Well Redskins Nation, we're a couple of hours away from the start on the 2013 football season and I'm very optimistic about the season and feel it will be a "Season To Remember". With all the speculation in the offseason regarding Robert Griffin III’s surgically repaired knee, the Zone Read and Pistol formation possibly putting the dynamic young quarterback’s health and career in jeopardy there have been questions on the success of the offense in 2013. There have also been questions if the team has done enough to repair the secondary that gave up 31 passing touchdowns a year ago.
I believe all of these questions will be answered in part in this first game versus the Philadelphia Eagles. With their up-tempo offensive scheme and a run heavy attack with some zone stretch plays. I believe the Eagles will try to exploit the weaknesses that the Redskins showed last year against the pass by using double moves to score on a big play. With the return of Brian Orakpo and Brandon Meriweather, I feel that these two players if they can stay healthy, will help change the whole dynamic of the defense and can help make it a Top 10 defense this year and possibly a Top 5 defense if the team can continue to get turnovers or give the team points by returning INTs and fumble recoveries for touchdowns. The key to the success of the team this year is going to be dependent on the success of the defense, the health of the aforementioned franchise QB and the progression of an already potent offense to become a deadly offense that could resemble the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, or the Green Bay Packers.
With the "superhuman" Robert Griffin III coming back from ACL, LCL, and meniscus tear surgery there are question being asked about his durability, the offense possibly putting him in danger and will he be able to harness his will and mindset of trying to fight for every extra yard on every play no matter the situation. With his well-documented rehab (As show in the ESPN documentary) of the most important knee in the DMV, it looks and seems that his knee is healthy and he’s ready to start the season. There have been no setbacks, swelling or any type of issue with the knee during full practice participation for the last three weeks. There are still questions about RGIII changing his mindset when the lights come on. Will muscle memory and instincts kick in? Will he slide, get out of bounds or throw the ball away and save himself from unnecessary punishment from defenders that plan to hit the quarterback as much and legally possible whenever they can? In his latest press conference RGIII told the media "I think after eight months of hearing you guys telling me to get down and slide I believe it’s ingrained in me now", which I totally agree with. This young man is too smart and gifted not to understand that he has to protect himself and the franchise because his longevity is very important to the success of this team and bringing the Lombardi trophy back to Washington D.C.
Defensive Coordinators all over the league have gone back to the college game to try to find a way to stop the Zone Read Option offense with these young mobile quarterbacks and in my humble opinion when it comes to the Redskins it’s not that simple. The Redskins also uses the Pistol formation, which helps disguise what the offense is trying to do because they can run any of their many formations effectively out of the Pistol. I believe that is the difference between Washington running the ZRO and other teams running similar schemes. With the ability to, in essence, fool the defense into thinking you're doing one thing but are actually doing something else. In a previous article I wrote (5 Reasons Why RGIII Running Less Can Still Lead To Success) it explains how and why this offense is perfect for RGIII’s skill set and dynamic play making ability at the NFL level. The offensive is returning every starter from last year when they put up phenomenal numbers and broke franchise record after franchise record. With a year under their belts in the system and players returning back healthy and hungry, I can see this offense keeping opposing Defensive Coordinators up all night trying to figure out how to stop this potent offense with so many play makers and targets. Kyle and Mike Shanahan have stated all off season that the ZRO and Pistol formations help protect the quarterback because he can see where the hit is coming from and has the option to hand to the running back or keep it depending if the defensive player is in position to make the stop on the play.
It all comes down to RGIII protecting himself when he breaks the pocket or when playing out the ZRO play fake. Last year after Robert took a beating at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals, he started putting his hands up once the ball is out of his hands when running the ZRO plays. This protects him from getting hit by defenders with the league’s new rules regarding the quarterbacks in this type of offense (Editor’s Note: QB’s running in a Zone Read scheme are considered running backs and can be hit like RBs unless they are in a throwing stance or have their hands up). Ultimately with the new play makers such as Chris Thompson and Jordan Reed and the returning play makers Pierre Garcon, Alfred Morris, Aldrick Robinson, Santana Moss and Fred Davis, Robert Griffin III has to rely more on his skill position players to help make this offense go and not try to do it all himself.
Now comes to my favorite part....the defense. I addressed the revamped defense in a previous article (How Good Can A Revamped Redskins Defense be In 2013) and I pointed out the return of Brian Orakpo and Brandon Meriweather, the drafting of the three rookies in the secondary and OLB Brandon Jenkins along with a seasoned veteran front seven which is the strength of this unit that was up and down in 2012.
Once Jim Haslett figured out his personnel and their strengths and weaknesses the defense started to resemble the unit in 2011 that was ranked in the Top 10 and not from the beginning on 2012. Also with it being year three for the 3-4 defense Jim Haslett can now start getting more intricate in his blitzes, formations and substitution packages. He showed that with the six linebacker package (2 LBs would be lined up as DTs on long passing downs, this would give the team a faster rush up the middle to collapse the pocket) he showed against the Buffalo Bills earlier in the pre-season and I'm sure he has more sub packages with his new toys on the defensive side of the ball.
I'm going to make a bold prediction that Brandon Jenkins will be a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. I'm impressed with Jenkins’ first step, his unexpected amount of power and leverage that he uses, the variety of moves that he has and the relentless nature that he plays with. To me, these are all attributes that will help him succeed and make himself a legitimate steal of the draft. The versatility of the secondary will surely help the defense become better in coverage and assignment responsibility. Now if they can continue to force turnovers that will no doubt push this unit into the top of the league in all defensive categories.
I know I'm a die-hard fan and love my team, but from what I see, this team is destined for greatness if not this season then a season in the near future. The Washington Redskins have improved in every area that's important, added talent, gotten younger, improved depth, and have a great foundation to build upon going forward. This will be "Season To Remember" in the aspects of how RGIII and Alfred Morris progress in their sophomore seasons, how much better the offense can be with returning and new weapons, how the defense can and will improve from last year and the continuity of returning 21 of 22 starters from the NFC East Championship team. I'm even going to jump out there and say that this team will be 11-5 this season or better. With the focus, determination and drive, I feel this team has the right combination to challenge for the Super Bowl this season and years beyond. As always #HTTR.
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