Every year before the NFL season I take a gander at Las Vegas’ oddsmakers win totals for each upcoming season. There are a million factors (including several mathematical algorithms I’m incapable of comprehending) books use to fire out a number. One of the basic principles applied is recent history and public consensus. The Washington Redskins were one of the NFL darlings heading into the 2013 season after a 2012 playoff appearance. Vegas had their win total at 8.5, which included the prospect of Robert Griffin III returning from torn knee ligaments. It didn’t exactly work out.
Robert Griffin III led the Washington Redskins to the franchise’s first NFC East title since 1999 with a 10-6 record in 2012. Griffin carried Heisman Trophy accolades from Baylor directly into Washington as a second overall pick behind Andrew Luck. He threw for 3,200 yards, rushed for 815, scored a combined 27 touchdowns, threw just five interceptions to go with a 65 percent completion percentage. It was a fantastic season en route to Rookie of the Year honors.
Disaster struck when he tore a ligament in his knee versus Baltimore and kept fighting through his injury once the playoffs arrived. Hosting Seattle, Griffin was blatantly limited and Mike Shanahan took plenty of heat for continuing to play a hobbled Griffin. Things came to a head when he tried to evade a Seattle rush and tore up his ACL and LCL ligaments.
General manager Bruce Allen publicly admitted Griffin returned to play in a rushed manner for 2013. That is not to say he wasn’t cleared, but a lot of professional team sports is contingent upon fractions of chemistry. Football may be the most reliant upon chemistry when compared to basketball or baseball.
Sure, the Washington Redskins hyped up Griffin’s speedy recovery for 2013′s debut against the Philadelphia Eagles. That came in light of the fact he didn’t take one preseason snap and spent most of training camp rehabbing his knee instead of going through reps in training camp. No practice, training camp, or preseason games resulted in a 3-13 finish for Washington and a fired Mike Shanahan.
Griffin is practicing instead of strengthening his knee this summer. New head coach Jay Gruden (Jon’ brother) was hired by Allen and reunited the two from their days together in Tampa Bay when Jon coached from 2002 to 2008. Allen was hired by owner Daniel Snyder in after the 2009 season and came with a complete resume from his front office prowess in Oakland and Tampa Bay. His pedigree inextricably links him to the Redskins because of his father George, who turned the Redskins into perennial contenders in the 1970s with Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer under center.
Griffin played 13 games last season with a large right knee brace worn by offensive linemen not quarterbacks. Especially dual threat quarterbacks. He ran only 86 times in 2013 as opposed to 120 in 2012 and did not score a rushing touchdown. His interceptions shot up to 12 and completion percentage dipped to 60%.
Washington’s offensive line has maintained continuity since Griffin was drafted, but his escape ability factored into sack totals. Griffin was sacked 33 times in 2012 and it jumped up to 43 times in 13 games played last season. The biggest change from 2012 to 2013 in terms of his offensive weapons came from rookie tight end Jordan Reed. The 24-year-old out of Florida became a valued target by Griffin last year, catching 45 balls for 499 yards and three touchdowns.
Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, and Aldrick Robinson are back for 2014. Garcon had a great season catching 113 passes for over 1,300 yards and five touchdowns. Garcon will now be paired with DeSean Jackson, who the Redskins signed to a three-year, $24 million contract after being released in Philadelphia for “football reasons.” Jackson’s reported ties to Los Angeles gang members and a 2009 arrest most likely factored in. He enjoyed a career season as a wide receiver with 1,332 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
Running backs Alfred Morris and Roy Helu form a triumvirate of running threats when you include Griffin’s speed out of the read-option attack. Purely relying on read-option and elements of the spread offense in the NFL allows defenses to punish running quarterbacks.
Griffin was at the helm of an offense that averaged 27.2 points a game his rookie year until the hits started inflicting damage. That was fourth best in the NFL. It dropped to 20.9 and ranked as the 23rd worst offense in 2013.
Mike Shanahan and son Kyle incorporated elements of Griffin’s system at Baylor under coach Art Briles. Like Mike Shanahan, Griffin’s new head coach was a college quarterback himself. Jay Gruden still holds numerous records at Louisville where he played. He was Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator for the past three years so he’s groomed a young quarterback before in Andy Dalton.
Gruden wants a more complete offense, instead of one reliant upon running Griffin around and risking further injury. Griffin’s speed will need to be utilized at times, but Gruden is more intent on using Morris and Helu for the ground attack. Griffin is a smart enough guy and he’s had an entire offseason to become in sync with Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay.
He’s expressed a desire to become a proficient defense reader from the pocket rather than taking off on numerous quarterback keepers. Griffin will also play 2014 without a brace so he won’t exactly be slowed by a cumbersome object when he does indeed run.
Bookies in the desert posted Washington’s win total at 7.5 and the Redskins have playoff aspirations once more. There’s a ton of extenuating circumstances with health being number one. Defensively Jim Haslett will try to recalibrate a unit ranked 30th in scoring defense at 29.9 points a contest. All things considered, a healthy Griffin with a full offseason and training camp under his belt should bring marked improvement offensively for Washington in 2014.