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Know Your Enemy: Washington Redskins

Running back Alfred Morris was a key cog in the Washington Redskins' league-leading rushing attack.

Running back Alfred Morris was a key cog in the Washington Redskins’ league-leading rushing attack.

Running wild: Washington Redskins

Despite grappling with an enormous cap penalty imposed by the rest of the league for overspending in the uncapped year of 2010, and despite lacking depth in the secondary, the Washington Redskins ended their 2012 regular season at 10-6. They capped off their campaign by handing the Dallas Cowboys a loss before an ecstatic home crowd in what was essentially the NFC East championship game.

They solved their longstanding quarterback woes by drafting Robert Griffin III second overall. The rookie lead the team to their first division title since 1999, throwing 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions and completing 65.6 completion percent of his passes for 3,200 yards good and a 102.4 passer rating on the year. He also added 815 yards on the ground with seven rushing touchdowns — earning himself a Pro Bowl invitation and the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

RGIII was the story of the year, but fellow rookies, running back Alfred Morris and quarterback Kirk Cousins, made big waves of their own. Morris, a sixth-round pick, set the franchise single-season rushing record with 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns, while fourth-round pick Cousins provided a solid showing in Griffin’s absence, leading the Redskins to overtime and an improbable comeback victory against the Baltimore Ravens. Cousins went on to start the following week on the road in Cleveland, throwing for 329 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception en route to a 38-21 win.

Despite falling to 3-6 before their bye week, Washington went 5-1 in their division and rode a seven-game winning streak interception to the playoffs. Their incredibly efficient and explosive passing game, coupled with the league’s best rushing attack, exploited the read-option pistol formation — to the dismay of opposing defenses.

Their Week 17 tilt against division-rival Dallas Cowboys was probably their biggest game since Super Bowl XXVI 1991. With the NFC East crown and a playoff berth on the line and Griffin’s knee in a brace, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan turned to the ground attack. Morris pounded the rock 33 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Tony Romo had a rough start for Dallas, throwing two interception in the first quarter. Still, he made a couple of great throws to keep the Cowboys in the game until a fourth-quarter interception by outside linebacker Rob Jackson sealed the 28-18 victory for Washington. It was the Redskins’ first divisional title 1999 and a fitting way to cap off the greatest playoff run in team history.

Strategic Threats

Rushing attack

The two rookies, Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, were the pillars of the league’s best rushing offense, which averaged just short of 170 rushing yards a game.

Quarterback

Griffin was phenomenal in his debut at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Operating out of the pistol formation, he completed his first seven passes, the seventh of which wide receiver Pierre Garçon took 88 yards for a touchdown. Griffin finished 19 of 26 for 320 yards and two touchdowns as Washington rolled to a 40-32 win. Redskins fans had not seen offensive scoring and fireworks like that in over a decade.

On Thanksgiving Day, with Washington sitting at 4-6 and the Dallas Cowboys at 5-5, the Redskins came out scorching hot, scoring four touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 28-3 lead at the half. Griffin finished 19 of 27 for 304 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception, while Morris finished with 113 yards on 24 carries. The Cowboys made a couple big plays in garbage time to lose 38-31, as the Redskins overtook them for second place in the division behind the New York Giants.

Offensive line

The offensive line was a mixed bag for the Redskins last season. Guard and center Chris Chester (+15.2) and Will Montgomery (+21.8) and left tackle Trent Williams (+21.6) were all outstanding in pass protection. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger (-12.3) and right tackle Tyler Polumbus (-21.7) struggled mightily. As a whole, the unit was actually better in pass blocking than run blocking, but the difference was enormous.

Soft spots

Receiving threats

Fred Davis was a promising tight end prospect through the first six weeks but sustained a season-ending Achilles tendon injury against the Giants. He was replaced by Logan Paulson, who wasn’t nearly the same receiving threat but did very well as a run blocker, earning a grade of +4.6 from PFF.

Illustrating just how weak the receiving corps was, Pierre Garçon missed Weeks 6 through 10 with a foot injury and wasn’t at 100 percent even after returning, yet he was still the team’s highest-rated wide receiver.

Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, and Santana Moss were all mediocre at best. Morgan earned the most snaps on the merits of his solid run blocking blocking.

Washington didn’t spend a draft pick on a wide receiver this year, but they did pick up tight end Jordan Reed in the 2nd round. He will give them another pass-catching option in the coming year.

The Washington Redskins defensive line never fully recovered from the loss of defensive end Adam Carriker.

The Washington Redskins defensive line never fully recovered from the loss of defensive end Adam Carriker.

Defensive line

Defensive end Adam Carriker tore a quad tendon in his right knee and was lost for the season, severely limiting the effectiveness of the defensive line.

Only one starting defensive lineman graded out positively in the pass rush: nose tackle Barry Cofield (+13.2), who was an absolute fiend. He only had three sacks but registered 15 hits and 17 hurries. Defensive ends Stephen Bowen and Jarvis Jenkins didn’t fare as well, putting up a combined grade of -12.1, but they were stout against the run, which is sometimes the best one can hope for out of 3-4 defensive linemen.

Linebackers

The loss of Brian Orakpo to a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 2 had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the defense.

The linebacking corps in particular was abysmal. None of the starters nor the two backups with the most snaps graded positively overall.

Ryan Kerrigan did eke out a +2.7 grade in pass rush, but his nine sacks were the only hits he got on the quarterback all season.

London Fletcher was the star stinker of the entire defense, who was bad across the board and posted an impressively awful -23.6 grade against the run. Why they have invited him back to play yet another season at the age of 38 is impossible to explain.

Secondary

The secondary was a liability throughout the season, consistently blowing coverages and giving up huge plays over the top, ensuring just about every opposing quarterback had a career day against them. To their credit, the secondary did tighten up considerably over the second half of the season and a stout rush defense helped them get by.

The secondary’s struggles weren’t entirely their fault, however. They had to compensate for the lack of pass rush and contend with a revolving door at the safety position. Safety Brandon Merriweather was lost to a knee injury, and his presence was sorely missed. Because the safeties weren’t up to the task, the defense frequently had to send additional players to get pressure on the quarterback, leaving the cornerbacks on islands.

In light of these facts, the +3.6 grade that cornerback Josh Wilson earned is much more impressive and the -3.2 grade that DeAngelo Hall earned less disappointing.

Readiness Evaluation

The fate of the Redskins likely rests on the ligaments of Griffin’s knee. Cousins gave them a solid showing in limited playing time, but that shouldn’t be expected long term. Teams game planned all week to stop RGIII and then had to face a very different quarterback in Cousins. That being said, Washington is a team who lets the running game set up the pass. Their read option scheme has had a lot to do with the success of the running game. If Griffin is not the same player when he returns from the knee injury, Washington could lose much of that advantage.

On the other hand, if he comes back at 100 percent, the Redskins are going to be a tough match-up for nearly every NFC North team. Whichever team can stuff the run and force the Redskins to be a pass-first team will find success.

Both the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions could struggle due to their poor ability to stop the run. The Minnesota Vikings let Washington to put up 38 points on them last season. Then again, Washington’s rebuilt secondary will likely rely on youth, as they spent three draft picks trying to shore up the safety and cornerback positions. So although the Green Bay and Detroit defenses will be the most vulnerable to the rushing attack of the Redskins, their offenses will likely be the most effective.

Record against the NFC North: 2-2

639 comments
Cam Of Steel
Cam Of Steel

I wonder If the Lions would give me another shot...

Donny33
Donny33

Vonny Miller got arrested.

angrysaladman
angrysaladman

catherine bell used to be so hot when she was on JAG

natesweet
natesweet moderator

Obama and the Muslims is a great name for a band.

LambeauOrWrigley
LambeauOrWrigley

STILL IN CALL...but I had to post this

Von Miller arrested for failing to appear in court for a traffic citation...This is what I call doing a Titus Young.

LKP
LKP

@_MKE_ We got another Finkel situation

BatKitty
BatKitty

@jwoude23 Bear Down "After limping to the sideline under his own power, Brady missed one play before rejoining and completing the drill. Following the drill, Brady huddled with coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and head trainer Jim Whalen and it was determined that Brady would not continue to practice.

He jogged off the field under his own power."

Doesn't sound too serious to me, just being cautious. 

bblackow
bblackow

@adambballn Not only that...but Chicago doesnt even make the list. The list is complete garbage

adambballn
adambballn

@Preparation_A @adambballn  

I have no idea if you're pissed at the list or me... I'm assuming, you having lived here, that this list makes you as mad as me.

aciddragon
aciddragon

@angrysaladman yup it's overloaded and the thick crust just soaks up the sauce and grease and gets soggy. give me a New York thin crust any day 

adambballn
adambballn

@angrysaladman @adambballn  

Chicago also has some very good local pizza places that serve thin crust pizza that is unbelievable...  I always loved Rosarios.

adambballn
adambballn

@smtate91 @adambballn  

Yes, all of them... they're ok but I've had pizza 10 times better in just about every place I've lived in Chicago.  The best pizza in the neighborhood I live in here?  Papa Johns... the rest is total shit.

adambballn
adambballn

@bblackow @adambballn  

Clown list... pizza here sucks shit.  There are only a couple good places and they're only good because they kind of taste like the stuff from somewhere else.  

aciddragon
aciddragon

@Lionskillpack not at WR they have very little there right now with Crabtree down. they have Manningham and Boldin 

adambballn
adambballn

@Preparation_A @adambballn  

They're San Diego good... not good, good.  We had a system when I lived in Colorado for rating chicks... we called it Steamboat hot, or a Steamboat 10, most were 6's or 7's everywhere else... this applies to San Diego pizza too.

adambballn
adambballn

@bblackow @adambballn  

Exactly!  Lefties is also very good... but it is a Chicago pizzeria and it's only good because it's the closest thing we can get to Chicago pizza here.

bblackow
bblackow

@adambballn @bblackow They were talking about this on the radio yesterday and did a search on pizza ranking within San Diego. The second highest ranked place is "Bronx Pizza" or something like that. How can a city be the #1 city when their pizza is based off of other cities pizza. Its just dumb