out if a slew of on-the-fence players deserve to be a part of this movement going forward. Here's a list of some of the guys who should be on notice:
- Aldrick Robinson
- Niles Paul
- Jammal Brown
- Tyler Polumbus
- Brandon Banks
- Kai Forbath
- Madieu Williams
- DeAngelo Hall
- Cedric Griffin
- Richard Crawford
- Reed Doughty
- DeJon Gomes
- Brandon Meriweather
The coaching staff can also take this opportunity to find out if guys like Rob Jackson, Jarvis Jenkins, Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan can play significant roles in season No. 2 of the RG3 era.
Let the audition process begin.
What They Should Be Thinking
Defenses have figured out how to step Robert Griffin III, who's had two of his worst games in back-to-back weeks. They're doing a much better job of dictating what Griffin's going to do on read-option plays and seem to be anticipating our rookie quarterback's every move.
On defense, we still can't really stop anyone. We have just 14 sacks in nine games and have surrendered 3,581 yards, which is the third-worst total in football.
Bring it all together, and it's not surprising that we were outplayed last week, at home, by the 1-6 Carolina Panthers.
With that in mind, it's hard to think we'll win more than once or twice between now and the end of the year. That wouldn't be quite as frustrating if we hadn't traded away next year's first-round pick.
Griffin is only working with a fairly basic playbook right now, and our coaching staff will be adding dozens of wrinkles as his career progresses. This offseason, we'll be giving RG3 a whole bunch of new stuff to work with, which means that if defenses have indeed figured us out right now, they'll have a much tougher time doing so next season.
Besides, the two defenses that have slowed Griffin down are very talented. The Steelers might have the smartest defensive unit in the league, and the Panthers are playing very well on D. Those teams were wise to us, but that doesn't mean everyone will be.
Oh, and let's not forget that we've been working without Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis. Those guys might not be back until 2013, but we're a lot tougher to defend with them in the lineup.
And sure, we're still struggling on D, but we've given up fewer than 30 points in six straight games after doing the opposite in our first three games. We successfully limited Cam Newton and Steve Smith through the air this past week. We're making baby steps in the right direction, and we're doing so without Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker and Brandon Meriweather.
Even if we don't win more than a couple more games to finish the year, the right pieces are in place at most positions. A first-round pick in 2013 would be awesome, but we'd much rather have RG3.
What I'm Thinking
Stock Rising (Offense): Trent Williams
The line continues to perform well in general, at least in comparison to what we expected. The Panthers got to Griffin a lot Sunday with their underrated pass rush, but Williams was beaten exactly zero times, not allowing a single pressure, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF now ranks him as the fifth-best tackle in the NFL.
Stock Rising (Defense): Stephen Bowen
Bowen had his best game of the year and was the Redskins' best defender against Carolina, getting a hit on the quarterback and registering a team-high four run stops, per PFF. With Orakpo out, he's probably emerged as the most consistent defensive player on the team.
Stock Dropping (Offense): Robert Griffin III
This isn't totally fair because of the lack of support he's had, but Griffin's numbers truly have fallen off a cliff the last couple of weeks. His stock was soaring, so it's at least come back to Earth a little.
Stock Dropping (Defense): Josh Wilson
It's been a tough year for the team's top corner. He was beaten by Steve Smith for a touchdown and was at least partially responsible for that 82-yard bomb from Newton to Armanti Edwards. It was by far his worst game of the year, per PFF.
Again, it's really all about 2013 now. The schedule isn't tough after the bye, but they're just too shorthanded to put together wins on a consistent basis.
The outlook for next year, though, is very promising. No team in the NFC East possesses as much long-term promise as the 'Skins. With guys like Garcon, Davis and Orakpo getting healthy and some tweaks to the secondary, they'll be contenders next year.
View last week's report here.