Washington Redskins fans are excited about Robert Griffin III. But the prized rookie quarterback is only one player. Griffin will probably have some good games and some bad games, like all first-year players.
Football is a team game. So let’s look at the rest of the Redskins as they get ready to play their first regular-season game Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. These other players will be the key to whether Washington can improve on last year’s record of five wins and 11 losses.
Offensive line: For what seems to be the 10th year in a row, the offensive line is a problem. And that’s a problem for Griffin, since it’s the offensive line’s job to keep the other team from tackling the quarterback. Trent Williams looks solid at left tackle, but after that the line is a patchwork of aging veterans and guys who have not played much in the National Football League (NFL). That’s trouble. To make matters worse, the health of several Redskins linemen is in doubt. Jammal Brown will miss the first six games after hip surgery and Kory Lichtensteiger expects to be able to play in the season opener after knee surgery last season. Griffin is super fast. To play behind this line, he will have to be.
Receivers and running backs: The Redskins have signed some new receivers, including Pierre Garcon, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts. Garcon caught 70 passes for 947 yards last season. That sounds impressive until you realize that 26 NFL receivers had more yards than Garcon. Tight end Fred Davis is probably the team’s best pass catcher. The running backs are just so-so. Whether the Redskins play Roy Helu, Evan Royster or rookie Alfred Morris, they don’t have a runner who is likely to change the game on a single play.
Defensive front seven: This should be the strength of the team. All the starters on the line and at linebacker return to a defense that was rated 13th among the 32 NFL teams. Linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo are strong pass rushers who should pressure the opposing quarterback and force some turnovers. They’d better, because of the Redskins secondary will need help.
Defensive secondary: These guys may be as big a problem as the offensive line. Their job is to prevent other team’s receivers from making big, game-changing catches. The team has new players here and no one stands out. The NFL has become a passing league, where quarterbacks often throw for 300 or 400 yards in a single game. The Redskins secondary should be tested against the Saints and their high-powered offense led by all-pro quarterback Drew Brees.
One more thing: The Redskins need to stay healthy. For years, the team has traded draft choices for that one player they hoped would take them to a Super Bowl. As a result, the Redskins don’t have many solid backups.
Prediction: ESPN the Magazine predicted that the Redskins would have a record of two wins and 14 losses this season. I don’t think they will be that bad. Griffin will be fun to watch, but remember that he’s only one player. My prediction: four wins and 12 losses.