The Washington Redskins’ Midseason Report Card
The Washington Redskins are competitive because of Robert Griffin III
The Washington Redskins have played half of their 2012 NFL schedule. The team has a 3-5 record, which has the team in fourth place in the NFC East. Despite the team’s record, this has been Washington’s most competitive season in quite a while. The reason for that is the play of quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The Redskins selected Griffin III second overall in the 2012 NFL draft after acquiring that pick from the St. Louis Rams via trade. In return, St. Louis received Washington’s No. 6 overall pick in 2012, their second-round pick in 2012, and their first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. The Redskins gave up a lot for the opportunity to draft Griffin III, and it has paid off, as the young quarterback has energized the organization with his strong arm, quick feet, and cerebral approach to the quarterback position.
Another draft find for Washington is running back Alfred Morris, who leads the team in rushing. Morris is a tough, downhill runner who punishes defenders when he runs the ball. He leads all rookies in rushing yardage, and is third in the league overall in rushing.
However, all is not great in Washington. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon, the team’s top free agent acquisition, injured his foot Week One against the New Orleans Saints. Garcon is currently out of the lineup, with no timetable to return. Tight end Fred Davis suffered a season ending left Achilles injury Week Seven against the New York Giants. Garcon’s return would provide a boost to Washington’s offense.
There are more pressing issues on the defensive side. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, Washington’s best pass rusher, was lost for the season after aggravating a left triceps injury Week Two against the St. Louis Rams. Defensive end Adam Carriker was also lost for the season with a right knee injury, also in the Week Two Rams’ game.
Nevertheless, the 2012 Washington Redskins have brought an excitement to the team that has been missing for many years. With that said, here are the Washington Redskins’ midseason grades:
The Redskins' offense, featuring Alfred Morris
This unit has improved dramatically since last year. The addition of Griffin III is a big reason why. His strong arm, great speed, and ability to read defenses represent a significant upgrade at the quarterback position for Washington. He has not disappointed, throwing eight touchdown passes against three interceptions.
In addition to the contributions of Morris, wide receivers Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson are tied for second on the team in receptions with 23. Tight end Logan Paulsen has filled in nicely for the injured Davis, averaging fifteen yards per reception in limited duty this year.
The Redskins are in the top ten in both scoring offense and total offense, which keeps the team competitive. If this unit continues to improve, Washington will be a dangerous team that no one in the league wants to face.
The Redskins defense, featuring DeAngelo Hall
This unit has been the focus of much scrutiny in 2012. Ageless inside linebacker London Fletcher is the heart of the defense. At 37, he shows no signs of slowing down. He is tied with linebacker Perry Riley for the team lead in tackles with 65. He is the epitome of professionalism for Washington who serves as a prime example of how to play the game.
The Redskins have become opportunistic on defense. The unit has recorded 16 takeaways, returning four of them for touchdowns. However, that is all negated by the overall play of Washington’s secondary. The unit has played without safeties Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson. Meriweather has missed time with a left knee injury, while Jackson is serving a season long suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Washington ranks last in passing yardage allowed, and is allowing over 28 points per game. A common sight is seeing opposing wide receivers beat the coverage of cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson for either big gains or touchdowns. The pass rush has been nonexistent in Orakpo’s absence. If Washington’s defense keeps playing at this pace, they may not win another game all season.
The Redskins' special teams, featuring Kai Forbath
Washington’s placekicking duties have been an adventure in 2012. Billy Cundiff started the season as the team's placekicker, but was released after making only 7 of 12 attempts, with two of those misses coming inside of 40 yards. In today’s NFL, missing those types of kicks will justify a kicker’s immediate release. The current kicker is Kai Forbath, who has converted all six of his field goal attempts, including a long of 50 yards. He has not faced a pressure packed situation yet, but the Redskins hope Forbath will be able to deliver if such a situation should arise.
Punter Sav Rocca is averaging 43.5 yards per punt, which is solid, if not spectacular. Kick returner Brandon Banks has not provided the impact necessary in the return game, averaging only 7.3 yards per punt return. Banks and Rocca are pivotal to diminishing the pressure on the offense and defense, respectively. Improvement in their respective fields would help Washington considerably.
Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett
Washington head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan are credited with the development of Griffin III. They have devised an offensive scheme that reflects the strengths of their rookie quarterback. Play action passes and quarterback option plays put Griffin III in situations where not only he has a chance to succeed, but his offensive teammates can as well.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is responsible for his defense’s poor performance. At times, he employs a zone defense that gives receivers too much room to become efficient in the intermediate passing game. Haslett needs cornerbacks Hall and Wilson to jam their receivers at the line of scrimmage in an effort to throw off their timing. If Haslett doesn’t employ a more effective scheme soon, he could be out of a job.
Washington Redskins' overall grade
It would be unreasonable for Redskins’ fans to expect Griffin III to lead the team into the playoffs as Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton did for the Bengals as a rookie in 2011. The defense is still porous, and at times Washington commits costly penalties that proves to be the difference between victory and defeat.
The second half of the Redskins’ schedule has them facing only two teams (the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants) with winning records. Washington also has five division games remaining, including a rematch with the Giants. The defense won’t improve overnight, so Redskins’ fans can expect the rest of Washington’s games to be shootouts. While the team will be fun to watch, it’ll be another frustrating year without a playoff berth for the Redskins. At least with Griffin III under center, the team is headed in the right direction.
Overall grade: C