5 Bold Predictions for the Washington Redskins This Season
As the tumultuous offseason winds down, nobody is more excited to get back to football than Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. But just months removed from a first-round playoff exit, questions looming around the quarterback and his team have made projections tough for the 2013 season.
All these questions and more will dictate whether or not the fans in Washington will be satisfied come January. In order for Mike Shanahan's rebuilding process to come full circle, the Redskins have to advance beyond the first weekend of the playoffs.
And here are five bold predictions that may help them accomplish that feat for the first time in nearly a decade.
Robert Griffin III Will Be the Most Impressive Second-Year Quarterback
Coming off a season in which rookie quarterbacks dominated much of the NFL headlines, Robert Griffin III could still be considered "under the radar."
If that is even possible.
His devastating knee injury in the divisional-round loss to Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks didn't cost him the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but it has influenced popular opinion heading into 2013-2014.
But anyone who watched the Redskins last year can tell you that this kid is no fluke. And if he is close to 100 percent, there's not a single reason to believe he will regress.
Without his favorite target for more than a third of the schedule last year, Griffin III compiled 3,200 passing yards and finished with a 20-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Entering his sophomore season, Washington's most popular (and perhaps polarizing) figure has a strengthened grasp of the read-option offense and a healthy receiving corps.
Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis, both of whom missed significant time in 2012-2013, return for a Washington offense that exploded for more than 6,100 yards last year.
Another year of experience for the NFL's third-highest-rated passer should only help RG3 make improvements heading into the Monday night opener against Philadelphia, and we can no longer be surprised by quick recoveries after Adrian Peterson's comeback a year ago.
Of course, the other three quarterbacks will have something to say about the matter. But can Andrew Luck lead a lesser-talented roster to 11 wins again? Won't Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have a tough time competing against each other and some of the game's most physical defenses twice?
We'll have to wait and see, but my money is on the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor.
Fred Davis Will Be a 1,000-Yard Receiver
OK, so it might be a bit of a stretch considering that only one tight end (Jason Witten) managed such a feat in the entire NFL a season ago.
But those who have followed Fred Davis over the course of his five-year career know that he possesses the talent to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in any given year.
The only question with the former USC Trojan has been concerning his attitude and work ethic. But 2013 is a contract year for Davis, and provided he stays healthy and at least 10 yards from the bong, he should put up career numbers in his sixth season.
Before tearing his Achilles in Week 7 against the New York Giants, the Redskins' tight end was averaging nearly 14 yards per reception for Washington. He established good chemistry with Robert Griffin III and served as one of the quarterback's top targets through the early stages of the year.
Anytime a player suffers an injury as serious as Davis did last year, there have to be questions about his recovery. But the 6'4" tight end insists he is healthy and showed signs of that in his limited preseason action against the Titans, catching a touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins in the opening quarter.
Davis finished four yards shy of 800 in just 12 games in 2011, earning the award for the team's Offensive Player of the Year. He knows that a breakout year this time around will surely earn him a big payday somewhere in the league.
Will Davis stay out of trouble and off of the injured reserve list in 2013?
That remains to be seen. But if he can manage those two things, I expect monster numbers from one of the game's most athletic tight ends.
Let's just hope we never see that horrid touchdown celebration again...
Two Rookies Will Start in the Secondary for a Majority of the Season
After finishing the 2012-2013 season as the 30th-ranked pass defense, the Washington Redskins knew they had to make some adjustments.
And while the unit did manage to stiffen up during the second-half of the season, Mike Shanahan realized that the solution wasn't going to be found internally.
Consequently, no one was surprised when the Redskins spent three of their seven draft picks on players in the secondary.
David Amerson, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo all figured to immediately compete for starting positions in training camp this summer. Sadly, Thomas appears to be lost for the year, but both Amerson and Rambo still have a shot at starting Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The more likely of the two right now is Rambo given the competition (or lack thereof) at the free safety position.
He may have made a few mistakes in his debut against Tennessee, but darn-near nobody is capable of tackling Chris Johnson in the open field, and everyone who has covered the Redskins in training camp has said that Rambo has been arguably the most impressive of all the newcomers to Washington, per Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Josh Wilson likely holds a narrow edge over Amerson, who impressed everyone in his preseason debut last week against the Titans, for the second starting cornerback job.
But as we all know, injuries happen and players improve.
The two cornerbacks, Wilson and Deangelo Hall, who composed one of the league's worst pass coverage units, can't have long leashes with head coach Mike Shanahan.
So if either struggles or one happens to go down with an injury, David Amerson will be first in line to take their place. Don't be surprised if both first-year players are starting in the Redskins secondary after the bye week.
The Redskins Will Finish 5-1 in the NFC East for the Second Consecutive Season
The main reason the Redskins were able to host a playoff game last season was because of their success within their own division.
In a competitive NFC East, Washington lost just one of six contests against divisional opponents.
And if it can copy that accomplishment in 2013-2014, there is no telling where it might wind up.
It goes without saying that will be no easy task. Chip Kelly's emergence into the NFL with Philadelphia has many wondering what the Eagles will look like, and you can never overlook the two-time Super Bowl MVP in New York named Eli Manning.
Obviously the health of Robert Griffin III is the largest factor in the equation. If the Redskins' starting quarterback has to miss any significant chunk of time, any of the other three teams could potentially be in a position to overthrow Washington as champs of the East.
However, if RG3 plays 15 or 16 games this year, the Redskins have to be the favorite behind the league's best rushing attack from last season.
The read-option offense, unlike the Wildcat, isn't something that defensive coordinators can solve with a few hours of film and a couple minor adjustments. It is here to stay in Washington, and its divisional rivals will have plenty of opportunities to try to stop the dynamic backfield of Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris.
Will they succeed?
Not if last year's trends continue. None of the four defensive units in the NFC ranked higher than 15th in yards against in 2012, and there is little indication that will change in 2013.
First Playoff Victory Since 2005
A quick 14-0 lead in last year's divisional-round loss to the Seattle Seahawks undoubtedly had fans across the nation's capital giddy with excitement before they watched their beloved Redskins crumble in the steps of Robert Griffin III's knee.
But this time around, Mike Shanahan and the crew is going to get it right. And if all goes well in 2013, Washington might be playing well into 2014.
The pieces are finally assembled for an annually competitive team in D.C. A franchise quarterback, a 1,600-yard rusher and a pass rush that will instill fear in the eyes of any mindful human being have been combined to give the faithfuls in Washington hope.
And now is the time when hope turns into reality.
The schedule is tough; there's no question about it. But there is a reason the Redskins rattled off seven consecutive victories to conclude the campaign a season ago. There is logic behind the unpredictable option-read offense, and there is only room for improvement with Jim Haslett's defensive unit.
Look for the Redskins to continue pounding the ball with Alfred Morris in an effort to preserve Robert Griffin III and wear down defenses for the fourth quarter. Expect improvements in Washington's inexperienced secondary, and don't be surprised if the Redskins pull off an upset at home against San Francisco or on the road at Atlanta.
This team is capable of contending with the best in the league, and last year was proof of that. Had Griffin III's knee stayed intact, a good argument could be made that Russell Wilson would have been the quarterback headed home after Week 1 of the NFL playoffs.
The NFC is stacked with Super Bowl contenders from Seattle to Green Bay. But the Redskins are playing for home-field advantage.
And they just might be in the right division to do that again.
Look for Washington to repeat as champions of the East and secure its first playoff win since the 2005 season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.