Washington Redskins Predictions
Things have not quite gone the way that owner Daniel Snyder had envisioned when he signed Mike Shanahan two years ago. The Washington Redskins are just 11-21 in Shanahan’s first two years on the job. That includes a 5-11 campaign in 2011 as the Redskins were never in playoff contention.
Things appear to be on the rise, especially with the selection of rookie QB Robert Griffin III (Baylor) with the second overall pick of the NFL Draft. Washington believes the Heisman Trophy winner will be their QB of the future. Here is a look at the offense and defense, as well as my predictions on where the Redskins finish in the NFC East in 2012.
The offense put up just 18.0 points and 337 total yards per game last season. The biggest problem they had on this side of the ball was turnovers. Washington finished -14 in turnover differential in ’11, and it hasn’t finished positive in that category since ’05.
Rex Grossman had an up and down season a year ago at quarterback. He completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 3,151 yards with 16 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He was replaced by John Beck for a few starts, but it didn’t make much of a difference. With Beck gone to Houston, the backup job to Griffin III will go to Grossman.
The Redskins use a committee approach at running back. Leading rusher Roy Helu (640 yards, 4.2/carry, two TD) returns. Tim Hightower (321 yards, 3.8/carry, 10 receptions, 78 yards, two total TD) played in the first five games before going out for the season with an ACL injury. He returns healthy and will battle Helu for starting duties. Evan Royster (328 yards, 5.9/carry) is arguably their most explosive back.
Washington has been looking for playmakers at receiver for years. It addressed this need in the offseason by signing WR Pierre Garcon (947 receiving yards, six TD) from Indianapolis and Josh Morgan from San Francisco. However, the Redskins must part ways with leading receiver Jabar Gaffney (68 receptions, 947 yards, five TD) and he’ll be missed. The productive Santana Moss (46, 584, four TD) returns, as does underrated TE Fred Davis (59, 796, three TD).
The offensive line saw several injuries last year that forced this unit to play musical chairs. Only C Will Montgomery and RG Chris Chester started all 16 games. The Redskins will return the five linemen that started Week 1 last year. Hopefully for their sake, LT Trent Williams, LG Kory Lichtensteiger and RT Jammal Brown can stay healthy this year.
The defense improved last season, allowing 22.9 points and 340 total yards per game while registering 41 sacks. With 12 of their top 15 tacklers back, I look for the stop unit to continue making strides in ’11. This should be Shanahan’s best defense yet.
The defensive line returns intact with DE Adam Carriker (34 tackles, 5.5 sacks), NT Barry Cofield (25 tackles, 3 sacks, eight pass break-ups) and DE Stephen Bowen (41 tackles, 6 sacks) all back. ’11 second-round DE Jarvis Jenkins (Clemson) spent last season on the IR with a torn ACL, but he is expected to contribute this year.
The linebacker corps is the strength of the defense behind 15th-year MLB London Fletcher (166 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 10 passes defended). ROLB Brian Orakpo (59 tackles, 9 sacks) has become the playmaker Washington envisioned when they selected him in the first round in ’09. LOLB Ryan Kerrigan (63 tackles, 7.5 sacks) and RILB Perry Roley (68 tackles) have a combined three years of NFL experience, but each has proven they belong.
The secondary features two solid cornerback in DeAngelo Hall (90 tackles, 17 pass break-ups, three INT) and Josh Wilson (62 tackles, 15 pass break-ups, two INT). The Redskins have signed SS Brandon Meriweather (32 tackles) from the Chicago Bears with the hope that he can replace the departed Laron Landry. They also signed FS Tanard Jackson (35 tackles, two INT) from Tampa Bay, and he replaces the departed O.J. Atogwe. Reed Doughty (87 tackles) and Madieu Williams will challenge these two for playing time. This is clearly their weakest unit on defense.
NFC East Prediction – 4th Place (7-9 Record)
The offense should be improved with Griffin III running the show. He’ll be playing behind a solid offensive line, and the Redskins have given him a couple more playmakers to work with by signing Garcon and Morgan. Washington boasts one of the best front 7’s in the league defensively, but the secondary is a concern, especially at the safety positions. Since the Redskins finished last in the NFC East in ’11, they draw both Minnesota and St. Louis, which gives them perhaps the easiest schedule in the division. I’ll call for two more wins than last year and a 7-9 finish for Washington in ’12.