Where These 5 Washington Redskins Stars Must Improve in 2014-15
Boasting a roster that was largely left intact after a successful season in 2012, the Washington Redskins defied expectations in 2013 and finished with a 3-13 record.
While injuries and incompetent coaching played a part in this downfall, deficiencies from star players played an integral role in Washington's journey from first to worst.
With that said, here are five stars who must improve in 2014-15.
Robert Griffin III from the Pocket
From his ball security while running and passing the football, to his candidness in press conferences, Griffin's 2013 season could serve as a what-not-to-do guide for starting quarterbacks.
Nonetheless, at the root of his woes was his pocket presence—or lack thereof.
While Washington's offensive line was mediocre at best, Griffin played a role in the 43 sacks it surrendered in 2013. Courtesy of locking onto his primary target, he held the ball too long and was naive to the pass rush, which led to sacks.
It's no coincidence that the Redskins only allowed four sacks in Kirk Cousins' three starts.
By going through his progressions quickly, Cousins was able to negate the ineptitude of certain offensive linemen, like Tyler Polumbus, in pass protection.
Griffin's struggles at this were most evident in the game-clinching interception he threw in a Week 11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Via Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post, on a play in which Griffin claimed no one was open, he bypassed a wide-open Roy Helu and heaved a bomb to the back of the end zone that subsequently lost the game for Washington.
This indictment isn't to say that Cousins should be the starting quarterback. Rather, it highlights the improvements that Griffin needs to make if the Redskins are to rebound from a lackluster 2013 campaign.
Alfred Morris as a Receiver
While Alfred Morris didn't top the numbers he posted in his breakout rookie campaign in 2013, he didn't experience the dreaded sophomore slump either.
He tallied 1,275 rushing yards and seven touchdowns last season. But as evidenced by his average of 4.6 yards per carry, his decline in production was tied to Washington not giving him the rock enough.
That's not his fault, right? Well, that's partially true.
The coaching ineptitude exhibited by both Mike and Kyle Shanahan played a part in Morris' decline in touches.
But Morris being a non-factor in the passing game also was a cause. He only had nine catches last season and has just 20 career catches.
Enter Roy Helu.
Due to injury, he didn't steal touches away from Morris as a rookie. But with Washington in need of another receiving threat in lieu of Jordan Reed and Leonard Hankerson's injuries, Helu garnered significant playing time at the expense of Morris.
Helu produced to the tune of 31 catches, but these are numbers that Morris needs to post. As one of Washington's top players, Morris needs to see the field as much as possible.
And he won't do that until he improves as a receiver.
Pierre Garcon with Drops
After he tallied 1,376 receiving yards and a franchise-record 113 receptions, Washington couldn't ask for anything more from Pierre Garcon, right?
Wrong. The Redskins could ask for precisely 120 catches from their star receiver, seeing as he dropped seven passes in 2013.
Is this nitpicking? Yes. But you have to consider the impact of those drops. In Week 10 against the Minnesota Vikings, a Garcon drop might have cost Washington the game. With the Redskins down 34-27, he dropped a pass on 3rd-and-goal that could have sent the game to overtime.
On the season, via NBCSports, Garcon caught 62.1 percent of the 182 passes directed his way.
While numerous passes were uncatchable, others were catchable that didn't register as drops in his stats.
Garcon is approaching the pantheon of elite receivers, and shoring up this lone deficiency would go a long way in cementing his status as one of the NFL's top pass-catchers.
Trent Williams' Consistency
Despite being named to the Pro Bowl, Trent Williams had a trying season.
He had an excellent start and was even named to SI.com's midseason All-Pro team. But following his stellar start, he went into a downward spiral.
As Mike Jones of The Washington Post noted, Williams endured a five-game stretch in which he allowed six sacks. That was a stark contrast to the man who held Clay Matthews, DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and Julius Peppers to a combined one sack earlier in the season.
Consistency has to be on Williams' to-do list entering next season.
If Griffin is to improve as a pocket passer, he's going to need a stalwart like Williams to set the precedent among his contemporaries for protecting the quarterback.
Brian Orakpo's Production Against Elite Competition
After missing the majority of the 2012 season, Brian Orakpo had a solid season in 2013. With 10 sacks in total, he had a flurry of sacks to end the season. In his final seven games, he registered seven sacks.
But was his surge in production due to the competition he faced?
During that stretch, the two teams that he didn't garner a sack against were the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys. Ironically enough, Kansas City was second, and Dallas was fourth in adjusted sack rate, according to FootballOutsiders.com.
Of the five other teams in that seven-game stretch, only the Minnesota Vikings were ranked in the top 20 in this statistic.
Perceived as an elite pass-rusher, Orakpo needs to raise his production against elite competition to justify the hefty contract he'll likely command as a free agent this offseason.