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2013 preview: Washington Redskins
The 2013 NFL regular season is right around the corner. With that being said, it's time to launch our team previews. FOXSports.com contributor Taylor Jones will answer important questions for every franchise.
2012 Record: 10-6. Eliminated in the wild card round by the Seattle Seahawks.
What must the team accomplish to consider the season a success? (making the playoffs? Reaching the Super Bowl?)
In 2012, the Redskins turned around a 5-11 record from the season before and went to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Redskins return nearly every player from last year's roster and with that type of consistency and the momentum of the franchise’s first playoff appearance in five years, the Redskins can’t afford to take a step back now. The NFC East will once again be one of the more talked about divisions in all of football, but none of the four teams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The Redskins must return to the playoffs and advance beyond the wild-card round ton consider 2013 a successful season.
What is the team's biggest obstacle?
The Redskins had the third worst passing defense in the NFL last season and the defensive secondary was wildly inconsistent.
DeAngelo Hall takes too many chances and in result gives up explosion plays way too often. The safety play was awful last season. Brandon Meriweather will return after missing all but one game last year with a torn ACL, but he has just been an average player and was a journeyman trying to find a home before the Redskins signed him last season. As of now, Washington appears to favor Baccari Rambo, a sixth-round rookie, to start opposite Meriweather as the strong safety. Rambo has the skills to be a solid starter in the NFL, but he is nowhere near ready to contribute on a regular basis. Just ask Chris Johnson, who blew right past him for a 51-yard touchdown on Rambo’s first series as a professional. The Redskins would be lucky to have both Rambo and Meriweather available for the entire year.
Safety is a huge problem for this team and for them to not address it prior to the sixth round in the NFL Draft could become very problematic. If the Redskins can’t get early pressure on opposing quarterbacks, they may get shredded between the hashes in the passing game.
What is the team's biggest asset?
The Redskins had the No. 1 rushing offense in the entire NFL last season, and while that becomes a huge factor, the running game itself isn’t their best weapon. Because of the threat of Robert Griffin and Alfred Morris, defenses had to play with at least seven, sometimes eight man fronts. When they did, the Redskins were able to connect on 69 big plays of 20 or more yards while Griffin averaged 11.5 yards per attempt off of play action passes — the best in the NFL. It is that quick-strike ability that is so terrifying to defensive coordinators as they creep down a safety to provide additional run support.
The tight end is a critical component to the play action passing game — particularly in the read option type action that the Redskins like to utilize. Fred Davis could be the best tight end you’ve never heard of and his ability to remain healthy will be crucial to the maturation of Griffin.
An excellent running game is a quarterback’s best friend, especially a young quarterback. Only the Seahawks ran the ball on a higher percentage of their offensive plays last season, and it’s no coincidence that Russell Wilson and Griffin were two of the best rookie quarterbacks this league has ever seen.
What is the team's biggest addition/loss from the previous season?
The biggest addition doesn’t come from the draft or via free agency, but Brian Orakpo will return from IR to help a team that missed him dearly in 2012. The Redskins had nine fewer sacks as a team without Orakpo on the field last season and it showed in their pour pass defense. Without a balanced rush, opponents were able to slide protection to Ryan Kerrigan and not have to worry about the consequences.
With Orakpo, teams will either have to chip a running back or keep a tight end on the line to protect the edges and that means one less defender to cover in the passing game. A pass rush is the best way to improve a bad secondary and with Orakpo and Kerrigan, the secondary shouldn’t have to cover for very long.
Where do you predict the team will finish in the division?
It is nearly impossible to predict the terribly inconsistent NFC East, but the Redskins have as good of a chance as anyone to win the division. On paper, they are the least impressive roster, but they play well as a team and have the right mix of playmakers and role players. If I had to handicap it, I’m not sure they would be my favorite to defend their NFC East title, but this is a team that won seven in a row to close out the 2012 season and that is tough in any division. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Redskins won the division or came in dead last. It is that close.