Early Stat Projections for Redskins' Top Impact Players
He inherits a Pro Bowl running back.
He inherits a second-year tight end on the cusp of stardom.
He inherits a wide receiver coming off a 113-catch season, tops in the NFL.
His front office acquired arguably the most explosive wide receiver in football.
He inherits a 24-year-old franchise quarterback who can do it all.
Like any new head coach, Gruden will have a learning curve, but it's hard to mess up an offense with top-tier players at every skill position. Assuming good health all around, let's take an early look at what to expect from the big names on the Redskins offense in 2014.
Alfred Morris, RB
2013 Stats: 276 attempts, 1,275 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns
Projected 2014 Stats: 265 attempts, 1,200 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns
It's fair to wonder how the absence of Mike Shanahan will affect the production of running back Alfred Morris.
In the zone-blocking scheme that Shanahan employed, Morris rushed for 2,888 yards and scored 20 touchdowns in two seasons. Will things change under Gruden?
When asked in January by CSN Washington's Rich Tandler if he prefers a zone or power scheme, Gruden gave an answer that seemed to lean toward both:
I think they're in the top 10 the last couple years, so they have a system in place that's very good. They're an outside zone blocking team that can do inside zone. I like the power plays. I like the gap blocking plays. So there's a little bit of everything.
I don't think any offense in the NFL anymore is just, 'We are this.' I think we have to adhere to what we have offensively, talent-wise.
Rotoworld's Evan Silva thinks Morris could take a step back in Gruden's offense, via CSN Washington's Ben Standig:
Gruden's background is a little bit scary for the future prospects of Alfred Morris. Gruden adheres to a pass-centric philosophy and Morris struggles in the passing game. I don't want to minimize the impact the Shanahans' zone scheme had on Morris' production.
Losing them and their run-based style of offense can only hurt the Redskins' early-down back.
The Redskins will surely address the offensive line in next week’s NFL draft. It’s also possible that they add another change-of-pace back to compete with Roy Helu and Chris Thompson. Morris will still be an integral part of the offense in 2014, but right now it’s too early to know if his workload will be comparable to that of the past two seasons.
Jordan Reed, TE
2013 Stats: 45 receptions, 499 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns
Projected 2014 Stats: 80 receptions, 900 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns
It's quite simple: If Redskins tight end Jordan Reed can stay healthy for the entire 2014 season, he will be in the Pro Bowl.
Reed showed flashes of dominance last season before sustaining a concussion in Week 11 at Philadelphia. His injury was the beginning of the end for Robert Griffin III, who, outside of Pierre Garcon, had little to work with in regard to offensive weapons.
In 2014, Reed will have the luxury of drawing favorable matchups, while corners and safeties hone in on Garcon and the newly acquired DeSean Jackson.
Unlike many of the league's top tight ends, defenses cannot afford to double-team Reed—not only because of the receivers he shares the field with but also because of a certain quarterback with track-star speed who will be without the bulky knee brace that slowed him in 2013.
Also let's not forget about the success that Gruden had with the tight end position in Cincinnati. Last season, the Cincinnati Bengals' Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert combined for 85 receptions for 903 yards and six touchdowns under Gruden's tutelage.
It would be beneficial for Washington to identify another formidable tight end, but a healthy Reed can put up those numbers and more, all on his own.
Pierre Garcon, WR
2013 Stats: 113 receptions, 1,346 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns
Projected 2014 Stats: 75 receptions, 1,050 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns
Garcon may have led the NFL with 113 receptions last season, but if Washington is going to have any substantial success in 2014, that number naturally has to go down. And it will.
It was amazing, though, that Garcon was able to be as productive as he was last season given the lack of offensive talent around him. The offseason arrival of Andre Roberts from the Arizona Cardinals to go with Jackson will afford him the breathing room he wasn't given in 2013. That alone should give Redskins fans reason for optimism.
Griffin has a lot of receivers to appease in 2014, but the offense must stay balanced. It's safe to say that Garcon would gladly sacrifice 30 to 40 fewer receptions to Jackson, Reed and Roberts if that means a significant increase in wins.
DeSean Jackson, WR
2013 Stats: 82 receptions, 1,332 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns; 26 receptions of 20 yards or more
Projected 2014 Stats: 65 receptions, 1,150 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns; 22 receptions of 20 yards or more
Throughout his NFL career, Jackson has never been a high-volume catch guy. Other than last season's 82 receptions in Chip Kelly's offense, he’s never had a season with more than 62 catches.
But that's alright.
Jackson is in D.C. to make explosive plays, not lead the team in catches. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Jackson led the NFL last season with 16 receptions that were thrown 20 yards or more downfield. Eight of those catches resulted in touchdowns. Jackson was also second in the NFL with 26 receptions of 20 or more yards, including playoffs, via Philly.com’s Jimmy Kempski.
Kempski wonders how the Eagles will be able to replace that production:
If you’ll note, including the playoffs, all 26 of DeSean Jackson’s receptions of 20+ yards led to at least a FG attempt. On drives in which Jackson had a 20+ yard reception, the Eagles eventually scored 17 touchdowns, kicked 7 field goals and missed 2 field goal attempts, for a total of 141 points.
In other words, the Eagles scored 30.3% of their total points last season on drives in which DeSean Jackson made an explosive play. All he does is catch long passes that lead to touchdowns.
If Griffin and Jackson can build an early rapport, look out. Jackson's mere presence will also open up opportunities for his fellow receivers and tight ends, as well as running lanes for Morris. The play-action game just got a lot more exciting, too.
Robert Griffin III, QB
2013 Stats: 3,203 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions; 489 rushing yards and 0 touchdowns
Projected 2014 Stats: 3,900 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions; 650 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns
It just feels like a fierce comeback is imminent for Robert Griffin III.
After a rookie season for the ages, Griffin’s tumultuous 2013 season was largely attributed to him not being healthy after reconstructive knee surgery. RG3 is now full-go and will be afforded an entire offseason with his teammates and coaches rather than dedicating his days and nights to grueling rehab.
Former Redskins tight end and current ESPN 980 radio personality Chris Cooley met up with Griffin at a local field last month and raved about his former quarterback, via The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg:
It’s unbelievable. He’s another person right now. I was like, ‘you’re running unbelievably well.’ It was silly to watch….When you watch him run, you’re like “You’re a freak. You’re seriously a freak.’
Griffin will have no shortage of offensive firepower at his disposal and it sounds as if his wheels are back. If the offensive line holds up and he can make sound decisions in the pocket—something he struggled with last season—you can bet the Redskins will be playing meaningful football games this December.
*All player stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.