2014 Preview: Washington Redskins
The 2013 season did not go as planned for the Washington Redskins and many attributed it to the inconsistent play of Robert Griffin III. The team finished the season 3-13, which resulted in the firing of Head Coach Mike Shanahan after four seasons with the team.
The Redskins did not have a pick in the first round of the NFL draft this year after sending it to the Rams in the RG3 deal, but they still made a splash in the offseason by signing Desean Jackson. Additionally, the team hired former Bengals offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, as their new Head Coach.
Here are five reasons for fans of the Redskins to be confident and concerned for the upcoming season.
Five Reasons To Be Confident
1. The Offensive Tackles
It is no secret that the left tackle is viewed by many as the cornerstone of a formidable offensive line. Fortunately for the Redskins they have a solid left tackle, and a right tackle coming off the best season of his career. The Redskins hope Trent Williams will build on his success in 2013 when he graded as the best OT in the league with a grade of +34.0. On the other side of the line, Tyler Polumbus posted an impressive year after struggling in the league since entering in 2008. Polumbus graded out 18th among tackles with a +14.0 in 2013. If these two can continue their success from 2013 it should lead to a better season for the Redskins in 2014.
2. Jordan Reed
With the 85th pick in the 2013 draft the Washington Redskins selected tight end Jordan Reed out of the University of Florida. Expectations were not especially for high for Reed entering his rookie season, but it is safe to say he exceeded any realistic hopes the team may have had. Standing 6-foot-2, Reed doesn’t fit the mold of the league’s recent tight end influx, but he has proven himself a capable all-around asset. In 2013, he graded as the league’s seventh-best TE (minimum 250 snaps played) with a +11.9 overall grade and a +4.2 in the run blocking category. Reed should look to build on his limited snaps as he’s back from his prolonged concussion issues and becomes the starter for a full season in 2014.
3. Jackson Alongside Garcon
In one of the biggest moves of the offseason, the Eagles released Pro-Bowl wide receiver Desean Jackson, which allowed the Redskins to add him and bolster their receiving corps. Jackson posted a +14.3 overall grade in 2013, which included the highest single-game grade of his career of +3.8 in Week 15 against the Vikings. Over the season, Jackson was thrown at 119 times and caught 82 of those passes while dropping only five. Pierre Garcon suffered through injuries throughout most of his NFL career until the 2013 season, in which he recorded career-high numbers. A major part of the Redskins’ offense in 2013, Garcon was thrown at 174 times, which ranked him No. 2 in the NFL among wide receivers; behind only Andre Johnson. Garcon’s 675 Yards After Catch also ranked him No. 2 in the league.
4. The Return of Orakpo
Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo was issued the non-exclusive franchise tag this offseason, essentially giving him a one-year, fully-guaranteed contract with the Redskins as the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on a long-term deal. Opinions vary on players in ‘contract years’, but they don’t differ on the impact Orakpo has while on the field. He finished 2013 with an overall grade of +23.7 despite seeing his pass rush grade fall significantly from his 2011 number (his last full season). Orakpo did, however, make up for that slip with improvements in his run defense (+7.3) and pass coverage (+3.5). His grade in both categories exceeded those earned by Justin Houston and Robert Mathis, who sat above him overall for 3-4 OLBs. The Redskins will need Orakpo to stay healthy and productive to improve the below-average defense they fielded last season.
5. The Addition of Hatcher
The Redskins signed free agent Jason Hatcher this offseason to bolster their interior pass rush. Hatcher has steadily progressed in his pass rush grade since entering the NFL, and peaked at a +25.4 last season. Also steadily increasing over the last five years has been his overall grade even though he has been inconsistent in his performance in run defense. In 2013, Hatcher collected 11 sacks, hit the quarterback seven times, and logged 33 hurries.
Five Reasons To Be Concerned
1. Griffin’s Sophomore Slump
In 2012, Robert Griffin III finished his rookie season with a PFF QB Rating of 99.37, which ranked him No. 3 in the league. He followed that up, however, with a below-average 2013 season, finishing his second year with a grade of -3.4 after grading out at +31.6 as a rookie. The downward trend began late in the 2012 season when Griffin posted his first single-game grade below zero against the Dallas Cowboys. Including that Week 17 match-up, he logged a grade below zero in nine of the next 15 games he appeared in. His worst game came in Week 6 against Dallas when he put up a -4.3 grade. His marks of -7.1 on throws of 20+ yards and -10.2 when pressured are cause for serious concern.
2. Interior Offensive Line
As part of our depth chart series we showed the Redskins starting Shawn Lauvao at left guard, Kory Lichtensteiger at center, and Chris Chester at right guard — an interior that should be a worry for the Redskins and their fans. In 2013, Lauvao finished the season with a -14.6 that was ‘highlighted’ by a -5.6 grade in Week 5 against the Bills. Chester finished 2013 with a -3.9 overall grade and a -9.8 for his pass blocking. Durable to the point of playing over 1,000 snaps in each of the last four years, but Chester’s effectiveness has been inconsistent with overall grades ranging from -12.4 to +17.1 in that time. Lichtensteiger started 2013 strong and finished with a grade of +1.9, giving the Redskins something of a positive note on the inside, but he’ll be changing positions for the 2014 season.
3. Lack of O-Line Depth
Sticking with the theme, the depth behind the starting offensive line is cause for concern and an issue that likely stems from the limited number of draft picks the Redskins have had in the last three drafts resulting from the trade for Griffin. Three of the second-string offensive linemen have combined for 81 regular-season snaps in the NFL, while the other two will be rookies this season. The Redskins were able to bring back four of their starters from last year — each logged more than 1150 snaps — but if one should suffer an injury, the team will be forced to rely on an inexperienced player.
4. A Troubled Secondary
The Redskins’ secondary played well below average in 2013, so they chose to bring in Tracy Porter and Ryan Clark in an attempt to revamp the group. Clark had overall grades ranging from +3.9 to +12.3 in the five-season span leading to 2013, showing a ‘quality starter’ history, but his -1.3 last year takes some of the shine off. Cornerbacks Porter and David Amerson managed small positives as run defenders but their lacking coverage grades (-11.4 for the vet, Porter, and -6.6 for the rookie, Amerson) were worrisome. Brandon Meriweather hasn’t posted a grade above zero in pass coverage or run defense since the 2009 season and DeAngelo Hall has played over 1,000 snaps in each of the last four seasons, but posted a grade above zero in pass coverage in only one season in that span. Coverage will again be a major concern for this secondary in 2014.
5. Insider Linebacker Situation
The Redskins hope to have inside linebacker Keenan Robinson on the field after he was forced to miss his first two seasons in the league due to injury. He will compete with veteran Akeem Jordan who finished 2013 with a grade of +6.1, thanks to some strong play in run defense from his 483 snaps for Kansas City. The Redskins have ot be hoping Jordan will help improve their run D after the retirement of London Fletcher, whose play as a run stopper had become a sore subject in his final seasons. Fellow inside linebacker Perry Riley finished 2013 with a -8.4 grade and also struggled against the run so perhapsDarryl Sharpton, who is currently behind Riley on the depth chart, can also find a fit — he posted an impressive +10.5 in run defense (though that went with a -11.2 in coverage) in 2013. Whether or not the Redskins will be able to mix and match their ILB’s to find an effective duo against the run and pass is a question they hope to answer in the preseason.