When it comes to the Redskins, it might be best to forget everything you saw from the offense last year and remember everything you know about Mike Shanahan from his coaching career. Washington has made wholesale changes at quarterback and wide receiver, and that should permanently change the direction the unit will move in going forward.
Obviously, the team's huge trade to move up in the NFL Draft and take quarterback Robert Griffin III highlights the Redskins' offseason. Griffin is a terrific fit for Shanahan's version of the West Coast offense, which utilizes quarterback mobility as well as arm strength to overpower defenses. Already tabbed as the starter and working with the playbook since before he was officially drafted, Griffin will be given every chance to succeed this season.
Those chances to succeed were helped by two additions to the Redskins' receiving corps. Pierre Garcon was snared away from the Colts at an expensive cost and Josh Morgan was added from the 49ers as well. Both have the same qualities Shanahan wanted to employ in his offense: Deep speed and the ability to make a play after the catch. Neither will be asked to work as a true No. 1 receiver, but like Griffin they'll have opportunities to make some plays.
Moreover, their arrival makes the Redskins' receiving corps deep and dangerous as a reinvigorated Santana Moss and rehabilitated Leonard Hankerson join tight ends Fred Davis and Chris Cooley. This is a team bursting at the seams with guys who can catch the ball and make a play, and they'll all be on the field at the same time. It's a big change from last year's receiving unit in D.C.
Because so much attention was given to the offense, including the use of draft picks to acquire Griffin, the team did not get much younger on defense. They made small splashes in free agency adding veterans like linebacker Jonathan Goff and safeties Tanard Jackson, Madieu Williams and Brandon Meriweather. It might prove to be the team's weakness; while they have a pair of dynamic pass rushers in Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, offenses will attack their deep middle regularly and put some points on the board.
Of course, the Redskins offense is now built to respond to such issues. They should score more than the 18.0 points per game they posted last year.
|Player||Draft Day value||Estimated round|
|Robert Griffin III||13|
|ND - not expected to get drafted|
Bust ... Every Redskins running back
Until the Redskins brought back Tim Hightower, our theory was that second-year back Roy Helu would have the chance to be the next great Mike Shanahan-led rusher to help Fantasy owners dominate. But then Hightower was re-signed to go with a corps that already included Evan Royster, and now the Redskins are looking more and more like a three-headed monster. Helu totaled over 1,000 yards last season but had three touchdowns to show for it -- if he had to split with one guy then we'd find him irresistible as a third- or fourth-round pick. Hightower could re-establish himself as a pass protector and goal-line vulture, which would hurt Helu's stats. And Royster, who's not exactly a dud after rumbling for 245 yards and gaining 59 yards through the air in two games last season, won't be a forgotten man either. Plus, how much will the Redskins want to run when they have Griffin to utilize under center? If you want to safeguard yourself, draft these guys as late as possible to cut down on the risk of having them languish on your bench as poor stat producers. Reaching for Helu especially with a Top 50 or 60 pick could prove to be a reach.
Sleeper ... Pierre Garcon, wide receiver
Some of Garcon's best work last season came when he caught deep lobs and scored. The Redskins hope he can do a lot more of that this year. The Redskins liked Garcon's deep-ball qualities, not to mention his experience playing in the Colts' up-tempo offense. When Griffin makes it tough on opposing defenses by evading the pass rush and keeping plays alive, Garcon will make it tougher on defensive backs by breaking free and giving Griffin a long-ball outlet. Kendall Wright did a lot of that at Baylor. With Garcon expected to play more snaps than anyone in the Redskins' deep receiving corps (his pricey salary commands it), he's the best bet to shine among all of Washington's wideouts.
Late-round flier ... Leonard Hankerson, wide receiver
Last year Hankerson barely played until he had an opportunity to make his second start at Miami in Week 10, and he caught eight passes for 106 yards. Then he tore the labrum in his hip and was lost for the season. Hankerson's hip has healed, and the big-bodied receiver is expected to be ready to play. What guys like Moss and Garcon give Griffin in speed Hankerson gives him in size -- plus he can run a little bit too. It shouldn't take much for Hankerson to be a regular part of the Redskins' three-receiver set, and he'll be a difficult guy for defenses to cover. Best of all, you might get away with drafting him late or even picking him up off waivers during the first few weeks of the season. We love his upside.
The first six weeks should give Robert Griffin III a good chance to settle in before he takes on the Giants and Steelers in hard back-to-back road games where the blitzes will be fast and furious. Washington has five divisional matchups in its last seven games, which isn't easy. Shanahan is 4-8 against the NFC East in two seasons, but did beat the Super Bowl champs twice last year (and was swept by the Cowboys and Eagles).
Training camp topics
|Roy Helu||151 carries, 49 catches|
|Tim Hightower||84 carries, 10 catches|
|Jabar Gaffney||68 catches|
|Ryan Torain||59 carries, 6 catches|
|Evan Royster||56 carries, 9 catches|
All eyes are going to be on Griffin this summer. The Redskins have been without a legit franchise passer for a long, long time -- Griffin fits the bill. He's already been named the starter and just needs to get acclimated with his receivers while learning all the nuances of the NFL game. His offensive line should be healthy to start the season, which will also go a long way. While some Fantasy owners are ready to trust Griffin like they did Cam Newton last season, we doubt he'll score double-digit rushing touchdowns or be a dominant runner. He's got a solid arm and will contribute more that way -- we can't wait to see him work in training camp and the preseason if only to get an idea of who he likes to throw to and how quickly he'll run out of the pocket.
Running back and receiver are stocked so much that the Redskins have to define roles for everyone. So long as all three running backs are healthy and contributing, predicting their playing time will be a difficult task. Remember how annoying it was last year? Expect more of that. The receivers should establish themselves and be easier to project.
There's also a logjam at tight end: Fred Davis broke out last season and reached some of the potential we saw in him as a rookie out of Southern Cal. Chris Cooley is coming off of an injury and looks like he'll make the roster even with a bloated salary figure. The Redskins also have a project in Niles Paul who they'd like to develop into a contributor eventually. Seeing how that group shakes out should be interesting.
But if you're looking for a real camp battle, perhaps it's the kickers. Graham Gano kicked last year and made 31 of 41 attempts including 4 of 6 from 50-plus yards out. But offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan saw kicker Neil Rackers shake free from the Texans this offseason -- the two used to work together -- and got him on the Redskins' roster. Over his last four seasons, Rackers has made 88.5 percent of his field goals (100 of 113) including 8 of 11 from 50-plus yards. Smart money is on him replacing Gano this summer.
Tim Hightower (knee; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Leonard Hankerson (hip; probable for the start of training camp) ... Chris Cooley (knee, groin; probable for the start of training camp) ... Josh Morgan (leg; probable for the start of training camp) ... Graham Gano (back; probable for the start of training camp).