Thanks in large part to the efforts of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris, the Washington Redskins doubled their win total from the previous season (5-11 in 2011 to 10-6 in '12) as they won the NFC East. Of course, last season didn't end on a good note, as the 'Skins not only coughed up a 14-0 lead at home to Seattle, but RGIII also tore the ACL in his right knee in the 21-14 loss to the Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card game.
This marked the second time in his playing career that RGIII had to undergo reconstructive surgery on his right knee, which is why the team is understandably going to great lengths during training camp to ensure that the reigning AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is completely healthy before putting him back out on the field.
Even though the Redskins are returning 21 of 22 starters from last season, how far the 2013 team goes will more than likely hinge on RGIII's recovery and his ability to stay healthy throughout the season. With RGIII, Morris and full seasons from wide receiver Pierre Garcon and tight end Fred Davis, Washington's offense has a chance to be one of the NFL's best. The defense also should be better in 2013 with Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo and a few other key pieces back from injury.
So can RGIII play in enough games to get the Redskins back to the postseason and possibly defend their NFC East crown? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Washington Redskins' 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
Kevin Ewoldt (@HogsHaven), Hogs Haven
With RGIII coming back from major knee surgery and the Redskins facing all first-place opponents in the NFC East, common logic one would think it'd be hard for the Redskins to repeat their 10-win season. However, here are some key points: Of the Redskins' 22 starters from last season, 21 are returning. The lone player that left per the Redskins' decision was free safety Madieu Williams, who could not get the job done. The Redskins drafted a lot of defenders so it's hard to imagine the defense regresses any, especially with the return of Brian Orakpo, who essentially missed all of last season. On the offensive side, Pierre Garcon is 100 percent healthy again and the Redskins were 9-1 with him in the lineup last year. Playmaker Fred Davis also returns. Finally, Kirk Cousins has looked phenomenal this year so far, so barring any setbacks with RGIII, the offense should be able to still get the job done. 11-5.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is a quality football team that is an elite football team with Robert Griffin III under center and a mediocre one with Kirk Cousins playing. I am a big fan of Cousins, but don't think he can lead this team to the playoffs should RG3 miss some time. The biggest concern with Griffin is his ability to stay healthy and he won't do that unless he tweaks the way he plays the game — which is easier said than done. A winning record in this division puts them into contention for the NFC East title and a potential wild card spot, but in a loaded NFC, odds are the Redskins take a small step back — especially, if their star quarterback misses any time at all.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The recovery of the right knee of quarterback Robert Griffin III likely holds the cards to how the NFC East will play out. If Griffin returns at full strength by the season opener and picks up where he left off, Washington could be the team to beat in the NFC East. If Griffin suffers any setback, backup Kirk Cousins is plenty capable, but the Redskins will miss Griffin’s playmaking ability. Washington’s roster has gotten deeper over the last few years and all but one starter from last season’s 10-6 team returns. Also, receiver Pierre Garcon and linebacker Brian Orakpo are back to full strength, which should provide a boost for this team. Even if Washington doesn’t win the division, coach Mike Shanahan will have his team in the mix for a wild card. Of course, this season all hinges on Griffin and avoiding any setbacks with his knee injury.
Even if I knew Robert Griffin III would play all 16 games during the regular season, I still would pick Washington to win fewer games this season than the 10 they did last year. Obviously, RGIII and the health of his surgically repaired knee is the key to the Redskins' success this season, but I have other concerns as it relates to how this team is built.
Washington's defense finished near the bottom in both yards allowed and passing defense last season. Because of salary cap issues, the team did nothing during free agency to shore up this side of the ball and it has already lost one of its draft picks (safety Phillip Thomas) to a season-ending injury. Yes, linebacker Brian Orakpo will be back and, presumably, so will defensive lineman Adam Carriker, but I'm not sure how much of a difference they will make on the unit's overall performance.
While this is pretty much the same team (21 of 22 starters return) that won 10 games last season, the 2013 version has a second-year quarterback coming off of a significant injury and a schedule that includes Super Bowl contenders Atlanta, Denver, Green Bay and San Francisco, in addition to a rugged NFC East slate. RGIII was Washington's x-factor last season, but he's too much of a question mark entering this one to not expect the Redskins to take a small step back, at minimum.
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