What We Learned About the Washington Redskins in RG3's Absence

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst IAugust 29, 2013

Aug 19, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; A Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) walks off the field after warm ups prior to the Redskins game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Griffin III's injury dominated headlines in Washington D.C. all offseason, training camp and preseason, but life for the Redskins went on without him. 

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft will start the season opener on Monday Night Football against Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles.

However, we learned a few things about his teammates while he was nursed back to health. 

Here are three of the most notable conclusions that can be drawn from the time that passed without RG3 on the field in the nation's capitol.


Roy Helu Is Still Relevant

Alfred Morris isn't the only recent Redskins running back to lead the ground attack as a rookie. In 2011, Roy Helu was the guy in Washington.

He averaged 4.2 yards per carry in 15 games and caught 49 passes for 379 yards. 

Then, Morris erupted. 

While the 2012 second-team All-Pro remains the unquestioned feature back this year, the preseason—for what it's worth—showed that Helu shouldn't be forgotten.

Here's a comparison of each running back's rookie season:

Helu carried the ball 27 times for 157 times and had a 30-yard scamper for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Morris carried the ball 335 times in his first NFL campaign, which was the third-highest total in the league. 

Washington certainly has no reason to worry about its youthful runner being worn down now, but it may not be the worst idea to start scaling back his carries in an attempt to keep him efficient and fresh for as long as possible.

Even if Mike Shanahan wants to get Morris to 335 carries once again, Helu's pass-catching specialty may put him on the field on third downs. 

He has two receptions for 35 yards in the preseason. 

Running back committees are the trend in the NFL, and now that Helu's back from a toe injury that ended his 2012 season prior to Week 4, don't be surprised if the Redskins implement a more balanced ground attack this year.


Pat White Could Stick Around...or at Least Come Around Later

One of the most pleasant surprises of the Redskins preseason has been the competence of dual-threat quarterback Pat White. The former Miami Dolphins second-round pick signed with Washington in early April. Both sides hoped the former West Virginia star's scrambling ability could be accentuated in the Redskins' read-option heavy offense. 

With Griffin III sidelined through the first three preseason games, White has completed 15 of 28 passes for 149 yards with an interception. Maybe more importantly, he ran the ball 12 times for 83 yards and a touchdown. 

CBS Sports' NFL Insider Jason La Canfora recently wrote that he'd be "pretty surprised if he (White) doesn't make the roster."

Clearly, the Redskins need to have a contingency plan in place if RG3 gets injured again. But after Kirk Cousins' injury scare, the need for a viable No. 3 is even more apparent. 

Rex Grossman has shown signs of steadiness this preseason as well, which makes the No. 3 quarterback "battle" that much more interesting. 

Washington Post writer Mark Maske reported that White will play the entire preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—but does that mean he's the favorite to win the No. 3 job? Or do the Redskins simply want to keep the veteran Grossman on the sidelines to avoid injury?

Bleacher Report's NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon believes the latter is true. 

In a recent column, he wrote the following regarding Grossman: 

Playing him isn't worth the potential injury risk at this point, which is why the only other quarterback on the roster is being thrown to whatever wolves will be in Tampa Thursday. Grossman is the only quarterback on the depth chart with at least a full season worth of starts under his belt. 

He opined on White's future role in Washington and decided that not much will change even with a strong performance against the Buccaneers:

Against backups and surrounded by more backups, there's a limit regarding what White will be able to do to alter his destiny Thursday night, at least in terms of his status with the Redskins. Those three quarterbacks are probably locked in place—the 'Skins won't likely consider keeping four—and White is not eligible for the practice squad.

So, regardless of whose prediction is correct, it's clear that White has made a strong impression on Washington's coaching staff. 

Gagnon astutely pointed out that even if White doesn't make the Redskins' 53-man roster, he could be on the team's "proverbial speed dial if things really hit the fan."

Sure, he could get snagged by another team if cut, but if not, Washington could keep him in mind in an emergency situation.


Brian Orakpo's Return Somewhat Overshadowed

Every Redskins fan on the planet is anxiously awaiting the return of franchise foundation RG3, and rightfully so. But another rather important Washington player returned in Week 1 of the preseason against the Tennessee Titans—Brian Orakpo.

Funny thing is, we didn't hear much about it.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he played 14 snaps and registered a sack in his exhibition debut.

Against the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 of the preseason, Orakpo played 20 snaps and had an assisted tackle. The official ESPN box score gave the former Pro Bowler a pass deflection. 

He was lost for the season after two games in 2012, and his absence was felt across the entire defense. The Redskins tied for 23rd in sacks with 32. An average pass rush never helps a secondary, and Washington's was one of the worst in football last year. 

Per Football Outsiders, the Redskins allowed an average of 25.48 passing yards per drive, the highest in the NFL.

Here's how impactful Orakpo was when he played in 2010 and 2011:

Although Ryan Kerrigan appears to be a star in the making at the outside linebacker spot opposite Orakpo, the Redskins need the former University of Texas star healthy and productive, especially with Adam Carriker starting the season on the physically unable to perform list. 

If Griffin III hadn't been injured, Orakpo's return would have received much more attention, which demonstrated how huge of a story the quarterback's knee-ligament tear and rehabilitation process truly has been.


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