Which NFL Team Is Set to Make the Biggest Leap in 2014?

Ryan Riddle@@Ryan_RiddleCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2014

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III walks across the field after a play during the first half of an NFL football preseason game against the New England Patriots in Landover, Md., Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Connor Radnovich)
Connor Radnovich/Associated Press

Washington Redskins

Key Free-Agent Arrivals: S Ryan Clark, DT Jason Hatcher, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Andre Roberts, CB Tracy Porter

Key Departures: WR Josh Morgan, CB Josh Wilson 

Key Rookies: DE/LB Trent Murphy, OT Morgan Moses, CB Bashaud Breeland, RB Lache Seastrunk 

2013 Record: 3-13

2014 Projected Record: 9-7


The Redskins are trying bounce back after an embarrassing, injury-filled season that culminated with the firing of head coach Mike Shanahan.

We all know that quarterback Robert Griffin III came back a little too early from his knee injury. The team made some key acquisitions to bolster the offense this offseason, adding one of the most explosive players in football, wide receiver DeSean Jackson from the Eagles, who headlines the list of names. 

Pairing DJax opposite Pierre Garcon makes the Redskin offense very dangerous—especially if the emergence of young tight end Jordan Reed, 24, comes to fruition.

Washington also added lesser-known receiver Andre Roberts from the Cardinals through free agency. His contributions will be best used as a return man and in the slot.

Leonard Hankerson, 25, is a promising young receiver with a big body (6'2", 211 lbs), but he is still recovering from a knee injury. However, with him the Skins should have a well-rounded group of receivers—that is to say, if there is a role for him when he returns. 

On the other side of the ball they added a few players who should have a big impact. Jason Hatcher is a solid defensive lineman who can still take up space and positively affect the line of scrimmage. They managed to lure him away from division rival Dallas. Expect him to start for the Skins up front and help solidify a unit that ranked 17th against the run last year.

Rookie pass-rusher and second-round selection Trent Murphy will likely move around the line and find his way into the rotation. Murphy led all of his fellow draft-eligible prospects in career sacks (32.5) during his time in Stanford.

The addition of cornerback Tracy Porter will help the secondary and give it some depth. Maybe he can restore some of the magic he flashed when he played a pivotal role for the Saints during their Super Bowl run.

Rookie Morgan Moses, a tackle from Virginia, just so happens to be the best offensive tackle I watched on tape from this draft class. If he doesn’t find himself in the starting lineup, he should provide the team with an excellent plan B as a swing tackle.

New head coach Jay Gruden has been alternating him from left to right all camp long in preparation for either role.

I don’t know how much both of those guys will make an impact this year, but they were good picks for the Redskins.

Washington was fortunate to not suffer any major losses. London Fletcher’s retirement leaves a gaping hole in terms of defensive leadership, which is probably one of the main reasons the team added veteran safety Ryan Clark from the Steelers. Fletcher had been great, but age catches up to us all.

According to John Keim’s ESPN blog, Clark has been a very vocal member of the defensive backfield, as he has done a good job of bringing some veteran leadership to replace what was lost in Fletcher. According to Keim, Clark can be heard pointing out where plays are headed, directing such young players as Bacarri Rambo, David Amerson and Philip Thomas.

The only other losses were center Will Montgomery and safety Reed Doughty. Both of those players shouldn’t be missed too much, if at all. 

This season the Redskins are scheduled to play the AFC South, NFC West, the Vikings and the Bucs, aside from their own division, the NFC East.

Despite all of the changes to the roster and coaching staff, the ultimate success of this team will fall predominately on Griffin III, if healthy, and his decision-making abilities. After all, facing the NFC West will be very difficult.

Last season’s overriding narrative was inconsistency at the quarterback position. RG3 played most of the season but was just not the guy we got excited about a year earlier. Griffin looked a step slower and seemed to lack the overall confidence that made him so dangerous.

This season he seems excited about the new coach/system and is looking to get back to how he played in his rookie year. According to David Steele of Sporting News, the young QB is replacing a chaotic environment with a calm one. Gruden had this to say about his new signal-caller: 

We’ve had a lot of time to work together and get to know each other. I think we’re both happy with how we’re communicating, and what we’re implementing is not something he’s totally unfamiliar with — the things we’re doing are things he’s comfortable with and complement his strengths.

Aside from a promising quarterback, there’s a lot of positives to build off on offense.

The running game was one of the best in the league last year. Alfred Morris had over 1,200 yards rushing with seven touchdowns. The Redskins were fifth in the NFL in rushing last year, averaging 135 yards per game.

If the offensive line, which was solid in 2013, can stay healthy this season, the team will be able to have a much better campaign than last year.

Garcon led the league last year in receptions, a fact that a lot of people probably don’t remember. Combine that style of receiver with Jackson, who is one of the fastest players in the NFL, and you have a very good one-two punch.

Defense was an issue for the Redskins last year. They were second-to-last in points allowed per game (29.9). With that said, there is a lot of talent, especially on the front seven. They have some very talented pass-rushers in linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, who will wreak havoc for opposing QBs.

These two could potentially be one of the best outside linebacker tandems in the league.

Perry Riley, 26, who had a good season a year ago, is young and will need to help replace the production void left behind from Fletcher.

The wild card of the group will be the other linebacker, who right now is Keenan Robinson. Robinson has 11 total tackles in his NFL career and was used mostly on the outside while at Texas. If he can’t get the job done, veteran linebacker Akeem Jordan will probably see a good amount of playing time this year.

Cornerback David Amerson makes a play on the ball.
Cornerback David Amerson makes a play on the ball.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The secondary will be better this year, too. As mentioned earlier, it now has Porter to give some depth to a secondary with proven veteran DeAngelo Hall. Amerson, a second-year player, could emerge as a star. He has a knack for the ball, which was proven when he snagged a nation-high 13 interceptions his junior year at North Carolina State.

In addition to Clark at safety, the Redskins also have second-year player Rambo out of Georgia. He struggled as a rookie but showed a lot of improvement as the season went on. Overall, the secondary has some depth and should be much better than a year ago.

After one week of preseason action, there are some good signs for the immediate future.

Griffin III looks to be physically improved from last season.

Gruden is still learning about his players and will need to be a quick study in becoming a head coach.

Despite their 3-13 record in 2013, the Redskins finished 10th (369.7) in total yards.

This team has playoff potential and can take the unstable NFC East division. On the other hand, there is a good chance Washington fails to cement a winning record for the second year in a row.

Keep an eye on rookie running back Lache Seastrunk. His speed could get him some playing time early. Roy Helu Jr. is another name that should be watched closely this preseason at running back.

Year one for Gruden will be an improvement from the three wins in 2013, but taking a bigger leap deep into the postseason will have to wait a little longer. With that said, nine or 10 wins is not out of the question for this organization.


Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and writes for Bleacher Report. 


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