Robert Griffin III could easily have his own section here; Alfred Morris too. Those two players have taken the offense on their backs and dragged it towards the end zone, which is an incredible achievement for two rookies from schools not traditionally regarded as athletic powerhouses.
However, the real reason they have been included under an “offense” umbrella isn’t for the sake of brevity; it’s because their games are dependent on each other to the extent that one is severely depleted without the other.
This also spreads to other areas of the offense. Without Griffin’s athletic ability, the offensive line wouldn’t be anywhere near as solid as it seems.
Through Week 12, FootballOutsiders.com ranked the offensive line at 16th against the run and 27th against the pass, which should surprise no one. The highest praise that can be offered to the line this year is that, after so much doubt, no one is really talking about it.
It’s true that Tyler Polumbus has suffered at right tackle, especially in pass protection, but his performance against the run has been more consistent. Griffin and Kyle Shanahan both help to paper over those cracks with the sheer variety of play action passes and option schemes, along with a tremendous rushing performance from Morris.
Morris has been the surprise of the year, arguably across the entire NFL. While Doug Martin has been more emphatic in announcing his presence to the NFL, he was a first-round pick with 16 rushing touchdowns and 1,299 yards in his final year at Boise State.
Morris, on the other hand, was drafted in the sixth round out of Florida Atlantic. The Sun Belt Conference isn’t exactly revered as a farm for NFL players; plus, the Owls finished 1-11 in Morris’ senior year.
Morris himself ranked No.1 in the conference for yards per rushing attempt, but didn’t dominate by any means. He had a good year, finishing second in the conference with 1,186 yards, but there was nothing to suggest he would impact the NFL in the way that he has.
His patience when finding running lanes is key to his success this year. He doesn’t have the breakaway speed of Griffin, but when he finds his lane, he makes the first defender miss and gains yards through good decision-making and commitment.
Morris fights hard for every yard, which has helped the team tremendously this year. He has shown that he can be relied upon as an every-down back in Shanahan’s system, and his relationship with his quarterback has improved every week.
Griffin has been more than the Redskins could have hoped for in his rookie year. There is no more “Bob Griffin;” no more “It's not the Big 12” and no more suggestion that he only succeeds because of the college system that the Redskins are running.
When the Redskins played Pittsburgh and Carolina, Griffin sputtered. Both opponents set the edge well and limited Griffin’s ability to escape the pocket and extend plays with his legs. They dared him to beat them in the pocket and dared the offensive line to keep them at bay.
The Redskins came out second-best in both of those games, and the "rookie wall" began to crop up in conversation. Griffin, however, was unfazed and promised to return from the bye week a better quarterback and a better leader.
He was made a captain for the second half of the season, which was the first time a Shanahan-coached team had elected a rookie captain.
Griffin emerged from the bye week with two four-touchdown games, both emphasizing his arm over his legs.
He had a perfect quarterback rating for the first six quarters of those games, and his performances marked the first time in the history of the NFL that a rookie quarterback had passed for four touchdowns in consecutive games.
He had some help, though. When Pierre Garcon arrived from Indianapolis, the concern was that he couldn’t possibly live up to his contract. The dream start against New Orleans was immediately cut short by a toe injury that continues to plague him.
His performances suffered greatly, and his four catches for five yards in Week 10 seemed to foreshadow his demotion to the injured reserve list.
However, in the last two games, he has returned to the form seen in preseason and the season opener. Whether he has started to heal or simply learned to live with the pain, Garcon looks a constant threat and a trusted target.
He has 12 catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns over the last two games, and the Redskins are now 5-1 for the season with him on the field.
After Griffin’s receivers dropped 10 passes against the Steelers, it was vital that the quarterback had a target he could rely upon. Garcon has proved himself to be that target.
However, it’s worth mentioning the improvement across the board. Santana Moss has seven touchdowns from the slot, while Josh Morgan has shown himself to be strong in coverage and able to pick up crucial first downs.
After his tantrum against the St. Louis Rams, there were some calls for Morgan to be cut from the team. He has shown that Shanahan made the correct decision to keep him around.
Aldrick Robinson has made big plays from limited action, while Logan Paulsen stepped in for Fred Davis and showed that he had made big strides this year. Davis himself was the team’s leading receiver before going down with injuries and will be back next year to prove himself as a reliable member of the team.
Davis’ former partner in crime, Trent Williams, has been a force along the offensive line. This was epitomized against the Giants on Monday night.
Continuing to play after an injury suffered during the previous game, Williams held off New York’s feared pass rush and didn’t allow a sack all night. Neither did the rest of the line, for that matter.
Williams' development has got the attention of the league too. Justin Tuck acknowledged that Williams has improved a lot over the last year (via the Washington Post):
I think he’s coming into his own as far as being one of the premier left tackles in the league. He’s very athletic. He’s a strong, athletic guy. A lot of the teams give their linemen a lot of help and I haven’t seen the Redskins give him much help. That lets me know how confident they are in him.
Williams' teammates, too, are in doubt of his importance to their success. Griffin in particular, knows how much he needs him (via the Washington Post):
I already told him that if he needs me in the training room with him, I’ll be there. I’ll rub on his leg, whatever he needs me to do. It’s paramount. He’s one of our leaders. He brings a certain attitude to the game as well and it completes that offensive line that’s played pretty well all year.
A special mention must also go to Kai Forbath, who has banished the Redskins’ recent kicker nightmares from memory. Forbath accounts for 47 points this year and has a perfect record on field goals, including one over 50 yards.
He missed an extra-point attempt against Pittsburgh, but that was a result of a missed assignment and can’t be blamed on him. Long may he remain in a Redskins uniform.