It was an all too familiar season for the Washington Redskins in 2011 – poor quarterback play, a secondary that couldn’t compete, personnel dysfunction and a record that was far worse than the team was capable of.
When it comes right down to it, the Redskins were actually pretty competitive last year. There were plenty of games that the team was in right up until the end. Who can forget the thrilling contest with the New England Patriots which included a pair of stunning game-changing plays – the trick play that saw wide receiver Brandon Banks pass a touchdown to Santana Moss and later with 22 seconds left the Redskins on the opposition 5 yard line only to have a pass from Rex Grossman tipped off Moss’ hands and intercepted by Jerod Mayo giving the win to New England. What about the heart attack thriller against the Dallas Cowboys that had to go to overtime and was lost because of Graham Gano’s inability to kick a 52 yard field goal.
2011 Record: 5-11
Key Additions: Robert Griffin III, Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Josh LeRibeus, Tanard Jackson, Madieu Williams, Billy Cundiff
Key Losses: Jabar Gaffney, Oshiomogho Atogwe, LaRon Landry, Chris Cooley, Tim Hightower, Anthony Armstrong
Offense: Led by rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Redskins offense is one designed for speedy quarterback play, one cut runners and receivers who produce yards after catch. RG3 will provide the much needed agile quarterback favored in head coach Mike Shanahan’s system.
Even with the release of Tim Hightower, the Redskins running game is still very strong. It is expected that Evan Royster will be the team’s first down back with the talented Roy Helu handling much of the third down work. Rookie Alfred Morris has looked good in preseason play and is expected to get a decent number of carries also. The running game should do well although predicting a dominant back of t
2011’s leading receiver Jabar Gaffney is gone but only because he didn’t fit the team’s offensive philosophy and the pair who replace him – Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan – are much better suited to the scheme while second year receiver Leonard Hankerson is expected to take up the starting Z receiver spot. Chris Cooley may be gone but Fred Davis is still a superstar in the making and young wideout turned tight end Niles Paul has shown enough promise to beat Cooley out for the TE2 spot.
The offensive line is bolstered by the return of utility inside lineman Kory Lichtensteiger who excels in the zone blocking scheme the team runs although the line has also been helped by the drafting of third rounder Josh LeRibeus who shows a lot of early promise.
Defense: The Redskins defense is a tale of two halves with the defensive front seven being one of the best in the league while the secondary is woeful at best. On the line former Giants DT/NT Barry Cofield is back to anchor the 3-4 defense although he is expected to spend some time in the defensive end rotation as while promising 2011 seventh round pick Chris Neild has proven himself to be the future at nose he is currently on IR but Chris Baker has come through to dominate this preseason and will battle for playing time. The team is equally strong at defensive end as 2011 standouts Adam Carriker and Stephen Bowen are joined by the returning Jarvis Jenkins who missed his rookie season last year due to injury and is expected to be a big producer both at end and at DT/NT in certain sets.
The linebacking corps is also very strong as Kerrigan and Orakpo are one of the most talented outside duos in the league with the group anchored by their defensive leader London Fletcher who led the NFL in tackles in 2011 with the young but impressive Perry Riley alongside him. There’s also 2012 4th round pick Keenan Robinson who is a convert from the outside position but has already shown he may be the future #2 when Fletcher retires.
By contrast the secondary is a mess with lead cornerback DeAngelo Hall barely worthy of the title and compatriot Josh Wilson not much better while the safeties are even worse with newcomers Tanard Jackson, Madieu Williams and Brandon Meriweather who by all accounts are talented but far from the standard required in the modern NFL.
Coaching: For Mike Shanahan 2012 will be all about one thing – his legacy as a quarterback guru. Much has been made of his inability so far to bring out the best of his mediocre quarterbacks and now that he has a bonafide franchise candidate in Robert Griffin III there is nowhere left to hide. The positive thing we are hearing is that Shanahan intends to change his precious offensive plan a little to better incorporate RG3’s strengths so there is hope yet.
Breakout Player: Not many people know who Jarvis Jenkins is as he was a second round pick in 2011 who missed all of his rookie season due to a torn ACL in the preseason but this is one kid I am expecting big things from straight away. When he left Clemson he was believed to be a nose tackle but the Redskins have shown they wish to use him as a rushing defensive end. Jenkins is a very big young man but when you watch him there is a remarkable explosiveness and athleticism to the way he plays that bodes well for playing end in a 3-4 scheme and his ability to not only use multiple rushing techniques but also to disguise those techniques make him the most dangerous player on the Redskins defensive line.
2012 Prediction: There is plenty to be positive about looking ahead to this season and beyond. The Redskins now have their franchise quarterback in Robert Griffin III, the receiving corps has received a much needed upgrade with the signing of receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan and then there’s the return from injury of Tim Hightower, Jarvis Jenkins and Kory Lichtensteiger. All this coupled with a rather mediocre schedule and Washington will be in contention for a wildcard but probably not there quite yet. My prediction: 9-7.
Overview: Overall this is a team looking ahead to the future rather than looking back at it’s tumultuous past. There is a legacy of winning in Washington from the days of the Hogs and many of the older fans who remember those days are finally going to get a team that is capable of taking the team back to those glory days. This team is a strong young corps with just enough veteran leadership to guide them along. 2012 should be a good season with a bright future further ahead.