The first Monday Night Football game of the 2013 NFL season will be a highly anticipated game as the Washington Redskins will welcome Robert Griffin III back into the lineup, which makes the team legitimate contenders.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported on Monday that coach Mike Shanahan officially named Griffin the starter.
It was news that everyone expected, but there had not been an official announcement. Now that the coach has named Griffin the starter, Washington fans can start to believe that their team is going to be a top team.
Kirk Cousins is a capable backup, but he wouldn’t be able to lead the team to the playoffs.
Griffin brings explosive talent to the offense, and he showed last year that he can win games with either his arm or his legs.
After a second major knee injury, Griffin is going to have to change the way he plays. He can still run with the ball, but he can’t be carrying it 120 times and taking so many hits. He will need to step out of bounds or slide when defenders are closing in on him.
If Shanahan keeps the 23-year-old from running the ball this season, it would take away a lot from the offense.
Last season Griffin completed 65.6 percent of his passes and threw for 3,200 yards. He added 20 touchdowns through the air. He ran for 815 yards and seven touchdowns on 120 carries. He threw only five interceptions and lost two fumbles. Every other full-time starter threw at least seven interceptions.
Running back Alfred Morris wouldn’t be as effective without RGIII's running ability. He ran for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns on 335 carries as a rookie. He was able to put up big numbers because of the read-option, which forced defenses to be hesitant. Griffin had the ability to keep the ball or give it to Morris.
Griffin’s running ability forced opponents to keep defenders near the line of scrimmage. That led to receivers being open down the field, and Griffin used his strong arm to get the ball to his receivers.
This year Griffin should benefit from having a healthy receiving corps. Pierre Garcon and tight end Fred Davis each missed time last season but made an impact when they were on the field.
Josh Morgan and Santana Moss were forced to play big roles in the offense. Morgan had 510 receiving yards with two touchdowns, and Moss had 573 yards and eight touchdowns on only 41 receptions. Leonard Hankerson also played a role in the passing game as he had 543 receiving yards and three scores.
The Redskins were forced to spread the ball around because of injuries to receivers. A healthy group should lead to more big plays this season.
Griffin has the talent to lead Washington to back-to-back playoff appearances. The 23-year-old has a year of experience under his belt, and he won a winner-take-all game against Dallas in Week 17.
Washington has a manageable schedule. The NFC East was paired with the AFC West and the NFC North. Outside of a trip to Denver at the end of October, the Redskins should be able to handle the AFC West. The NFC North is full of teams that bring something different to the table, but the Chicago Bears were the only team in the division that had a top-10 defense last year.
Griffin’s insane athletic ability puts the Redskins in the conversation as one of the best teams in the NFC. He is incredibly quick on the ground, but he can throw the ball over the top and beat defenses.
Shanahan will need to force Griffin to make smarter decisions on the ground, but the coach shouldn’t change the way his franchise quarterback plays the game.
After winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year last season, Griffin will be expected to be even better this season.
The Philadelphia Eagles will be the first test on Monday night. Griffin will be able to show what he can do after the injury, and he will do it in the national spotlight.
Griffin runs the read-option better than anyone in the NFL, and his return to the field makes the Redskins contenders in the NFC.
*All information is courtesy of NFL.com.