Few years are more important in a quarterback’s development than the second one coming up for Robert Griffin III here in 2013.
Coming off a year in which he led the Washington Redskins to seven straight wins and the team's first divisional championship since 2007, RG3 is the talk of D.C., despite playing in a city with some budding young stars and one polarizing figure who just so happens to run this great country.
While names like John Wall, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Alexander Ovechkin all call the capitol city home, it is RG3's transcending talent, unique persona and charismatic leadership qualities that have captured the city's imagination—possibly even more than dare I say, one Barack Hussein Obama.
With that said, Griffin is coming off what is now his second major knee injury and entering a season that is full of uncertainty, but also carries with it much reason for hope and optimism.
The question now becomes, did the Redskins do enough to surround him with the proper talent to come back stronger than ever and increase his chances of being successful for a second straight season?
Ahead, I try to tackle this very important topic for the anxious and eager Washington Redskins fanbase.
Few teams in the NFL became more crippled on one side of the football than the Washington Redskins did in 2013. With injuries to key defensive players like Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker and Brandon Meriweather, the team suffered losses that directly impacted the continuity of their defense.
This fact alone had an enormous impact on the team's overall defensive efficiency. Just take a look at the difference in NFL rankings and numbers from the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
According to NFL.com, in 2011, the Redskins ranked 13th overall in defensive total yards per game, with an average of 339.8.
In 2012, that same ranking dropped all the way to 28th overall, with an average of 377.7 total yards per game sacrificed to their opponents.
Meaning, the Redskins gave up nearly 38 more yards per game in 2012 than they did in 2011.
It's a difference that accounts for more than 600 total yards when taken over the course of a 16-game season.
Certainly, these are no numbers to squawk at, but they, in fact, do not tell us the whole story.
After all, the team lost both of its best pass-rushers in Orakpo and Carriker, so wouldn't it be more useful to take a look at their difference in sack production rankings from one year to the next?
Not surprisingly, these numbers tell us much of what we already know.
In 2012, the Redskins accounted for an average of two sacks per game with 32 sacks over the course of the season—a mark that tied them for the 23rd most in the entire NFL.
Can you guess how many sacks the team had in 2011? 41—tying them for the 10th-most in the league just two short seasons ago.
Obviously, bringing these three players back will only improve the defenses overall efficiency, but it also has one indirect impact that should allow the Redskins to potentially soar to new heights in 2013.
You see, by improving the defense, RG3 is also less likely to have to create and force things on his own—thus allowing him to further protect his body, which should bring much relief to his many adoring fans.
Just one of the major steps that will allow RG3 to further flourish heading into 2013.
Entering the 2013 offseason, owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen were very much up against it—heading into what is now the second year of a league-imposed $36 million salary cap reduction penalty.
Couple this with the fact that the team sacrificed their first-round draft pick to move up last year for RG3 and Redskins management was even further behind the eight ball than most NFL teams.
Nevertheless, what the Redskins were able to do was keep some of their key veteran players in tact—by way of restructuring—while upgrading key positions of need through the draft and free agency.
In free agency, the team decided to cut ties with secondary players Cedric Griffin and Madieu Williams, while bringing back veteran player DeAngelo Hall and signing underrated and often overlooked cornerback E.J. Biggers, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Surely, these were a couple of shrewd business decisions that likely garnered little attention outside of the NFC East; however, these small additions and subtractions could very well be the difference in further improving a unit that vastly underwhelmed in 2012.
And what the Redskins were able to do in this year's NFL draft should also be a difference-maker.
Coming in, Washington held a total of seven picks, but still needed to address the secondary position—especially on the back end at each of the safety positions.
What the Redskins got was an abundance of talent at exactly the right places of value.
In fact, between secondary picks David Amerson, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, the three accounted for an astounding 47 career interceptions during their productive college careers.
Thus, they further improved a unit that surprisingly tied for third for the league lead in interceptions in 2012 with a grand total of 21.
With all this said, I know what you're probably thinking.
What about the offense? You know, the side of the ball that RG3 actually plays?
To this point, all we have talked about is how much the defense should be improved.
How is any of that suppose to directly help RG3 grow and advance to become the quarterback he is capable of becoming?
The 2013 Season
To this point, much of the criticism from fans has been at the hands of management’s decision not to build around the offense and RG3 very much this offseason.
After all, much of the offensive depth chart and roster remains largely unchanged from this year to last, outside of a few new additions made here and there. Surely, the team could have made more of a conceited effort to build around what they consider to be their franchise player, right?
Well, not entirely.
You see Washington's offense was never in much need of a change anyway.
Taken from NFL.com, the Redskins rushing offense ranked first overall in 2012 with a 169.3 yards-per-game average, and the team was fifth overall in total yards per game when coupled with their somewhat below-average passing numbers that finished at 20th in the league.
Surely these numbers are improvable, but it's not like management did absolutely nothing to improve their offense this offseason.
In the third round of the draft, the team selected Jordan Reed—a pass-catching tight end who can come in and add more depth and stability to a position that already features the likes of Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen.
Then, in the fifth round, the team was also able to grab what I believe was one of the most explosive players in this draft in Chris Thompson. When healthy, Thompson is a player capable of adding another dimension and big-play threat to an offense and kicking game that saw Brandon Banks let go earlier this year.
Ultimately, would it have been nice to add another big-play threat and potential No. 1 wide receiver?
Should the team have drafted another offensive lineman to compete with right tackles Tyler Polumbus, Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos?
There are many ways to spin this, but what the Redskins did was do the best with what they had, while balancing out a roster I believe to be as deep and talented as any.
In the end, it will come down to the health of RG3's knee, but judging by the video below, it's hard not to believe he won't come back stronger and more determined than ever before.
After all, every team needs a bit of luck as it already is, but having improved the roster from this season to last, the Redskins have officially put the pieces in place to allow their star quarterback to flourish in what we can only hope is a season as fun-filled as the first.
Something tells me we will see much of the same from RG3 in 2013.
Here's to keeping your fingers crossed Redskins nation.
Your wait is finally almost over.
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