The NFL is a league of fierce competitors. Teams consistently strive to upgrade their rosters in an effort to establish a winning culture. Washington Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan has a pedigree of establishing a winning culture, evidenced by his two Super Bowl championships as head coach of the Denver Broncos.
While Shanahan has a reputation for having a keen offensive mind, his knack for finding talent is the impetus for building a winning culture in Denver. His offensive system turned then unknown running backs Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary into thousand yard rushers. As a sixth round draft pick in 1995, Davis was a key member of those two Broncos’ championship teams. In 2012, running back Alfred Morris was chosen in the sixth round by the Redskins. He came from relative obscurity to finish second in the NFL in rushing yards, becoming a key member of Washington’s offense.
However, there are two other Redskins’ players that have an opportunity to make key contributions in 2013. They are placekicker Kai Forbath (above) and cornerback Richard Crawford. Forbath was signed by Washington in 2012 after brief preseason stints with the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was an unknown commodity replacing ineffective veteran placekicker Billy Cundiff during the 2012 NFL season. Forbath made the most of his opportunity. He set an NFL record by making his first 17 field goal attempts to start his NFL career, while finishing the season 17 for 18 on field goal attempts. Forbath is off to a good start in his efforts to bring clarity to the placekicking position.
Crawford (above right, holding football) saw limited action in 2012 as a rookie in comparison to Morris and another solid rookie for Washington, a man named Robert Griffin III. Crawford did make the most of his opportunities when they were presented. He recorded a 64 yard punt return that helped Washington defeat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime. Crawford also recorded a key interception during the Redskins’ 2012 season finale against the Cowboys, thwarting an early Dallas’ scoring drive that shifted the momentum in Washington’s favor. The Redskins would emerge victorious over the rival Cowboys, earning their first NFC East title since 1999.
2013 presents great opportunities for Forbath and Crawford. Considering Washington’s prolific offense, Redskins’ fans ideally would love to see Forbath trot onto the field to attempt an abundance of point after touchdown kicks. Realistically, NFL teams have offensive drives that stall well short of the desired touchdown culmination. Still, the drive can be salvaged with a successful field goal attempt, which Redskins’ fans hope Forbath can continue his solid placekicking in 2013.
Playing time could become more difficult for Crawford to obtain in 2013. Washington added depth at cornerback, signing veteran E.J. Biggers, as well as 2013 second round draft pick David Amerson. It would be reasoned that Biggers’ veteran status, as well as Amerson’s draft status, would give them the inside track to backing up starting cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson. That would leave Crawford as the odd man out of the cornerback rotation.
Punt return duty seems more suited for Crawford. He displayed considerable prowess in limited action, returning eight punts for 156 yards in 2012. Washington doesn’t have an established punt returner on its roster, so there’s opportunity for Crawford to shine if Shanahan chooses to use him in that capacity. If Crawford can maximize his opportunities, the Redskins could be even better in 2013.