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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 11: Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

For Redskins fans, this is the “fingers crossed” portion of the 2013 campaign.

If quarterback Robert Griffin III continues to recover from his January knee injury, and if he returns to the field at full strength, then Washington fans can move from crossing fingers and knocking on wood to grinning and dreaming.

The Redskins’ best form a season ago was the stuff championship hopes can be pinned upon. This isn’t a perfect team entering 2013 —  so much rides on Griffin’s recovery — but the ceiling for the Redskins is so much higher than it was.

Here’s our look at Washington as training camp nears:

Strengths.

At its best, and with Griffin at the controls, the Washington offense is a triumph of skill, flexibility and innovation. In 2012, the Redskins tailored their scheme to Griffin’s rare talents and reaped the rewards. No team a season ago gained more yards per rush and per pass than Washington did.

Ponder that for a moment, and think of Griffin faking the hand-off to running back Alfred Morris and zinging the ball over the top of a defense with linebackers and defensive backs ruing the false steps they took thinking it was a running play. Recall Griffin breaking containment and sprinting away from the Minnesota defense for the clinching 76-yard TD last October.

When Griffin is healthy, the Redskins can wear down and wear out opposing defenses with all of their options. No team attached the edges more in the run game a season ago, and why not? The Redskins racked up 6.8 yards per rush off left end and 6.2 yards per rush off the right end. When Griffin isn’t hitting swift receivers like Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan in stride or making a productive dash out of the pocket, Morris (1,613 yards, 11 TDs) is grinding out tough yards time and again.

From most accounts, Griffin is recovering well from surgery to repair ACL and LCL tears in his right knee. If he were to miss any time, the Redskins would turn to fellow second-year passer Kirk Cousins, a capable backup who led Washington to key win at Cleveland late last season.

The defense has an above-average outside linebacker tandem in Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Moreover, the Redskins were stout vs. middle runs a season, allowing a mere 3.35 yards per attempt up the gut, per NFL statistics.

Finally, the Redskins’ coaching acumen and experience is also a strength. Head coach Mike Shanahan has 18 full seasons as a head coach, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris also have NFL coaching experience. Even Kyle Shanahan, young by NFL standards, is in his second stint as an offensive coordinator.

Weaknesses.

Here are the biggest concerns about Washington entering camp:

– The defense simply didn’t play all that well in 2013, and considering the core of that defense remains unchanged, improvement from within is needed. The Redskins’ play vs. the pass is of particular concern; only two teams allowed more yards through the air.

– The Redskins have several key players returning from injuries. Griffin is the headliner, but Orakpo (pectoral), Garcon (shoulder / foot), tight end Fred Davis (Achilles), safety Brandon Meriweather (knee) and defensive end Adam Carriker (quad) are other players whose recoveries need to be monitored. Orakpo’s health and availability is especially key; the defense could really use him after he missed all but two games a season ago.

– The Redskins struggled to get off the field on third downs, allowing opponents to convert a league-high 44.2 percent of their tries. What’s more, the offense — which did so much right in 2012 — also had its problems converting on third downs, ranking just 24th in this category. The upside of improvement in both areas is obvious — and it’s tied to having Washington’s potent offense on the field all the more.

Changes.

With little salary-cap room, and with their first-round pick sent to St. Louis in the trade up for Griffin in 2012, the Redskins didn’t make many splashy personnel moves in the offseason. Cornerback E.J. Biggers (ex-Tampa Bay) could have the biggest impact among the veteran signees. Also added in free agency were outside linebacker Darryl Tapp, offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood and nose tackle Ron Brace.

The Redskins’ seven-player draft class is led by second-round pick David Amerson, a cornerback from N.C. State; and third-rounder Jordan Reed, a tight end from Florida.

Overall, the Redskins were able to keep the core of their division-winning team together, though they did lose Pro Bowl special teams player  / linebacker Lorenzo Alexander to Arizona. Washington also has a new special teams coordinator, with Keith Burns replacing Danny Smith, who departed for Pittsburgh.

Camp battles.

Most starting spots are capably filled in Washington, but there are a few areas to watch.

The club’s safety situation is unsettled. Madieu Williams, the starting free safety in 2012, was not brought back. The club added two safeties in the draft: Phillip Thomas (Round Four) and Bacarri Rambo (Round Six). Reed Doughty, who started the bulk of games at strong safety a season, has a knack for sticking in the lineup. Meriweather, if healthy, will also be in the mix for playing time. The wild card is ex-Buccaneer Tanard Jackson, who could be an option at free safety if he were reinstated from suspension by the NFL.

Keep an eye on the play of the club’s returners, too. Niles Paul (kickoffs) and Richard Crawford (punts) finished the 2012 spots in those roles.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Mike Shanahan-team if there weren’t interesting things going on at running back. Morris is the clear-cut starter, but rookies Jawan Jamison and Chris Thompson add to the competition for the backup spots. One reserve back to monitor is third-year pro Roy Helu, who’s trying to overcome a foot injury.

Outlook. 

The Redskins’ rally to win the NFC East in 2012 was one of the season’s feel-good stories. Then came the gut-punch of Griffin’s injury, but the positive reports on his progress give hope he could potentially be on the field when Washington faces Philadelphia in Week One.

About that season opener: it’s the third time the Eagles have seen the Redskins, and Philadelphia will have had weeks and weeks to prepare for Griffin and Co. For those fascinated by the Redskins’ offense and whether it is viable long-term, it’s must-watch — and rewind again and again — TV.

The guess here is that defenses will probably catch on to certain aspects of Washington’s scheme. That’s life in the NFL. However, Mike Shanahan hasn’t lasted as long as he has by not understanding the game, and he definitely understands the importance of talent, competitiveness, prudence and intelligence at the quarterback position.

Griffin is skilled, and he will he adapt as defenses adapt. If he’s at full strength in 2013, that’s what will be fun to watch — not whether defenses short-circuit Washington’s offense, but the counter-punching between both sides.

We suspect Washington will, at the very least, give as good as it gets, especially if Griffin is close to top form. And if the Redskins can get just enough stops on defense, they are going to have a real shot at a second-straight East crown.

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42 Responses to “PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 11: Washington Redskins”
  1. williamjg says: Jul 19, 2013 3:52 PM

    Last year’s injurt debacle aside, you really have to give it up to Shanny, he’s turned this team around in his first few years here. Here’s to a deep playoff run with a healthy RG3 at the helm. HTTR!

  2. imissnumber21 says: Jul 19, 2013 3:52 PM

    Just booked my plane ticket. Oh yea!!!!HTTR!!

  3. skinsfantom says: Jul 19, 2013 3:54 PM

    that ranking is correct with the 1′s but there should only be one of them,HAIL my brothers, HAIL.

  4. daysend564 says: Jul 19, 2013 3:54 PM

    No Redskin team QB’d by RGIII (Rex Grossman III) is making it into the top 25. The other one RGIII Jr. is starting on PUP, unless he keeps swallowing those PEDs.

  5. artmonk81 says: Jul 19, 2013 3:55 PM

    IF Griffin stays healthy and the secondary even mildly improves, I see a good season coming up. HTTR.

  6. detroitsports1234 says: Jul 19, 2013 3:56 PM

    As loing as they have RG3, i see them winning the next ten superbowls #10peat

  7. tombradyswig says: Jul 19, 2013 4:03 PM

    falling back to earth, 7-9, 2013-14 season, at best!

  8. beerbudsnbevo says: Jul 19, 2013 4:05 PM

    And they will slide to about 23 by week 9.

    Here’s why. RGIII will not last the whole season. The skins are praying that neither one of his surgically repaired knees doesn’t go out.

    Especially with a suspect offensive line…he will be on the run

    Too many holes needed to be filled, but too many draft picks were traded away.

    With Hall gone now on defense, and he got burned from time to time anyway, the Skins secondary is not that good.

    And if RGIII goes down, there is only one reliable QB, Cousins… Who will be stuck behind the same suspect offensive line.

    The rest of the NFC East won’t be as bad as you think.

    Shanahan is going to try to make a pocket passer out of RGIII. Not happening.

    Alfred Morris is the only reliable Running Back they have.

    Nobody knows how Orapko, the best

    Garçon is gimpy…

    I know the Skins are the feel good story… But let’s be honest. They got hot at the end, and because they traded away their future for RGIII, they left too many holes…

  9. logical1voicesays says: Jul 19, 2013 4:06 PM

    They shouldn’t be rated that high. Marylands worst sports team is a sham.
    I have seen 6 man teams better.

  10. hrmlss says: Jul 19, 2013 4:07 PM

    LOL, .500 AT BEST

  11. jjackwagon says: Jul 19, 2013 4:09 PM

    IF quarterback Robert Griffin III continues to recover from his January knee injury, and IF he returns to the field at full strength,

    Those are some pretty big IFs and until they become realities, this ranking is too high.

  12. redskinfansince82 says: Jul 19, 2013 4:11 PM

    I laugh because last year we were picked to be dead last in the division. Now with a division crown and superstar QB everybody wants to change the name and cracking on our QB. Hater quota has been filled.

    Let’s make it two in a row! HTTR!

  13. fofofotey says: Jul 19, 2013 4:12 PM

    Take away RGIII’s cell phone so he can concentrate.

  14. vibesid says: Jul 19, 2013 4:14 PM

    Over-ranked.

  15. expertop says: Jul 19, 2013 4:14 PM

    #11? Hilarious.

  16. skinswillsurprise says: Jul 19, 2013 4:22 PM

    I love when people hate on the Skins!!! This is a good ranking for this year. The Skins will be in the top 5 next season. The team will be able to spend a little cash to fill holes with quality players. Skins are coming people!!! Either move out the way or get ran the you know what over!! HTTR!!!

  17. phinswinafceast says: Jul 19, 2013 4:23 PM

    Just one problem, Washington’s season is tied to RG3′s health for 16 games. Couple this with the fact that RG3 repaired his acl at the end of last season after a playoff game, so the recovery time is pretty short and going to be brutal for RG3 when it comes to the grind of 16 NFL games. I find it hard to believe that RG3 will go the distance without incurring more injuries. Washington takes a few steps back because Shanny will be way more cautious with RG3 as opposed to last year. You will see RG3 get taken out of some games this season because they want to protect him every chance they can.

  18. suhisbetterthanu says: Jul 19, 2013 4:30 PM

    They’re taking a sizable step backwards this season.

  19. skinswillsurprise says: Jul 19, 2013 4:36 PM

    Heard it here first! We will see a ” I’m going to Disney World” commercial from RG3 as the Skins QB within 4 years. Hate on haters and HTTR!!!!

  20. 106reasons says: Jul 19, 2013 4:37 PM

    A few things, if you folks will bear with me:

    Washington, like all teams, is going to be dependent on the health of their starting QB. The good news is that RG3 has even tweeted (yesterday) things that made him sound medically cleared, and he has been cutting at full speed without restriction for a couple weeks.

    The offense is also going to look at least a little different this year if all people remain healthy. Rumor is that there will be a lot of 2-TE sets with Davis and Reed on the field at the same time.

    The main issue will, as this article stated, be the defense. London is old, and their secondary was historically bad last year until the last few games. The good news is that they really can’t be any worse back there (seriously, they were on pace with the Saints to break records for passing yards given up). Whether their experiment (drafting DBs with ball skills) pays off or not, no one knows.

    That said, the schedule looks brutal (as it does for all division winners). It’s difficult, in my opinion, to rank them lower than 8 or maybe 9 since they did win their division and have a lot of key players returning that they won that division without…but that’s a small quibble.

    All in all, this was a decent write-up.

  21. dutchkindelberger says: Jul 19, 2013 4:37 PM

    @ beerbudsnbevo:

    Robert has had surgery on only one knee.

    Hall was released and resigned at a much lower salary.

    Robert is a pocket passer who can run. I cannot see why that is so difficult for some to understand.

    Any O-line that enables a 6th round rookie running back to run for 1613 yards and average 4.8 yards per carry is not exactly suspect. Maybe not great, but not suspect.

    Captain Kirk is good enough to win should they need him.

    The secondary will be better this year. There is more talent back there.

    The Redskins were missing a lot of talent on both sides of the ball due to injuries last year.

    Do your homework.

  22. rufustfireflyjr says: Jul 19, 2013 4:41 PM

    beerbudsnbevo: “The skins are praying that neither one of his surgically repaired knees doesn’t go out” – Both surgeries were performed on the SAME knee

    “suspect offensive line” – You mean the one that opened gaping holes for the best rushing attack in the league and the 5th best overall offense, and was in the top half of the league in fewest sacks allowed?

    “With Hall gone now on defense” – Hall re-signed with the ‘Skins.

    “Shanahan is going to try to make a pocket passer out of RGIII” – The ‘Skins are going to run the same offense this year as last (not that RGIII couldn’t become an excellent pocket passer – he was VERY accurate throwing from the pocket last year and WAS a pocket passer at Baylor.

    Here’s a suggestion. Next time, put down the beer and buds and get a clue what you’re talking about before you hit “submit.”

  23. mattw70 says: Jul 19, 2013 4:41 PM

    beerbudsnbevo, Hall is still with the Skins,RG3 didn’t have both knees repaired,and most teams only have one reliable backup QB,and that suspect O-line had the teams all time leading rusher and the rookie of the year last season.

  24. wgray981 says: Jul 19, 2013 4:45 PM

    The Redskins will be good for a few seasons…but they better hope to win a SuperBowl. They will be terrible in a few years because they have no first round draft picks to develop and RG3 won’t stay amazing for long. QBs that take hits just don’t last.

  25. cowboyhater says: Jul 19, 2013 4:49 PM

    Ok, this is a realistic ranking based on last years success, but our schedule is brutal. This season could go either way, but I’m all in with the Shanahan/Allen regime. We couldn’t do much upgrading due to the cap penalty part 2 this off season, but next year with RG3 in his 3rd year, and some cap room to pick up a couple of more pieces, that could be the year we make the move to moving further into the playoffs with super bowl aspirations. Not sure what this season will behold with RG3′s injury recovery, a inconsistent secondary and wr’s corps, and some questions on the o-line. If they carry over what we saw the last 7 games of season last year, everything will be good, but if I see that team that stunk up the joint in Pittsburg last year, we could in for a long season. Just not sure what to expect, but hope as a skins fan everything works out and try to get another division title. HTTR!

  26. 106reasons says: Jul 19, 2013 4:53 PM

    As a huge fan of RG3 and the Redskins, I feel compelled to state that those who say he had surgery on both knees are correct.

    He had to rehab the “uninjured” knee because they removed the meniscus tendon to repair the LCL that was torn.

    Interestingly, there is an assertion apparently floated by RG2 that the ACL was cleaned up and repaired, but that it was not completely torn. This is as good an explanation for the short rehab time as any, since the rehab time for an LCL tear + ACL “repair” is shorter than rehabbing an ACL tear.

  27. timdavis697 says: Jul 19, 2013 4:54 PM

    Reaped the rewards….. Are you kidding me.He blew out his knee yeah great reward. This dude better learn how to stand in the pocket or it is over. He has already blew out two knees and he is only one year in. I’m so sick of hearing about run here run there how many more acl or mcl can you tear before hanging up the cleats? I mean this kid has tremendous talent but they need to protect him. He is supposed to be the franchise qb for years to come

  28. trollaikman8 says: Jul 19, 2013 5:01 PM

    They’ll be as good as 6-10 but likely 5-11.

  29. jenkins31 says: Jul 19, 2013 5:06 PM

    What the Redskins did last year with all of the injuries, new offense and Rookies at QB & RB was a joy to watch. All I can think of is if things go right this season, the sky is the limit. HTTR!

  30. scmems07 says: Jul 19, 2013 5:53 PM

    Rg3 is reportedly looking good, of course the source of those claims is a former hooters girl with a few low light cell pictures for sale.

  31. iceburgskin202 says: Jul 19, 2013 6:36 PM

    5-1 and division champs the ranking is fair to me. All the giants eagles and cowboys fans chime in on why your team should be above us. When they finished the year looking up to us like a big brother!! HTTR

  32. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Jul 19, 2013 7:29 PM

    Enjoy the 2012 season for a little longer deadskin fan because in 2013 you return to the chump team you really are.

  33. normaneinstein7 says: Jul 19, 2013 8:03 PM

    If RG3 is healthy and our injured starters on defense return healthy, we should be ranked higher. However, the health of key players is still in question, so being ranked at #11 is fair.

    Our biggest weakness last year was our secondary. Our two projected starting safeties didn’t play at all, except one game. Our pass rush struggled for a lot of the season after Orakpo went down, but they seemed to improve a bit later in the season. Having no pass rush and having two starters out at safety led to one of the worst secondaries I’ve seen, but they didn’t improve later in the season. We added a lot of secondary players from the draft, so hopefully that will help.

    On offense, our rookie QB didn’t even have a threat at TE. This year, Fred Davis is back, plus we drafted Jordan Reed, so TE should be a huge improvement on our offense.

    If healthy, the Redskins are easily a top 5-7 team and a Super Bowl Contender.

  34. officialgame says: Jul 19, 2013 8:34 PM

    They won’t be playing a last place schedule and won’t be sneaking up on anybody. RG3 and Morris are great but the Skins have precious little depth on both sides of the ball if injuries hit. I think 8-8 sounds about right.

  35. glazerh8er says: Jul 19, 2013 8:39 PM

    Simply put, RGIII will not last as an NFL QB. That is a shame but it’s the truth.

  36. skinsfan91 says: Jul 19, 2013 9:45 PM

    I think we have great depth. Rob Jackson filled in great for Orakpo last year. Kirk Cousins has shown he’s more than capable of filling in. We’re a little flimsy in the secondary, but every team is flimsy somewhere. What teams have great depth?

  37. w0rkh0lic1 says: Jul 19, 2013 10:25 PM

    I think as a Skins fan that this year is wide open. I can easily see an 11-5 rocord… Or a 5-11 record. More importantly, I want to see improvement and consistency. A lot of people either don’t know, or forgot, RG3 didn’t have a playbook at Baylor. Everyone spoke about Luck’s easy transition to the NFL because of the pro style offense that Stanford ran. Which makes RG3′s accomplishments all the more stunning in 2012 seeing as how he was starting from scratch. Much of the read option integration was carryover from what he was comfortable with from Baylor since he had no experience… I’m looking forward to how the passing game has a chance to develop now that he has had more time to learn the offense and has the game experience to learn from. I think the redskins should make the playoffs, but I really think next year is the year they will take a step forward. With a massive amount of cap room, they can plug any holes that show themselves this season and really make that push next year with a veteran team.

  38. delakern says: Jul 19, 2013 10:46 PM

    Redskins are the most gullible fans they think Pierre garçon Adam karriker and orakpo are so good. I see a 6-10 team Giants are clearly the favorite in the nfc east

  39. manilarizzo says: Jul 19, 2013 11:13 PM

    Big Skins fan here and when I look at this teams potential, here’s how I see it. Simply put, RG3 is the lock AND key. Yes, we have consistency brewing across The team with nearly everyon back. Yes we have TE’s, Safety, D Line and OLB improvements because of the draft or returning players who missed last season due to injury. And because of all that, and because of a year under his belt (a ROY year at that), IF, IF IF IF IF IF RG3 is as healthy as advertised, there’s no doubt this team can be a top 5 team this year. Despite the upgrades and consistency, IF RG3 goes down or isn’t back to form, they are a very mediocre team at best…. Kinda the same thing you would say about oh lets see….the Broncos, the Pats, the Pack, the Saints and any team with their best player at the games most important position.

    Every NFL team tries to be great every year of course. But the Skins need to exercise caution in bringing the kid along slowly. They get $18m in cap space back next year and first round picks again the year after. This is a generally young team across the board with many years of NFC East domination and Super Bowl contending ahead IF, if if if they do right by Griff and manage this well. Fan or not, we should all hope they do.

  40. olhoss1884 says: Jul 20, 2013 6:01 AM

    I would say the Redskins will repeat as division winners IF the defense stays healthy. Even if not 100%, RGIII is no Vick…he can throw accurately, and despite a lack of weapons to throw to, the offense will be fine.

    Last year the defense was crippled by injuries, especially by the one to Orakpo, and I think they will not be such a liability if he and the rest are healthy.

    All that said, I still don’t see them as better than the Vikings this year, but otherwise they are likely ranked about right.

  41. joedskins1959 says: Jul 21, 2013 7:24 PM

    HTTR- Any fool who thinks RGIII can not come back need only look at Adrian Peterson. Keep hating fools. Redskin fans, see you in the Superbowl.

  42. harrypairotestes says: Jul 22, 2013 10:53 AM

    manilarizzo says:
    Jul 19, 2013 11:13 PM

    Big Skins fan here and when I look at this teams potential, here’s how I see it. Simply put, RG3 is the lock AND key. Yes, we have consistency brewing across The team with nearly everyon back. Yes we have TE’s, Safety, D Line and OLB improvements because of the draft or returning players who missed last season due to injury. And because of all that, and because of a year under his belt (a ROY year at that), IF, IF IF IF IF IF RG3 is as healthy as advertised, there’s no doubt this team can be a top 5 team this year. Despite the upgrades and consistency, IF RG3 goes down or isn’t back to form, they are a very mediocre team at best…. Kinda the same thing you would say about oh lets see….the Broncos, the Pats, the Pack, the Saints and any team with their best player at the games most important position.

    ————————————————

    Everyone knows off season rankings have nothing whatsoever to do with who really makes the playoffs and essentially wins it all. With that being said, this comment above, by far, is the most sensible and logical thing I have ever heard from any skin fan.

    All other skin fan posts, are all non-sense, delusions of grandeur, and, above all, baseless predictions. Come on, there hasn’t even been a game played yet. I get the optimism especially with how the team ended last season’s run, but 10+ consecutive SBs? Really? Whoa, lay off the Kool Aid buddy.

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