Redskins Season Review: Offense

Andrews

The injury to Robert Griffin III (left) has left his playing status for the opening of next season in question.

The Redskins’ offense carried the team through much of the season before the defense regrouped and contributed to the team’s playoff push. Rookies led the way, with quarterback Robert Griffin III and tailback Alfred Morris doing much of the heavy lifting. But Griffin’s knee injury now hovers over the team, and it’s unclear whether he or another of this year’s rookies, Kirk Cousins, will be the Redskins’ starter at the outset of next season.

Statistical Glance: The Redskins had the NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense. They ranked fifth in total offense, based on yards gained, and fourth in scoring offense…. Griffin set an NFL rookie record with a 102.4 passer rating. He also set a league rookie record for the lowest percentage of passes intercepted, at 1.3 percent. He set team rookie passing records for attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards, touchdowns and passer rating. He joined Randall Cunningham, Bobby Douglass and Michael Vick as the only NFL quarterbacks to have an 800-yard rushing season…Morris finished second in the league with his 1,613 rushing yards, a single-season team record. He also ranked second in the league with his 13 rushing touchdowns.

The Good:

Productivity—The Redskins led the NFL in yards per play, at 6.18. Their 6,131 total net yards for the season were the third-most in team history. They set a team record for rushing yards in a season with 2,709 and won the league’s rushing crown for the first time since 1933.

Ball Security—Not only did the Redskins move the football, they held on to it as well. They set a team record for fewest turnovers in a season, with 14, and had six games without a turnover, another team mark.

O-Line Durability—The offensive line was a major question mark entering the season but performed better than most seemed to expect. One of the major reasons was continuity. The Redskins had the same five starters (left tackle Trent Williams, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, center Will Montgomery, right guard Chris Chester, right tackle Tyler Polumbus) in every game but one. Maurice Hurt made one start for Polumbus when Polumbus was sidelined after suffering a concussion. Williams played through injuries and had a Pro Bowl season to emerge as the unit’s leader.

The Bad:

Griffin’s Injury—It’s the cloud that hangs over all of this season’s accomplishments. He underwent surgery last week in Florida to have tears of the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his right knee repaired. Medical experts not involved in his treatment have serious doubts whether Griffin will be ready to play at the start of next season.

No 1,000-Yard Receiver—The Redskins, after lacking a 1,000-yard receiver in the 2011 season, set out last offseason to make upgrades at wide receiver by signing Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan as free agents. Garcon had moments when he resembled a true No. 1 receiver. But he was plagued by a toe injury virtually all season, and the Redskins again lacked a 1,000-yard receiver. In fact, no one was even close. Garcon led the team with 633 receiving yards.

Davis Hurt—Tight end Fred Davis seemed on his way to a productive year when he suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon during an Oct. 21 road loss to the New York Giants, ending his season. Logan Paulsen took over as the starter at tight end and had some good moments, finishing with 25 catches for 308 yards and a touchdown. But the Redskins lost a valuable contributor on offense and Griffin, then sometimes lacked play-makers around him in the passing game, particularly when Garcon was also out of the lineup.

The Takeaway:

This was a very good and very creative offense. Coach Mike Shanahan and his son Kyle, the team’s offensive coordinator, received plenty of credit for concocting an offensive system for Griffin, called the “East Coast Offense” by Mike Shanahan, that mixed elements from the college game with those more traditionally seen in the NFL. It was effective, as the numbers produced by Griffin and the offense attest. But throughout the season, some questioned whether Griffin was the risk of injury to Griffin was too great, and there was evidence to support that view. He lefted one game in October after suffering a concussion. He missed a game after his initial LCL injury. And now his playing status for the opening of next season is unclear. Griffin and the Redskins will face more pressure than ever to make adjustments to the way he plays–and the manner in which he is used–to safeguard him.

There was talk after Cousins beat the Browns on Dec. 16 in his first NFL start, with Griffin sidelined by his knee injury, that the Redskins might trade Cousins this offseason for a second-round draft choice or more. After all, the reasoning went, that would be a fine return for the fourth-round selection that the Redskins used on Cousins last spring, and the team needs draft picks after giving so many to St. Louis last March to land Griffin. But trading Cousins appears out of the question now. The Redskins seem lucky to have him and appear fully confident that they could win with him as their starter, even if that might mean tweaking the offense a bit….

Veteran Rex Grossman fell behind Cousins and Griffin. But 2012′s third-string QB could be kept around as the potential backup to Cousins next season if Griffin isn’t ready… The Redskins used their franchise-player tag on Davis last offseason to, in effect, keep him off the free agent market. He’s eligible for unrestricted free agency again this March. But his market value could be diminished, after his 2012 injury and the suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy that cost him four games in 2011…. Lichtensteiger is also eligible for unrestricted free agency. He has said he would like to re-sign with the Redskins. But if he departs as a free agent, the Redskins could promote Josh LeRibeus to the starting lineup. LeRibeus filled in for Lichtensteiger at left guard after Lichtensteiger left the playoff loss to the Seahawks when he aggravated his sprained ankle on the Redskins’ opening drive…. Veteran wideout Santana Moss was moved into the team’s third receiver role and had a fine season, with 41 catches for 573 yards. He had eight of the team’s 24 touchdown catches. No one else on the team had more than four touchdown catches. Not bad after there was speculation last offseason that Moss might be released…Tight end Chris Cooley had only one catch for eight yards after he was re-signed by the team following Davis’s injury. Cooley, who was released before the season, accepted his small role in the offense without complaint, saying he was happy to be around for the Redskins’ playoff run. It’s not clear whether he’ll be in the team’s plans for next season or move into his next career as a broadcaster instead.

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