The Washington Redskins may have the core group of talent they need to remain not only competitive, but a contender for the 2013 NFL season and head coach Mike Shanahan believes it starts with a "younger and hungrier football team."
In an interview posted on the team's official website, Redskins.com, Shanahan referred to that group as the "nucleus" and a quick analysis of the 53-man roster from last season reveals a Redskins team with an average age of 26 and four years of NFL experience.
With the emergence of first-year stars Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris and their record-setting performances in 2012, the Redskins have a solid starting offense already in place. Last year, the Redskins had four wide receivers with 500-plus yards receiving.
The team started the same five offense linemen in all but one game last season. Starting tight end Logan Paulsen averaged 12 yards per reception after stepping in for injured TE Fred Davis. Last week, Davis received medical clearance to resume practice with the team after rupturing his Achilles tendon in Week 7 last season.
Led by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan who enters his fourth season with the Redskins, the team seems sound while also having room for growth and maturity to develop within the team.
On February 23, the Redskins' promoted former offensive assistant Mike McDaniel to wide receiver coach and Shanahan says he "really likes him...and our players really respect him."
Last season, the Redskins' went from worst to first in the NFC East, winning the division title, posted a 10-6 overall record and won five of six division games. The team finished the regular season with a seven-game winning streak.
In per game averages in the NFL, the 2012 Redskins' offense ranked fifth in net yards (383), first in rushing yards (169), fourth in points (27), seventh in first downs (21) and committed the fewest turnovers (14).
The team's rank in the NFL in these selected categories were the best among NFC East opponents.
This look at the Redskins' offense is just half of the equation, as the defense will need improvements in a secondary that was decimated by injuries week after week in 2012. All indications point to the team using, if not trading, their second-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft in April to fill that void.
While the team's base 3-4 defense did manage to step up during the team's seven-game winning streak, the 2012 defense was among the worst in the league per game in total defense (377 yards), pass defense (282 yards) and third down conversions allowed (44 percent).
Regardless of the pluses and minuses, the X's and the O's, Shanahan remains optimistic and credited the loyal Redskins fans for a portion of his positive outlook and helping the team last year.
"We do have the best fans...because they support you no matter what. We've set a tempo for the future where people believe in the direction we are going."
With the conclusion of the NFL Scouting Combine and the start of free agency less than 10 days away, at least the Redskins have a solid foundation on which to build upon with just some select areas needing rebuilding.
Let's not forget: In the Redskins' six losses last season, they were within a touchdown and conversion in all but their 27-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 8.
Statistics provided by ESPN.