It has been maintained that the Washington Redskins‘ resurgence in 2012 can mainly be attributed to quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris. However, there’s a key component that supports the outstanding 2012 season enjoyed by Griffin III and Morris: winning the turnover battle.
Past Redskins’ teams have been saturated with sloppy and uninspired play. That usually leads to a myriad of turnovers, which creates a culture of losing football. That has changed under the leadership of head coach Mike Shanahan. He has instilled a discipline into the once hapless Redskins’ franchise that makes others accountable for their mistakes. Simply put, if you don’t produce, you won’t be in Washington for long.
That approach has paid dividends for Washington on the field. In 2012, the Redskins ranked third in the NFL in turnover differential with plus 17. On the offensive end, the Redskins committed an NFL low 14 turnovers in 16 games. Griffin III threw only five interceptions, while losing only two fumbles. Those statistics are pretty remarkable, considering that RG3’s exciting but occasionally reckless playing style makes him susceptible to turnovers.
It’ll be a challenge for the Redskins to maintain their turnover efficiency in 2013. Washington employed a zone read offense that didn’t take advantage of Griffin III’s ability to throw the deep ball. Instead, the Redskins chose a conservative approach, relying on their league best running game anchored by Griffin III and Morris. Continuing to minimize turnovers on offense will be critical for Washington, because their defense hasn’t proven capable of overcoming such adversity.
The previous statement isn’t meant to be a slight to the Redskins’ defense. The unit tied for third in the NFL with the New York Giants in interceptions with 21, to go along with 10 fumble recoveries. Many of those interceptions occurred during Washington’s seven game winning streak that propelled the team into the playoffs. In fact, if it weren’t for key interceptions by linebackers London Fletcher (pictured, right) and Rob Jackson, as well as cornerback Richard Crawford during the streak, Washington wouldn’t have made the playoffs. Needless to say, timing was everything.
But I digress. It’s easy to forget that the Redskins’ pass defense gave up a myriad of big plays early in the season. While Washington won the turnover battle more often than not in 2012, that advantage was negated by the long passing plays surrendered on defense. Of course, that put more pressure on the defense to prevent the other team from scoring. After a 3-6 start, it can be reasoned that the defense folded under the pressure.
That makes it extremely important for the Redskins to not only exhibit ball security on offense, but they must remain opportunistic on defense by continuing to create turnovers. If the Redskins can accomplish that, expanding on their success from 2012 isn’t out of the question.