KEY LOSSES: J.D. Walton
DRAFTED: Trent Murphy, Morgan Moses, Lache Seastrunk
The Washington Redskins followed up a surprising 2012 playoff run with a 3-13 disaster of a season in 2013. The end result was the firing of Mike Shanahan and the departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Jay Gruden comes in as the new head coach to try to turn this team around. Although fans blamed the lack of offensive effectiveness on the offensive line the unit wasn't actually that bad. They were ranked 5th overall by Pro Football Focus including a number four pass block rating so Robert Griffin III has to take some blame for his poor performance last year. I believe the offensive struggles lie squarely on the shoulders of the ineptitude of the defense. Jim Haslett's crew ranked 30th in points allowed last year. In fact this defense only had one game - ONE GAME - in which it gave up less than 20 points. Special teams had a hand in that as well but somehow Haslett keeps his job. In order for the Redskins to succeed this year and contend for the NFC East crown, Gruden will have to work some QB coaching magic with less than stellar skill position players. A tall task for sure.
QUARTERBACK: Robert Griffin III
As I mentioned above, RG III has to take some responsibility for the lack of production last year. Whether that poor performance was because he pushed himself to come back too soon from ACL surgery or not we may never know. I am willing to give him a pass for coming back too soon and then failing under the pressure of everything falling apart around him. When the defense gives up as many points as they did, the offense becomes one dimensional. He threw for nearly the same amount of yards in 2013 (3200) as he did in 2012 (3203) but it took him 63 more attempts. He also fell to a 16/12 TD to INT ratio from a 20/5 in 2012. I expect with a better defense and better special teams that RG III will get back to some semblance of his 2012 self. I don't think this is the guy that took the world by storm in 2012. He is a bit of a diva and defensive coordinators around the league are starting to figure out the two dimensional QBs. He currently ranks as QB7 on ESPN. I don't think he is that high. I would rank both Colin Kaepernick and Tony Romo higher than RG III this year. Even though I like his high ceiling, I just don't trust it. Kirk Cousins is no more than a back up. I know fans were calling for him to be the starter but he didn't even warrant a trade offer this offseason. That should clue you in on his talent level.
RUNNING BACKS: Alfred Morris, Roy Helu, Lache Seastrunk
One of the two highlights of the 2012 Washington Redskins season was Alfred Morris. Morris rushed for 1275 yards and 7 TDs. What disappoints fantasy owners about Alf is his lack of receiving makes him very touchdown dependent. In 2012 he finished as the number five ranked runner and in 2013 he was RB14. This year under new coach Jon Gruden Redskins running backs will be expected to catch the football. Gruden has not exactly voiced confidence in Alf's direction on that front saying he expects he will top out at 20-25 catches this year. By the way - that is an improvement over 2013's nine catches and 2012's eleven catches. He starts 2014 as ESPN's RB12. I think that is fair although in a situation where he is more likely to be BenJarvus Green-Ellis than the old Shanahan bell cow Alfred Morris, I prefer to let one of my opponents draft him. Enter Roy Helu. Helu had a promising 2011 season with over 1,000 total yards and catching 59 balls out of the backfield. He spent 2012 on injured reserve nursing turf toe and achilles injuries and came back last year as a third down back for Alf. It was hardly a distinguishable season barely gaining over 500 total yards but then again not many Redskins did anything to distinguish themselves last year. Helu will have first crack at the Giovani Bernard role in the Jay Gruden Redskin system. If he fails look to the sleeper of the Redskin backfield Lache Seastrunk to fill in. Lache was drafted by the Redskins in the sixth round out of Baylor. He had two back to back 1,000+ yard seasons and two back to back seasons in which he averaged over 7 yards per carry. He is a speed back as evidenced by a pair of 80 yard TD runs in 2012 and 2013. The one drawback here is that he did not catch a single ball last year and only caught nine the previous year. This is an extreme flyer with extreme upside. If I am drafting a Redskin RB, and I already told you I am not drafting Alf, I prefer Seastrunk in round 15 over Helu in round 11.
This is the perceived strength of the Washington offense and it is a good thing it is considering Jay Gruden's pass first attack. I will start my evaluation with the highest ranked. Pierre Garcon, currently WR14 on ESPN, had a remarkable 2013. His 113/1346/5 line was good for a final WR13 ranking. He was even better in PPR leagues considering the 113 catches. It also could have been even better if he were a little luckier on the TD number. I had Garcon on three teams last year and was glad I did. However - his production was not just a product of his great talent but also one of opportunity. The Redskins didn't have anyone else to catch the ball! This year they brought in DeSean Jackson from the Eagles and his 82/1332/9 stat line and Andre Roberts from the Cardinals. Jackson, currently WR15 on ESPN, had a career year in the Chip Kelly system. I would not expect him to put up those types of inflated numbers as his previous high season was a 62/1156/9 back in 2009. I like both Garcon and Jackson as I believe there will be enough passing goodness to go around in Washington this year but WR14 and WR15 is a bit high. Guys I would take over these two who are currently ranked lower? Victor Cruz, Keenan Allen, T.Y. Hilton and Torrey Smith. Jordan Reed, the tight end, is a beast but a beast with a history of concussions. I picked Reed in the fifth round of our SB Nation Analysts mock draft last week and it was the only pick I am disappointed with. If he stays healthy it is a home run but after reading up on the history I am not convinced. He is currently TE10 on ESPN and I am comfortable drafting him but if I do I need to spend a late round pick on a back up TE which I usually will not do.
The Washington Redskins pin their turnaround hopes on a quarterback two years removed from knee surgery, a running back who can't catch the ball in a system where the coach loves to throw and a receiving corps like this: One WR who is coming off a career year, one WR whose team RELEASED him off of a career year and a tight end with a history of concussions. I do not see the Redskins contending for the NFC East title this year and see very little improvement for this squad. My prediction: 5-11.