The Washington Redskins did what few people expected them to do in 2012. They rode the coattails of a charismatic rookie quarterback to a surprise NFC East title and home playoff game. Only an injury to that quarterback, Robert Griffin III, derailed their chances in an opening round loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
After Monday night’s loss to the Eagles – where RG3 never really looked totally comfortable on the field – we’re left to wonder where things stand. The first game of the season is supposed to answer a lot of questions. Unfortunately, after an Eagles win (that wasn’t nearly as close as the 33-27 score indicates), we’re left shaking our heads over a whole new set of perplexing questions.
So while the Dallas Cowboys (and Eagles) look improved, are the Redskins ready for a divisional repeat? Let’s look at some of those questions:
1. Can Griffin repeat his magic?
There was no reason to think otherwise heading into Monday night. But now we’re uncertain. However, is it an overreaction? Was it just rust? RG3 wasn’t asked to carry the load in 2012, just one season beyond leading the Baylor Bears in the Big12, but he still managed to snare a Pro Bowl appearance with 3,200 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He earned his teammates’ vote as co-captain by November – no small feat for a rookie – so having his teammates behind him won’t be an issue. And with 815 rushing yards and another seven touchdowns on the ground, he has to be respected when he leaves the pocket, as well. (Again, as soon as the rust is gone.)
2. But what about that knee?
Yikes. He certainly didn’t look 100 percent Monday night – and therein lies the possible antidote to the Griffin magic. He had surgery to repair his left knee and missed the entire preseason. He and the coaching staff insist he’s ready, but the train could quickly derail if he too goes down to injury. His backup, Kirk Cousins, is serviceable, but he’s also had injury issues this preseason.
3. Do the Redskins have no more options?
Indeed, they do. Albert Morris was perhaps the most underrated rookie 1,600-yard rusher in NFL history last season, as his quarterback took most of the spotlight given to the team. He scored 13 times on the ground, combining with Griffin to create a formidable one-two punch. Pierre Garcon (44 catches) and Santana Moss (41 catches) didn’t have great years numbers-wise, but they were dependable targets for Griffin and combined for 12 touchdowns in a run-first offense.
4. Will the defense hold better?
Before the season started, the answer to this question was “probably.” Now it’s “don’t know.” Brian Orakpo is back after missing 15 games last year with a torn pectoral muscle. While he didn’t have a great game Monday night, his presence should help put pressure on quarterbacks and cut down on the 4,511 yards the Redskins gave up in the air in 2012. They also drafted CB David Amerson in the first round and two safeties later in the draft to boost the secondary. LB London Fletcher should play right off the bat, but he’s starting the season hurt and is getting to an age (38) at which healing properly becomes an omnipresent concern.
5. Bottom line: Will they repeat?
Yes. While it wasn’t a great start for the Redskins, RG3 will get back to normal in the upcoming weeks. Other teams will learn how to defend against Eagles coach Chip Kelly and his hyper offense. The Cowboys, Giants and Eagles will make for a great four-way race. But the Redskins are still the best team out of the bunch. Putting Monday night aside, the defense should be just good enough against to boost the ‘Skins to a 10-win year.
Of course, if RG3 doesn't return to complete health, you can pretty much throw out all of 2013. But Redskins fans can't think that way...yet.
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