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2014 Team Preview: Washington Redskins

Howard Schindel

Howard Schindel

Howard Schindel writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

STATE OF THE FRANCHISE

Last season was a complete train wreck for the Redskins' franchise. The team regressed in almost all facets of the game, on the heels of a 2012 season in which they were crowned NFC East Champions for the first time since 1999.

After displaying plenty of promise during the aforementioned 2012 campaign, franchise quarterback Robert Griffin suffered a torn ACL in the playoffs (on Jan. 6, 2013), which clouded his status in advance of last year's season opener. Though Griffin sat out the team's entire preseason slate, he was able to take the field in Week 1. However, he struggled to display the same level of success he enjoyed out of the gate as a pro and was eventually shut down late in the season.

Meanwhile, after coming out of nowhere to put up big production as a rookie, Alfred Morris saw a dip in his numbers in 2013, while seeing his workload decrease from 335 to 276 carries. He did sport a respectable 4.6 yards per carry average, though, en route to recording 1,275 rushing yards and seven TDs.

In contrast to 2012's successes, last season's offense labored to put points on the board outside of garbage time. On the other side of the ball, the defense was absent most games and ended up tied for 30th in points allowed. Not surprisingly, coach Mike Shanahan, who emerged as a lightning rod for criticism – especially with regard to his handling of Griffin – was fired after the team's dismal 3-13 effort.

The good news is that the team can only improve in 2014. Personnel control was given to GM Bruce Allen, who brought in rookie head coach Jay Gruden to take over for Shanahan. As a coordinator, Gruden led the Bengals' offense to a top-10 finish in 2013 and oversaw the development of quarterback Andy Dalton. With Griffin further removed from his latest knee injury and the offseason addition of wideout DeSean Jackson to work in tandem with Pierre Garcon, Gruden inherits a team with talented position players at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

For better or worse, the team's defensive coordinator and scheme were retained even though the Redskins turned in bottom-five finishes in points allowed the last two seasons. It was reported after the season that Shanahan often meddled with Jim Haslett's play-calling, but with more autonomy in that regard, perhaps Haslett can turn things around. The team's defensive line was bolstered by the addition of free agent Jason Hatcher and draftee Trent Murphy, while veteran newcomers Ryan Clark and Tracy Porter will add experience to the secondary.

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Acquisitions

DeSean Jackson –WR, Eagles
The Eagles say that they released him for football reasons, which is why the Redskins added him.

Andre Roberts – WR, Cardinals
Will compete with the aging Santana Moss for the team's slot position.

Jason Hatcher – DE, Cowboys
Coming off a career year, he's expected to free Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan from double-teams.

Ryan Clark – S, Steelers
The veteran safety comes back to D.C.

Key Losses

London Fletcher – LB, Retired
The defensive leader and tackling machine will be hard to replace.

Josh Morgan – WR, Bears
Heads to Chicago after catching just 20 passes in 14 games last season .

Josh Wilson – CB, Falcons
Couldn't put together a consistent string of good performances for the Redskins.

Fred Davis – TE, FA
Suspended indefinitely for violating league's substance abuse policy.

TEAM NOTES

ALL EYES ON GRIFFIN
Robert Griffin's Adrian Peterson-esque recovery did not have the same phenomenal outcome as the All-Pro running back's did. In the wake of suffering a torn ACL in January of 2013, the second such injury of his career, the quarterback was deemed healthy enough to be on the field in Week 1. Of course, Griffin's recovery entailed missing offseason workouts before being eased into training camp activities last summer. Moreover, he didn't take a single snap in any of the team's exhibition games. Ultimately, missing so much practice and reps with the team's offense took its toll and Griffin struggled to keep up with game speed once the season started. He also lacked the same explosiveness that he displayed as a rookie and defenses attacked more than in the past. 2013 ended with a thud for him when he was benched for the Redskins' final three games in order to avoid injury in what was considered a lost season. Reports so far this offseason have stated that Griffin looks stronger, healthier and faster than ever. That said, the signal-caller will need to continue his development as a pocket passer, as it's unlikely coach Jay Gruden will use the read-option offense as much as Mike Shanahan did.

GRUDEN'S GAME
Jay Gruden is a bit of a wildcard. Washington isn't the easiest place to coach, with owner Dan Snyder at times inserting himself into the team's day-to-day activities. Having GM Bruce Allen handle player personnel decisions and returning defensive coordinator Jim Haslett around to run the defense should hopefully ease some of those concerns. One of Gruden's primary tasks will be helping to revitalize the team's offense. While Gruden and coordinator Sean McVay will have to install a new offense and get the entire unit up to speed and on the same page, they do have some intriguing talent (see below) at their disposal.

OFFENSIVE WEAPONS
The Redskins received a gift when the Eagles decided that DeSean Jackson was no longer a fit for their team, despite coming off a productive year in which he notched 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. He'll work together with fellow wideout Pierre Garcon, who also enjoyed a career year in 2013, with 113 receptions for 1,346 yards. In addition to representing a subtraction from the offense of a division rival, Jackson gives the Redskins the sort of deep threat they have been missing the last few seasons. The team also brought in Andre Roberts to provide playmaking ability from the slot. Moreover, second-year tight end Jordan Reed showed promise in limited action last season before missing time due to a concussion. With Alfred Morris, who has rushed for 2,888 yards and 20 touchdowns over the last two years leading the ground game, and a healthy and ready Griffin at quarterback, the sky's the limit for this offense.

VALUE METER

Rising: Pierre Garcon – who caught a career-high 113 passes on 181 targets in 2013 – may not see quite as many targets with DeSean Jackson around but he won't have to fight as many double teams either.

Declining: After a disappointing 2013, Santana Moss now has to compete with newcomers Jackson and Andre Roberts.

Sleeper: Concussions cut Jordan Reed's season short but while on the field he showed the ability to get open and make plays.

Supersleeper: Sixth-rounder Lache Seastrunk is a homerun threat who could spell Alfred Morris from time to time.

IDP WATCH

Brian Orakpo - LB
Recorded 10 sacks after missing most of 2012 with a torn pectoral muscle.

Ryan Kerrigan - LB
Notched 8.5 sacks for the second year in a row.

DeAngelo Hall - CB
The best corner on the team averages four interceptions a season.

TEAM DEFENSE
RotoWire Rank: 23

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