Division Winner? Not even close. A repeat of the division title seemed very much within the team’s grasp as the season began; Robert Griffin’s recovery from knee surgery was (reportedly) ahead of schedule, and the majority of 2012’s roster was returning. What we all knew beforehand was that the 2012 Redskins were overachievers and very much dependent on an offense that kept the ball in their hands, methodically moving the chains with head coach Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking run scheme and RGIII’s ability to grab chunks of yards with his feet. The defense were the true overachievers, and in 2013, they were exposed in so many ways that listing them seems a moot point; the end result was a secondary that could not maintain coverage, a pass rush that was sporadic at best, and a linebacking corps that could only do so much to maintain the second level of defense. This collapse (or, more aptly, this true side of a talent-deficient unit) was only exacerbated by the lack of punch on offense, as Griffin never seemed comfortable on the move and defenses were perfectly content on stacking the box and putting pressure on both young powerhouse RB Alfred Morris and Griffin, whose pocket presence was exposed as a serious weakness a year after the football world praised the team for their genius in mortgaging their future for an apparent sure bet of a quarterback.
In short, this team was not prepared to overachieve again, made no strides to improve their roster from 2012 (due in large part to league-imposed cap penalties) and, from the start, were engaged in a tumultuous downfall that would eventually lead to Shanahan and most of his coaches being gone in theory by November and gone in actuality shortly after their disappointing 2013 season came to a merciful end.
Milestones Of 2013: I’m still hard pressed to find many. The most obvious? pass rush specialist Brian Orakpo’s return from a season on IR, as he showed some of his old in accumulating 10 sacks. On a unit otherwise abused due to a lack of quality starters in the secondary, Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Perry Riley managed to be effective. As was London Fletcher, who topped 100 tackles yet again, something he’s done every year since 2001. Fletcher, long the heart of the Redskins’ defense, has retired, leaving a major void of production and leadership.
For the most part, Washington’s milestones were of the “this isn’t working, let’s fix it” variety: although Mike Shanahan brought some stability and definite offensive improvements with him, he proved himself lacking in quality judgement of his staff, which ultimately (combined with his standoffish press conferences) led to his dismissal. Surprisingly, the team decided to keep on defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who has yet to show much in the way of proper scheming or a voice for what talent the team should acquire in order to make his job easier.
Where question marks lingered about Robert Griffin III and the tremendous cost he carried with him into Washington after his 2012 campaign was sullied with injuries and subsequent conflict between himself and his coaches, 2013 did little to answer any of them. Griffin was obviously hampered by his reconstructed knee for most of the year, and generally speaking showed that he has some work to do in terms of reading defenses and becoming comfortable as a dual-threat quarterback. Beyond this, Alfred Morris proved not to be a fluke, having a solid sophomore campaign. Beyond the outstanding (when healthy) Pierre Garcon, the receiving corps needs work, but Jordan Reed looks like the real deal at TE, a position that was in flux with the various problems surrounding former starter Fred Davis.
The Season In Review
As the rest of the NFC struggled to get out of the gate, the Redskins managed only one victory in their first five games, against the lowly Raiders. In between, they lost early divisional matchups (Philadelphia, Dallas), licked their wounds over an early week 5 bye, and were blown up by the Packers and worked over by the Lions. It wasn’t until October 20th that this team showed some real life, slugging it out and ultimately pulling away with a shocking victory over the Chicago Bears, 45-41. This was the sort of victory the Redskins were accustomed to after a nail-biting 2012, but six games into the season, they had already won two-thirds of the games they would all year.
A week after becoming another of the Broncos’ regular season victims, Washington managed their last victory, a hard-fought home victory over the San Diego Chargers.
It was all a mess from that point on.
A tough schedule played a part, as superior teams in Philly, Kansas City and San Fransisco were almost acceptable losses. But losing twice to the Giants, a team as much on the ropes as the Redskins were for most of the year, was beyond disappointing. Narrow defeats at the hands of two of the worst teams in 2013 (Minnesota, Atlanta) did nothing to alleviate the pain. In the end, the Redskins would drag themselves into the offseason on an eight-game losing streak.
(NOTE: Since free agency has begun, future forecasts WILL reflect recent signings where I feel they are applicable)
This is the last season that the St. Louis Rams will benefit from the Robert Griffin trade, but considering the Rams lucked into a top-five first rounder, the price for Griffin’s services have, as of now, not outweighed his production. I don’t believe this will continue, as there is too much natural talent and willpower in this young man for him to fail, but the mounting injuries are going to be a concern going forward.
The offensive line is nowhere near solid, despite the presence of one of the league’s best LTs in Trent Williams. Work must be done here, and at least one veteran receiver (and at least one taken in a draft pool thick with wideouts) must be brought in. Depth is solid at the skill positions, but there’s doubt that the aging (and recently re-signed) Santana Moss can continue to man either starting position; this team needs somebody in-house to step up as a dependable starter, or, most likely, bring in someone in the draft that can work his way into the lineup.
The real focus of this offseason had to be (and has been, so far) the defense. The team made a big splash in signing former Cowboys defensive lineman Jason Hatcher, and brought in some quality secondary depth in former Saints Superbowl hero Terry Porter. The draft will be pivotal; rounding out the back seven is something that cannot be avoided, and the Redskins’ personnel department will be put to the test trying to find quality, potential starters in later rounds.
QB – C
RB – A
WR – C+
TE – C
OL – C-
DL – D+
LB – B+
CB – C-
FS/SS – F
K/P – D+
KR/PR – F
Team MVP: Alfred Morris, RB
Offensive MVP: Pierre Garcon, WR
Defensive MVP: London Fletcher, LB
Rookie Of The Year: Jordan Reed, TE
Biggest Disappointment: The Fall of Mike Shanahan
Very Early 2014 Projection: 6-10, No Postseason Berth