Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins had a dream 2012 season. Washington won the NFC East, and made the post-season for the first time since 2007.
However, things came crashing down when RGIII tore his ACL in the Redskins wild-card game against the Seahawks. Griffin returned for the start of the 2013 season, but was no where close to the player he was his rookie year and Washington stumbled to a 3-13 season.
Now that RGIII is over a year recovered from his knee injury, Redskins hopefuls are optimistic that their team will make it back to the playoffs in 2014.
Here are 5 questions as the Redskins head into training camp:
5. What will happen with the “Redskins” team name?
This question is a unique one that no other team has to face. It seemed over the off-season that more people than over came out in protest of the Redskins team name. You had half of the U.S. Senate ask Roger Goodell to change the Redskins name, NFL on CBS host James Brown echo the same sentiment, and you had networks telling its broadcasters to not even say the word “Redskins” during game broadcasts. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen, but team owner Dan Snyder doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to make a change. This story appears it will keep on gaining momentum until Dan Snyder finally caves. The pressure he’s been under from the government, as well as the networks that broadcast the games seem like the biggest threats yet. The franchise has been called the “Redskins” since 1933.
4. How will the Redskins replace London Fletcher?
For the last 7-years, London Fletcher manned the inside linebacker position for the Redskins and was the motto of consistency. Fletcher played in 16 games every year of his 16-year career and recorded over 100 tackles in each of the last 14 seasons. At the moment, Keenan Robinson appears to be the favorite. He missed all of last season with pectoral muscle tears, but he appears to be healthy now. He only has 11 career tackles, all of which came in his rookie year. No matter who the guy turns out to be, he will have tremendous shoes to fill because Fletcher was arguably the most reliable player in all of football.
3. How will Jay Gruden handle big egos?
Jay Gruden was hired to replace Mike Shanahan as coach of the Washington Redskins, and this team is full of egos. Gruden was a head coach in the Arena Football League and the offensive coordinator with the Bengals for the last few years, but this is his first NFL head coaching gig. He certainly has his work cut out for him. Dealing with Dan Snyder is always a challenge. Snyder likes to have all the power and doesn’t always see eye to eye with his head coach. Washington brought in DeSean Jackson who was consistently unhappy with his contract in Philly, and he was tied to gangs (the reason the Eagles released him in the first place). So far, Jackson has said all the right things and he’s coming off the most productive year of his career. He caught a career high 82 passes for 1,332 yards and 9 touchdowns. If he and Jay Gruden can develop a good relationship, the Redskins will have a true game-breaker at its disposal. Gruden will also have to find a way to deal with RGIII who always seemed to be scuffling with Mike Shanahan and former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. It’s fair to say the RGIII Mike Shanahan’s relationship was a toxic one, and probably the main reason the Redskins went in a different direction. So far, Griffin’s relationship with Gruden appears to be a good one.
2. Can the Redskins protect RGIII?
One of the biggest reasons why the Redskins stumbled in 2013 was the play of the offensive line. Washington gave up 43 sacks and 96 quarterback hits. It seemed like every time you looked up, RGIII was on his back. In the NFL, it doesn’t matter who you have playing quarterback if you can’t protect him. Just ask Eli Manning. Re-tooling the offensive line has been one of Jay Gruden’s top priorities. He signed veterans Shawn Lauvao and Mike McGlynn, and drafted Morgan Moses and Spencer Long. No matter who starts, it’s going to be a new group of offensive linemen that are going to have to develop chemistry throughout training camp and the pre-season.
1. Will RGIII go back to the player he was his rookie year?
Robert Griffin went backwards in 2013 following an impressive rookie campaign. His completion percentage went down 5 percent, he threw 7 more interceptions, 5 less touchdowns, his passer rating went down by over 20 points, and his QBR went down by over 30 points. The result was the Redskins went from a 10-win team to winning 3 games last season. Griffin may have rushed back too soon following ACL surgery following the 2012 season, and his play may have suffered as a result last season. He’s now had a full off-season to get better and this season should tell us a lot about the player RGIII will be in the future. It’s also going to be crucial for Griffin to stay healthy and not put himself in harm’s way. He consistently gets criticized for taking hard hits, and players that take hard hits don’t tend to last too long.