Health of RG3 main focus entering season
T J.Trueblood, T T.Pashos,
DE D.Tapp, CB E.Biggers,
TE C.Cooley, LB L.Alexander
Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan sure has a way of motivating his players.
When the Redskins were 3-6 at one point last season, Shanahan said it was time to evaluate who is worthy to wear the burgundy and gold. The players responded by winning seven in a row to finish 10-6 and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The Redskins also won the division for the first time since 1999 and one player made the difference for that to happen: quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Griffin is aware of Shanahan's motivational tactics and is also abreast of his coach's tendencies to err on the side of caution. Griffin, of course, spearheaded Washington's 2012 revival as a rookie, but was knocked out of a wild card game versus the Seattle Seahawks with tears to both the lateral collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee.
RG3 targeted training camp to get back to work and is hoping to play Week 1 versus the NFC East-rival Philadelphia Eagles. Expectations are quite high for the Redskins and Griffin is the reason why. He denied reports that he and Shanahan were at odds for his participation in training camp or lack thereof.
"I just want everybody to know that if there's any questions about a rift between me and coach, or if there's a conflict, there is no conflict. Coaches coach, I'm a player," Griffin said. "Coach has a plan and I'm abiding by that plan. I'm doing everything that they ask me to do. I trust those guys. They want me to have a long career and that's what this part of this plan is about."
One cannot fault a guy for wanting to play, but Shanahan knows how vital Griffin is to this team and even admires the former Heisman Trophy winner's desire to get back to work with his teammates. It's about being smart and cautious and Shanahan understands he'll be in a world of hurt if his deadly weapon sustains a setback in this rehabilitation process.
"I love it when somebody wants to be out there; that's a good problem to have as a head coach," said Shanahan, who said there's no possibility Griffin will play in the preseason. "But my job is to make sure that we do the best thing for Robert. And that's what I'm going to try to do."
With RG3 under center in his freshman NFL season, the Redskins' offense sizzled. The 'Skins were first in rushing yards (169.3), fourth in scoring (27.2 ppg) and fifth in both total yards (383.2) and touchdowns (52), including the second-best rushing total at 22. Besides Griffin, fellow rookie Alfred Morris shined to the tune of 13 rushing touchdowns. Running backs tend to achieve a lot of success in a Shanahan-led scheme and Morris took off. Shanahan would like to see Morris more involved outside of the backfield, too.
"A lot of people come out of college and they just don't spend the time on catching the ball. He has spent a lot of time in the offseason catching the football, running routes and you can see that hard work has paid off because he's a lot more natural," Shanahan said. "It gives you another dimension."
The Redskins are one of two favorites (New York Giants) to win the NFC East and have the offense to accomplish the feat. However, the defense will always be an issue, especially playing against the Giants, Eagles and Dallas Cowboys twice a year. That didn't seem to hinder Washington last season, as the team recorded a 5-1 mark in division play, finished third in pass defense (281.9) and fifth against the rush (95.8).
Washington's stop unit was supposed to have two solid contributors back in linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker. Orakpo suffered a pectoral tear in the second game of the season and Carriker's season came to a close that day because of a quad tendon tear.
"He can do it all," Shanahan said of Orakpo at the time. "He's everything you look at in a Pro Bowl linebacker."
Carriker, though, was back under the knife for a third time to repair a right leg injury and a timetable for his return is unknown. He will be forced to miss the first six regular-season games since he's on the PUP list.
Orakpo is now dealing a with a thigh bruise that isn't deemed too serious. In Orakpo's absence last season, linebackers London Fletcher and Perry Riley finished with 139 and 128 tackles, respectively. With Orakpo back, Fletcher and Riley should have a lighter load. (-The Sports Network)
Veteran linebackers lead Redskins' defence
The Redskins were a tough team to run against in 2012, holding opposing ground attacks to just 95.8 yards per game (5th in NFL). In Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme, nose tackle Barry Cofield serves as the ideal run stuffer. Cofield (36 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks) played in all 16 games last season, but slowed down toward the end of the regular season and playoffs.
Defensive ends Stephen Bowen (26 tackles, sack) and Jarvis Jenkins (25 tackles) aren't household names except in the Redskins' family. Jenkins, though, was suspended for the first four games of the 2013 regular season for testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance. The two ends have the toughest jobs playing in a division with talented quarterbacks and running backs. But in this pass-first league, it's very important to put pressure on the QB and this front line failed to do so in 2012. Brandon Jenkins was drafted in April out of Florida State, but can also OLB.
NFC EAST PROJECTIONS
Division Winner, 4th in NFC
Edged out by Redskins again
Adapting to new system
Perception doesn't match reality
The strength of Washington's defense comes from the linebackers. Fletcher (139 tackles, 5 INT) seems to get better with age and is the stop unit's captain. Fletcher may be getting up in years, but his knowledge for the game and his opponent cannot be matched. Fletcher, although undersized, plays downhill and is a beast against the run.
He will be joined inside by Perry Riley (128 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks), who's another run-stuffing defender with enough quickness to drop back in coverage. Having Orakpo back will just make it more difficult for offenses to block Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan (54 tackles, 8 1/2 sacks) led the Redskins in sacks and plays with a high motor. He tends to over pursue at times and brings an animalistic side on gameday. Kerrigan, who will probably be used as a down lineman in some packages, is still young and learning what it takes to be a dominant pass rusher and is expected to have an even better season than last. Washington's linebackers will make up for a porous secondary and the addition of Darryl Tapp, Nick Barnett and improved play from Rob Jackson adds to a healthy crop of middle defenders.
The Redskins endured plenty of criticism for their secondary play in 2012, but were still third in passing yards defensed (281.9). Seasoned veteran cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall (95 tackles, 4 INT) and Josh Wilson (74 tackles, 2 INT) will not only serve as pillars to the defense, but mentors to rookies David Amerson and safety Bacarri Rambo.
Rookie safety Phillip Thomas suffered a torn Lisfranc ligament in his left foot and will likely miss the rest of the season. Thomas was hurt in the Redskins' 22-21 exhibition victory over the Tennessee Titans last Thursday and a timetable for recovery is four to five months.
Hall, meanwhile, battle an ankle injury in training camp, while Wilson had missed the start of camp while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and was put on the active PUP list.
Rambo will most likely start at free safety and shined in his days with the University of Georgia. A hard-hitting safety, Rambo will play alongside Brandon Merriweather, who appeared in one game last season because of a knee injury that required surgery.
Reed Doughty (69 tackles, INT) and DeJon Gomes (40 tackles, INT) are fighting for playing time.
The Redskins' 2013 season boils down to the health of RG3 and whether he can stay on the field for the majority of the season. If that happens, the Redskins appear poised to make another run at an NFC East title and win in the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
All of the pieces from Washington's impressive run a year ago are back in the fold, but some have more gray hairs than others. Overall, this is a fairly young crop of Redskins who will prove last season's success was not a fluke. (-The Sports Network)
R. Griffin III
Special Teams: K K. Forbath, P S. Rocca, KR N. Paul, PR R. Crawford
Special Teams: K K. Forbath, P S. Rocca, KR N. Paul, PR R. Crawford
Fantasy - By The Numbers
Even if he doesn't play until Week One of the regular season, QB Robert Griffin III is a dynamic talent to lead the Redskins' offence. He's well worth taking as a fantasy starter but, understanding the risk that comes with selecting a running quarterback like Griffin, a quality No. 2 at the position is a must for fantasy owners.
Get ready for the fantasy season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | DEF
Fantasy Schedules: AFC | NFC
2013 Auction Values: Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Depth Charts: AFC | NFC
RB Alfred Morris kind of came out of nowhere to run for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns as a rookie, winning several fantasy leagues with the value he provided, but he won't sneak up on anyone this year.
If someone might exceed expectations, it could be WR Pierre Garcon, who had 633 receiving yards in 10 games last season, a 1,013-yard pace in a 16-game season. Same goes for TE Fred Davis, if he could stay healthy, as he had 325 yards in seven games.
MLB London Fletcher remains an elite linebacker in terms of fantasy production; he's never missed a game and had at least 125 total tackles for 11 straight seasons.
CB DeAngelo Hall is a risk-taker, but gets a lot of tackles and a lot of picks, making him more valuable in fantasy than he is in reality. Also consider linebackers Perry Riley, Ryan Kerrigan and Bryan Orakpo. (-Scott Cullen)