The Redskins started 2011 with a 3-1 record and headed into their bye week feeling confident. Unfortunately, their week off was followed by six straight losses and they managed only two wins the rest of the way.
It was a dark year in Washington, however there were bright spots, including sweeping the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants.
The 5-11 season put them in position to trade up for Robert Griffin III and that's where the team's hopes rest for the future.
Important Additions: WR Pierre Garcon, SS Brandon Meriweather, FS Madieu Williams, WR Josh Morgan, WR Dezmon Briscoe, CB Cedric Griffin, S Tanard Jackson, K Billy Cundiff
Important Losses: WR Jabar Gaffney, SS LaRon Landry, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, QB John Beck, FB Mike Sellers, OT Sean Locklear, Rocky McIntosh, TE Chris Cooley, CB Phillip Buchanon, RB Tim Hightower, CB Byron Westbrook
Reasons To Believe
1. New Faces - Nothing rejuvenates a fan base like a high draft pick that could become the new face of your franchise. Washington paid heavily to move up and select Griffin and the Baylor star and Heisman Trophy winner has been met with some lofty expectations in D.C. Griffin won't be alone in his quest to restore the Redskins' reputation. The team signed free agent receiver Pierre Garcon, who flirted with the 1,000 yard mark last season on a weak Colts squad. Garcon has been targeted heavily in the preseason and should emerge as Griffin's go-to receiver.
|The Redskins gave up their No. 6 overall pick in 2012, their second-round pick in 2012, and their first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 to land RG3 in the draft.
2. Ball Hawks - Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher and Ryan Kerrigan make up the strength of the Redskins' defence. Orakpo has had nine or more sacks per year, ever since the Reskins used the 13th pick in the 2009 draft to acquire his services. As a rookie last season, Kerrigan took advantage of the added attention Orakpo receives and posted 7.5 sacks of his own, while showing a relentless motor. The veteran Fletcher is the rock in the middle. A tackling machine, Fletcher had 166 stops and joined Orakpo at the Pro Bowl.
3. Going Deep - In addition to Garcon, the Redskins have a plethora of options in the receiving game.The most experienced member of the group is Santana Moss, who trimmed down in the off-season in hopes of being quicker out of the slot. Moss is a two-years removed from a 93-catch, 1,115 yard season, six touchdown campaign. Leonard Hankerson has the edge over Josh Morgan to start opposite Garcon and has showed flashes of his play-making ability. Despite a quiet camp, tight end Fred Davis is a big target that could break out this season, after averaging five catches for 66 yards in 12 games last season.
Reasons To Doubt
1. Starting A Rookie Quarterback - Expectations are high for Griffin, but starting a rookie quarterback doesn't always equate to increased win totals. Griffin has had his ups and downs in the preseason and that could continue all year as the team will have to deal with his inexperience. Behind an offensive line that has its flaws, Griffin will also be asked to roll out of the pocket on a regular basis and make his reads on the run. It will be an exciting season in Washington, although maybe not a winning one.
2. Unproven Safeties - With O.J. Atogwe and LaRon Landry no longer with the club, the Redskins signed free agents Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams. Atogwe struggled in Washington's system and Landry was constantly hurt, so the Redskins are hoping the moves will help provide an upgrade at the position. However, it's been more of the same so far in camp. Meriweather was sidelined for most of the preseason with a knee injury, so we have yet to see how he will fit into Washington's scheme and Williams has yet to solidify a starting role.
3. Unproven Run Game - Shanahan's well-established reputation around the league aside, the Redskins are 11-21 under his control. Everyone talks about how he manufactured running backs in Denver, but the Redskins ranked 25th overall in rushing a year ago and are entering this season with Evan Royster, Tim Hightower, Roy Helu and Alfred Morris as their tailbacks. Griffin's ability to escape the pocket will help the running game, but a rookie quarterback's best friend is a stable rushing attack and the Redskins may not be able to provide him with that.
What To Expect
Griffin and company will need to find a way to score early and often when they open the regular season against the Saints. They will have a chance to catch their breath against the Rams, Bengals and Buccaneers before facing a very difficult schedule the rest of the way. If Griffin catches on quickly and the new players come together, it's not inconceivable that the Redskins could improve by two or three wins this season. Unfortunately for Washington, that would still have them as a 7-9 or 8-8 club and watching the playoffs from the comfort of their own homes.