After all the promise of Robert Griffin III’s debut season in Washington, the 2013 campaign will go down as a disaster. Having reached the playoffs thanks to a 10-6 record in 2012, the Redskins slipped to 3-13 this time around. Much of their offseason and preparation for the year centred around RGIII’s rehabilitation from a serious knee injury at the end of the previous campaign. Although declared fit to start the season, his mobility was hampered and early season struggles set the tone for a poor season.
When your offensive scheme is based around the read option and a mobile quarterback, the most important part of that scheme is a fully fit signal caller. It was clear from very early in week one that RGIII’s mobility was severely limited, The heavy knee brace he wore on that knee served only to give added impetus to opposition defences. He managed a respectable 3203 yards, 16 touchdowns and a rating of 82.2. Chief target Pierre Garcon hauled in 113 passes for 1346 yards, but received little in the way of regular support from other receivers. On the ground, Alfred Morris backed up a fine rookie season in 2012 with 1275 yards this time around, although that marked a drop of nearly 400 yards of production. With his mobility impaired, RGIII’s own rushing production fell from 815 yards and seven scores in 2012 to just 489 yards and no touchdowns in 2013. The Redskins need to realise that their quarterback may not be as mobile now as the player they drafted and adapt offensive schemes accordingly for 2014.
Defensively the Redskins were not great, as you would expect from a team that finished the year 3-13! Teams will not win many games by giving up, on average, 29.9 points per game along with 354.1 yards. Brian Orakpo (with 10) and Ryan Kerrigan (8.5) combined for 18.5 sacks, whilst Perry Riley (115) and the retiring veteran London Fletcher (111) led the team on tackles. DeAngelo Hall’s four picks were a team high, but the 4134 yards and 29 scores given up through the air suggest a team that struggles against the pass more than the run. This area will need to be addressed in the offseason.
The returning game was unspectacular throughout the year. A combination of players, led by Niles Paul, managed to average just 20 yards on kick returns and Santana Moss managed an average of just 7.2 on 18 punt returns. By contrast, the Redskins allowed a kickoff and three punts to be returned for scores. Kai Forbath hit 81.8% of his Filed Goals, with three of is four misses being from over 40 yards out.
Having hung on by his finger nails for the last few weeks of the regular season, Head Coach Mike Shanahan was relieved of is duties as soon as it finished. The image of a virtually empty stadium during an embarrassing home defeat to the Chiefs would have been difficult to overcome at any stage, but in the midst of an eight game losing streak to end the year it proved the straw that broke the camel’s back. Subsequently, his decision to rest his star quarterback for the last games of the regular season did not go down well with owner or player, thus sealing his fate. The Redskins moved quickly to appoint Bengals’ Offensive Co-ordinator Jay Gruden to fill their vacancy; his ability to build a strong working relationship with RGIII and build an offense around his developing abilities will be the key to a successful tenure in DC.
DRAFT/FREE AGENCY NEEDS
Unlike the other teams who experienced significant losses in 2013, the Redskins do not even have the luxury of a high first round pick as a consolation. Washington gave up their 2014 first round draft pick to St Louis in the RGIII trade, meaning that they will need to try and be creative as they look to improve the roster for 2014. Back-up quarterback Kirk Cousins could play a role here.
The Redskins may be tempted to part with him if another team offers them a chance to add significantly to their draft picks this summer. Departing linebacker Fletcher leaves a large hole to fill and the new coaching team will be anxious to secure Orakpo’s future quickly.
In trying to improve, expect the Redksins to look to shore up the offensive line and try to better protect their big investment. Defensive improvements are also key, with the pass rush and secondary (especially safety) areas that should be addressed. How much they can do in the draft may well rest with the future dealings surrounding Cousins.