5 Reasons Washington Redskins Will Repeat as NFC East Champions
The story of the 2012 Washington Redskins can be put into one word—surprising.
While expectations were high for then-rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, he certainly surpassed what anyone thought he would do. Griffin’s teammate in the backfield, Alfred Morris, was also an impact player for the burgundy and gold last season.
Between the play of their rookie tandem and a top defensive unit, the Redskins put together a pretty good season as they were ultimately crowned NFC East champions.
With the other teams in the NFC East making strides towards improving, it is imperative that Washington does their best to keep riding the wave that they finished on last season.
Now that RG3 has a full season under his belt, his growing comfortableness in the offensive system of Kyle Shanahan will translate into big games.
Even with free agency just a day old, the Redskins have already tied up several important free agents that they needed to retain. They will also be returning all-pro LB Brian Orakpo and starting safety Brandon Meriweather (both players ended 2012 on injured-reserve).
There is much to be hopeful for with Redskins Nation in 2013, and it should not come as a surprise if they repeat as NFC East champions.
5. Division Rivals Aren't Much Better
There is a pretty good argument that can be made that the NFC East is the toughest division in football. It seems like there is never a favorite to win the division because each team can be an extremely dangerous opponent for anyone they take on.
The most different looking team in 2013 will be the Philadelphia Eagles, who will have a new coach and potentially a new quarterback in town. Besides that, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants have been pretty quiet so far.
New York did sign DL Cullen Jenkins, but also lost starting tight end Martellus Bennett. There is a decent chance that Dallas will lose one of their best defenders in Anthony Spencer, a guy who has been a pillar of their defense for years.
The Redskins beat each team in the division at least once last year, and will likely continue that kind of success in 2013. The other teams in the NFC East haven’t really done anything special this offseason, but free agency is young and the draft is still coming up.
Washington likely won’t lose any big name players to free agency, as Fred Davis is expected to re-sign. Also, the release of DeAngelo Hall was a necessary move after a rough 2012 season for the veteran corner.
At least for right now, it seems as though the Redskins are the most together team in the NFC East.
4. Success with Draft
The Redskins may have traded away their first round pick for this year, but it was certainly worth it to draft RG3 with the second overall pick last year.
Ever since Mike Shanahan started coaching in Washington, the Redskins’ draft classes have certainly improved. They seem to always hit the nail on the head in the first round (Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, and RG3 have all been pro bowlers) and also bring in late-round gems.
The most notable late-round draftee to date is Alfred Morris, a sixth-round pick from last year.
The Redskins first pick in this draft comes in the middle of the second round, a prime spot to fill a definite need like defensive back or offensive lineman.
The great majority of Shanahan’s draft picks are still with the team, meaning that he has been drafting good, quality players from the first round to the seventh since taking over the team. Shanahan has added much depth to a Redskins team that has seriously lacked dependability over the past few years.
The Redskins have seven picks in this year’s draft and could definitely use them to revitalize and replenish their roster.
3. Kept Who They Needed to Keep
The Redskins didn’t have many big names on their depth chart, but still had many productive players behind their starters.
Paulsen was a dependable target in the passing game last year, especially when the starter Davis went down with injury. He always played a big role in the run game as a blocker on the edge.
Young and Lichtensteiger were also important pieces of the Redskins’ zone-blocking scheme last year in which RG3 and Morris flourished.
Jackson played largely in the second half of the season when Orakpo suffered an injury in a game against the St. Louis Rams. He played tremendously well down the stretch, tallying a career high 37 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and four interceptions.
Maintaining these pieces, both starters and backups alike, will be very important for the Redskins in 2013. With limited room to spend in free agency due to the cap, it is best that Washington retain the depth on their roster, and that's exactly what they've done.
2. The Development of Young Stars
Cousins came in and played well when Griffin III was injured, and in hindsight he probably should have taken over earlier in their playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Garçon emerged as the No. 1 receiver that Washington had hoped for him to be, and if it weren’t for a nagging foot injury he likely would’ve broken 1,000 yards.
Kerrigan stepped up big for Washington when Orakpo was out with injury, earning pro bowl honors at the end of the season. All of these young guys are developing into some of the league’s brightest young players.
Perhaps the best thing for Washington as they head into next season is the chemistry that the team is starting to have. The Redskins, as a whole, meshed very well over the course of last season and it is not hard to see them gaining even more comfortableness with each other as next season approaches.
1. Key Players Returning from Injury
When the Redskins took on the Rams in the third week of last season, they didn’t just lose the game; they lost two of their best defenders.
Both Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker left the game with injuries, and it was later announced that they would miss the entire season. Carriker and Orakpo have been pro bowlers in the past, with Orakpo also achieving all-pro honors.
Washington’s pass-rush is tremendously different when these two former first round picks are in the mix. Carriker is great in run defense and has proved himself as a solid pass-rusher. Orakpo has shown fantastic ability in rushing the passer between his explosive speed and power.
Besides these two guys, the Redskins also missed safety Brandon Meriweather’s presence in the secondary. Meriweather was pegged to be the starter for Washington last season before suffering a slew of injuries early on in the season.
In the only game that Meriweather played last season, he had seven tackles, one interception and two passes defensed. It is evident that Meriweather is a good fit for defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s system and will definitely help to improve the Redskins’ miserable secondary that gave up countless big plays last season.
The Redskins had the fifth-best defense in the NFL a year ago; add in these three guys and there is obvious improvement that will be made.
The Redskins will be a much better defense just by getting these guys back, and they will definitely have a good chance of winning the division for the second straight year—as long as they stay healthy, that is.