The Washington Redskins had a bad case of the injury bug a season ago losing several key players on both sides of the ball. Perhaps the biggest injury of all was to outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. Losing Orakpo crippled the Redskins ability to put pressure on opposing offenses, thus weakening the entire defense in the process and making Ryan Kerrigan’s job near impossible with double team after double all year. The Redskins ability to stop the pass was directly affect and they finished near the bottom in overall yardage given up in 2012.
The year was clouded by much more than just Orakpo’s injury as defensive end Adam Carriker, tight end Fred Davis, runningback Roy Helu and safety Brandon Meriweather missed all or most of the year due to injury. Along the way many other ‘Skins suffered injuries as London Fletcher, DeAngelo Hall, Robert Griffin III and Pierre Garcon, each missed time during the season. Add to that the fact that Tanard Jackson was suspended right before the season opened and you can see the Redskins were not a full strength by any means in 2012.
The Redskins coaching staff is eager to see just how good things can be with all the weapons near 100% and fully functional for an entire season. For the offense, that starts with quarterback Robert Griffin III who without doubt, is the most important piece of the puzzle for the Redskins. In order for Griffin to stay healthy he will need to learn to take better care of himself by getting out of bounds or sliding to avoid unnecessary hits. Griffin has acknowledged that his style needs to be tweaked in a way that will make his play less dangerous to him and the team. Also a major factor in the Redskins offensive success will be Pierre Garcon, the Redskins were 9-1 in games he started a year ago and 1-5 in games he did not.
The expectations of these returning players are very high this year and the team’s success depends on it. Many in the sports world have such difficulty believing RGIII can return from a catastrophic injury in such little time that they believe Griffin will struggle a bit in his first few weeks and may even re-injure himself. If Griffin getting cleared to play football by world renowned surgeon James Andrews isn’t enough to convince you then you’re probably not going to be convinced to begin with. Fact is no one knows what the future holds, but if the past is anything to judge from Griffin has bounced back from this once before with no long standing issues and appears to have recovered fully from the injuries he acquired last year. Watching this kid for the last year should tell everyone that he is going to put his heart and soul into every play, the Redskins are one of the most dynamic teams in football that can score anywhere on the field when he is in the game.
Outside of RG3 and Alfred Morris being the main pieces on offense, Pierre Garcon is the x-factor who is also returning from a toe injury that kept him out of six ball games last season. Garcon has said numerous times that while his toe is still sore, he will start week one with no questions asked. Expecting Garcon to start 13-16 games in 2013 is reasonable depending on how his toe responds to several weeks of playing football. Garcon quickly became Griffin’s favorite receiver a year ago when he was in the starting lineup and this duo could do big things with the offense that the Shanahan’s have put in place.
Having Roy Helu Jr back after missing the entire 2012 season is like having money in the bank that you forgot was there. Helu looks to be in better shape than he has ever been as a pro this year and has added some muscle as well. A healthy Helu gives the offense a pass-catching third down back who can give the offense a good second runningback when Alfred Morris needs to catch a breath on the sideline. Having a player such as Helu opens things up quite a bit with read option as well giving the Redskins a back with great speed to run the outside option.
Fred Davis is a player who needs a big year in 2013 for more reasons than one. Davis had the misfortune of getting hurt in a contract year which basically destroyed his chances of signing a long term extension with the Redskins and actually had him testing the free agent waters for a short time this past offseason. The Redskins also drafted a tight end in this year’s draft which could point to concerns with either his injury or his future contract; then again it could just be the Shanahan’s stacking themselves deep with four tight ends. Either way a healthy Fred Davis means an offense that has more weapons throwing the ball. Davis creates mismatches all over the field with his skill package of size and speed. It didn’t take long for Griffin and Davis to get used to each other last year and things should pick right back up where they left off. If all things go right for Davis he could be looking at a nice contract by next season.
Last year Brandon Meriweather literally played in one game, and was dominate in that game before getting hurt and missing the rest of the season. A healthy Meriweather can bring a defense a centerfield type player who enjoys contact and is good in coverage. That was the type of a player the Redskins were in need of last year and he can add 3-5 interceptions a season to a defense that was already near the top of the league in interceptions a year ago. With Meriweather a lot is unknown at the moment about just how his knee will hold up, but if available to play it’s a good bet he is going to give his 100% and cause problems for offenses.
Adam Carriker was on the road to recovering 100% until he suffered a setback during rehab. A healthy Carriker opens his side of the defense up to a blitzing linebacker as Carriker is strong as an ox. This addition is hard to gauge but Carriker has the ability to push the blocker in front of him all over the field for sixty minutes. Dictating the line of scrimmage is a big deal in a 3-4 scheme as it sets the tone for the entire defense to work. Carriker is current on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Brian Orakpo is one of the backbones of the Jim Haslett 3-4 defense when healthy. For the last two years he has battled injury and found himself on injured reserve to end the year. He has trained like a mad-man to get into the shape he is now and despite a thigh bruise he suffered in preseason, he’s 100% and ready for week one. Orakpo was on the cusp of fully breaking out a year ago so expect him to be a game changer for the Redskins in 2013, fifteen plus sacks this year is completely not out of the question. If you add that kind of production to the Redskins Defense along with Ryan Kerrigan rushing the quarterback on the other side and now this year perhaps side by side, you have a recipe for quarterbacks getting smashed or perhaps having passes forced and throwing interceptions.
If these players can return from injury with no problems this season expect the Redskins to be in the playoffs again in 2013.