We’re deep into the task of opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar! This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.
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Door #23-The Redskins
2012 finish: 10-6; lost Wild Card
TOTAL PICKS: 7
no selection (traded to Rams)
29 (162) (from Patriots)
Sure, Washington has to sit out Round 1 while they have multiple needs, but they gave the pick to St. Louis as one of many the Rams received for last year’s second overall pick, and with it the ’Skins took some guy named RG3. They’re probably okay with that.
After all, Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III did lead his team out of the depths of despair to the NFC East title. Washington went into its Week 10 bye last season on a three-game losing streak with a 3-6 record and a banged-up roster. RG3 had been starting to develop chemistry with talented Fred Davis, but then the tight end tore his Achilles in late October. (The team re-signed Davis to a one-year deal this offseason.) Worse, the defense was hit hard by season-ending injuries to arguably its two best players in the front seven, DE Adam Carricker and LB Brian Orakpo. (Unfortunately those shitty Orakpo Geico caveman ads didn’t go away too.) It was supposed to be the defense that held things together through a season of growing pains as Griffin learned the ropes in the NFL.
No one told RG3 that. Freshly voted as a captain by his teammates (very rare during a season; even rarer for a rookie) he came out of the bye week on a mission and took the league by storm while leading Washington to a shocking 7-game win streak to finish the season. The former Baylor Bear set a rookie record with a 102.4 passer rating, throwing just 5 interceptions and using his speed from his track days to rip off 815 yards rushing. Griffin occupied most of the media spotlight, but he didn’t hesitate to aptly credit fellow rookie, RB Alfred Morris who arguably set an even higher standard for rookies at his position with an eye-popping 335 carries for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. Sure, he didn’t have as many highlight-worthy performances (his longest run was just 39 yards, and he had only 9 runs of 20+ yards), but the read-option offense that the Redskins helped popularize last season requires multiple dictators in the backfield, and even Griffin agrees that Morris was the team’s catalyst.
(Of course, the Redskins’ playoff run was cut short in large part due to a knee injury to RG3 that he made worse by playing hobbled in the Wild Card loss to Seattle, and eventually tearing ligaments in it. I’m not getting into what I consider a misguided – yet somehow prevailing – argument that he puts himself in danger too much with his style. I’ve covered this ground in What I Saw. In short: You can get hurt just as much in the pocket standing still as you can out in the open, dictating your fate more.)
Add to this offensive renaissance in D.C. the emergence of WR Leonard Hankerson and the explosive role Pierre Garcon played at wideout once he returned from injury, and it’s safe to say that the offense is in good shape going forward.
The defense is another matter, however. It ranked 5th in the NFL against the run last season – even without Carricker and Orakpo – but was a woeful 30th against the pass and gave up 24.2 points per game (22nd) as a result. The real problem lies in the defensive backfield, and GM Bruce Allen hasn’t done a whole lot to patch up those roster holes via free agency. He signed CB E.J. Biggers to a 1-year, $1.5 million deal. The low value of that deal matches Biggers’ output last season as a member of the NFL’s worst pass defense in Tampa Bay. Allen also decided to re-sign CB DeAngelo Hall for 1 year and $1.25 million, which can’t make ’Skins fans happy – at least not if they were paying attention to how often Hall got burned deep last season. Head coach Mike Shanahan and his excellent defensive coordinator Jim Haslett are probably hoping Josh Wilson can hold down one of the corner spots, and hope that somehow other players keep Hall out of the starting lineup.
Given these facts, it’s likely that Washington will focus on defense in this year’s draft. It’s difficult to predict who they will be targeting with their first pick since it doesn’t come until 51st overall, but obviously a cornerback would be a good bet. NC State’s David Amerson had originally been labeled as a second-rounder, but from what I’ve read about his pro day, he might have impressed scouts enough to be ranked out of the Redskins’ range. If he’s still on the board, Washington should snap him up. They could also stand to add some depth on the defensive line, and given the strength of that position in this year’s draft there should be a number of good prospect still there at 51.
RG3 is now widely expected to return from knee surgery in time for opening day. (Dr. James Andrews himself has been shocked at Griffin’s recuperative powers.) If he’s at full speed – literally and figuratively – Morris holds up his end of the bargain again, and the defense adds a promising rookie or two, it could be another exciting season near Capitol Hill.
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STAY TUNED FOR THE REST OF THE DAYS LEADING UP UNTIL THE 2013 NFL DRAFT. WE’LL TAKE A LOOK AT EACH TEAM, AS WE OPEN THEM UP IN THE ADVENT CALENDAR. WE’LL ALSO BE DOING A LIVE TWEET-UP DURING THE DRAFT.