Washington Redskins 2013 Offseason Preview
2012 Season Recap
Following an ugly 21-13 loss to the one-win Panthers in Week 9, the record fell to 3-6 and head coach Mike Shanahan believed the season to be a lost cause. He put his players on notice, announcing in his postgame press conference, "Now you're playing to see who, obviously, is going to be on your team for years to come."
Coming off their bye, the Redskins responded by going on a seven-game winning streak to capture their first division crown since 1999; it was also the first time since 2005 that Washington finished with at least 10 wins and the first time since '07 that it had qualified for the postseason.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III, the second overall pick out of Baylor and a former Heisman Trophy winner, was largely responsible for Washington's worst-to-first turnaround. He finished his rookie season with a 65.6 percent completion rate, throwing for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns, with just five interceptions. He also set the single-season rushing record for a rookie quarterback with 815 yards.
Yet the season ended in the worst way possible.
In a 24-14 divisional round loss to the Seahawks on Jan. 6, RGIII shredded his right knee, suffering a torn ACL, a torn LCL and meniscus damage. He had reconstructive surgery three days later, and while reports have suggested that he may be ready for the Redskins' season opener, there is no definitive timetable for his return.
Stat To Feel Good About
If It Ain't Broke ...
Under normal circumstances, Alfred Morris likely would have been the NFL's offensive rookie of the year in 2012. Named the Redskins' starting running back after preseason injuries sidelined Tim Hightower, Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr., the sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic finished second in the league with 1,613 rushing yards. The award, however, went to Robert Griffin III, the most dynamic threat in the Redskins' read-option attack.
With RGIII now recovering from surgery on his right knee, and with no clear timetable for his return, the question must be asked of Morris: Is he a legit star, or did he merely benefit from being the quarterback's sidekick?
Washington might become more predictable without RGIII, but coordinator Kyle Shanahan should make Morris the offensive focal point. The 24-year-old isn't just a hard-charging back capable of dragging defenders for several yards, he also has the field vision of a seasoned pro.
Consider his longest run against the Giants on Oct. 21. With three and a half minutes to play before halftime, taking a handoff up the middle, Morris ran straight into a pile of bodies and couldn't see daylight anywhere. So how did he finish with a 30-yard gain?
Moments before the snap, the Giants shifted part of their 4-3 alignment. Despite his limited visibility lining up seven yards deep -- behind RG3 and two other backs, no less -- Morris spied the shift and made a mental note of the extra space between Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck. With the ball in his hands, everything became a blur. He never actually saw the opening through which he ran to escape the scrum, but knew cutting to the right would be his only chance of finding positive yards.
"When they shifted to our left, I knew I couldn't go that way," he said in the postgame locker room at MetLife Stadium. "But I knew there'd be a chance to cut back the other way and get out. They were cheating over to our left, so I knew there was no way I could get out that way. I was definitely not going left."
Right tackle Tyler Polumbus leveraged Tuck's outside shoulder, pushing him toward the middle of the field as the play developed and forcing Morris to make a second cut before bolting into the secondary. He was finally brought down at the Giants' 22, but not before setting up a field goal that would give the Redskins a 13-10 lead.
"I thought I was going to be able to get between the guard and the tackle, but it didn't happen that way," Morris said of the second improvisation. "I had to jump-cut real quick and get some yards. The final cut to get outside the defensive end was reactionary."
No RGIII? No problem. Entrust Morris with the ball.
Must Fix It
Sentimentality has no place in the NFL, and the Redskins shouldn't be concerned about continuing Fletcher's streak of 240 consecutive games if he forgoes retirement and returns for a 16th season. He turns 38 in May and there will be no shame in missing a game to rest or recuperate. Make no mistake, Fletcher can still play at a high level. He led the team with 139 tackles last season and was named the NFC defensive player of the month for December. During the last five games of the regular season he had 51 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks; he also defended four passes. He did so despite battling an ankle injury that kept him out of practices and in a walking boot between games. But he would be wise to make sure nagging injuries don't become debilitating toward the end of the season -- he might even miss fewer tackles.
More On The To-Do List
What We'll Be Saying In July
A new era has begun for the Redskins, and anything less than making the playoffs will be viewed as an