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2013 Washington Redskins Team Preview: All Eyes On RG3's Knee

Howard Schindel

Howard Schindel

Howard Schindel writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

State of the Franchise

The Redskins' 2012 season was an interesting one to say the least, filled with a plethora of highs and lows. Things got rolling when the team traded three first-round draft picks and a second-rounder for the right to draft QB Robert Griffin III second overall last April. Few analysts questioned Griffin's ability, but the staggering cost to acquire him had many second-guessing the Redskins. While Griffin didn't disappoint on the field, the team struggled to win consistently out of the gate, opening the season 3-6.

Heading into the team's Week 10 bye, things didn't look promising in the short-term, with coach Mike Shanahan suggesting that it was time to evaluate players for next season. However, at that very stage things turned around dramatically. While the defense still struggled at times, the unit began to give up fewer big plays. WR Pierre Garcon returned from a toe injury and the offense started to click. The team improbably won seven straight games and clinched the NFC East with a Week 17 win against the Cowboys. Meanwhile, Griffin played beyond expectations and consistently picked apart defenses through the air and on the ground. In the process, he won the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year award and ended the season with 3,200 passing yards, a 20:5 TD:INT, 815 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns and a 102.4 passer rating (a rookie record). Griffin wasn't the only star rookie on offense, as RB Alfred Morris broke the Redskins' single-season rushing record with 1,613 yards. In fact, the team led the league in rushing (169.3 yards per game) behind the efforts of Griffin and Morris. Unfortunately, the season ended on a decidedly sour note when Griffin tore his ACL, LCL and meniscus in the playoffs. As a result, he required reconstructive surgery for the second time on his right knee, with his status for the start of the coming season up in the air.

At press time, the team is uncertain about what Griffin will bring to the table early on this season, as he continues to recover from knee surgery. Meanwhile, the Redskins were once again handicapped by a salary cap penalty, lowering their cap by $18 million, which restricted their approach in free agency. As a result, the league's 28th ranked defense in 2012 returns largely intact. The team did add depth to the secondary through the draft, however, and the return of LB Brian Orakpo from pectoral surgery should provide a boost to the pass rush.

It's hard to imagine the 2013 Redskins playing as well as they did down the stretch last season, especially if backup quarterback Kirk Cousins is forced to start early in the season. The potential switch in signal-callers and play styles would limit the offense, with a likely trickle down effect on Morris and the team's pass-catchers. That said, a best-case scenario in which Griffin is ready for Week 1 hasn't yet been ruled out, with the Redskins' prospects hinging on the health, availability and effectiveness of their franchise QB.

Offseason Moves

KEY ACQUISITIONS

Jordan Reed - TE, Florida
(Round 3, 85th overall)
The athletic tight end will compete for playing time out of the gate.

David Amerson - CB, North Carolina State
(Round 2, 51st overall)
An athletic ballhawk, who is familiar with the Redskins' style of defense.

Chris Thompson - RB, Florida State
(Round 5, 154th overall)
Recovering from a torn ACL, but could emerge as a change-of-pace option behind Alfred Morris.

Jawan Jamison - RB, Rutgers
(Round 7, 228th overall)
Drafted late, but worth watching in the event of potential backfield Shanahanigans.

KEY LOSSES

Lorenzo Alexander - LB, Cardinals
Was the heart and soul on special teams and provided depth on defense.

Chris Cooley - TE, FA
Fan favorite failed to produce in limited action in 2012.

Brandon Banks - WR, FA
Team will look elsewhere for return help.

Jammal Brown - OT, FA
Injuries led the Redskins to void the tackle's contract.

Team Notes

RG3'S KNEE

All eyes are on Robert Griffin, as he continues to recover from a second major operation performed on his right knee, with the first reconstruction having occurred back in 2009. Such an injury is difficult enough to return from once, let alone twice. That said, reports on his rehab, which appears to be ahead of schedule, have been positive, with noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews calling Griffin “superhuman.” For some perspective, Griffin's injury occurred back on January 6, while Minnesota's Adrian Peterson (who bounced back remarkably in 2012) tore his knee up on December 24, 2011. While there is a chance that Griffin could be ready to go in Week 1, with the team under scrutiny for how the quarterback's injury was originally handled, don't expect to see him on the field until he is 100 percent healthy.

THE RECEIVERS

Wideouts Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan were added in 2012 to compete with Leonard Hankerson and Santana Moss, with both players expected to take over starting roles and be key components in the passing attack. Morgan caught 48 passes for 510 yards, but failed to dazzle. He'll look to enter the season healthy after undergoing offseason surgery to his ankle and both hands. While Garcon didn't require surgery to address a nagging toe injury that cost him six games last year, he did have a shoulder labrum repaired after the season. If he's healthy, he can be a difference-maker. While toughing it out over the team's final seven games (all wins) in 2012, he averaged five catches and 69 yards per game. Meanwhile, Moss, who racked up eight TDs last season, will return to his role as the team's slot receiver, while Hankerson or Devery Henderson could potentially unseat Morgan for a starting gig.

CAN MORRIS REPEAT?

Sixth-round draft pick Alfred Morris put together a fantastic rookie season. After appearing buried on the depth chart in training camp, he received the majority of preseason running back reps when Roy Helu and Evan Royster suffered injuries. Morris then started in Week 1 and never relented. His 1,613 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns ranked second in the league. But can he repeat this success? Coach Mike Shanahan has a history of finding running backs and either grinding them into the ground or moving on to the next flavor of the week. Morris carried the ball 335 times, an extremely high number for a rookie. In addition, the team still has Royster and Helu, both of whom have been productive when healthy. Even with depth at the position, the team still picked up two backs (Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison) in the draft. While Morris is the unquestioned starter going into 2013, there is plenty of competition on hand, with Shanahan's fickle ways potentially a concern.

Value Meter

Rising: Pierre Garcon was productive when healthy in 2012 and if he can put his toe injury past him, he'll make the leap to the next level.

Declining: Fred Davis, who suffered a season ending Achilles' tear in Week 7, scored zero touchdowns in 2013 and averaged only three the previous two seasons. This is his make-or-break season.

Sleeper: Jordan Reed, who has drawn Aaron Hernandez comparisons, could potentially overtake Davis as a starter.

Supersleeper: Kirk Cousins played well in relief in 2012 and may see extra playing time if RG3 is sidelined to start the season.

IDP Watch

London Fletcher - LB
The 38-year-old continues to play at a high level, having notched 130 or more tackles for five straight years.

Perry Riley - LB
Recorded 125 tackles and 3.5 sacks in first full year as starter.

Brian Orakpo - LB
Missed most of 2012 due to a chest injury and now expected back at full strength.

TEAM DEFENSE

RotoWire Rank: 18