It has been an unusual season for the Redskins. There have been many similarities, heartbreakingly close losses, the occasional ridiculous personal foul during the crucial points of a game, and the unavoidable injury of a star player (Brian Orakpo) on an already depleted squad. However, the emergence of two rookies has changed the outlook on this year.
The two standouts are complete opposites–one the Heisman-winning, emphatically hyped second pick, the other a sixth-round pick from an unknown school. The first of these players is, of course, Robert Griffin III. There were many questions about how this new quarterback would fare in the NFL, but with an astonishing win against the Saints in week 1, RGIII burst onto the scene, quickly becoming the story of the league in 2012. Griffin has led impressive performances, and has amassed impressive passing stats to go with his ground performance, which has put him 17th in rushing yards among all players. Skins receiver Josh Morgan said of Griffin, “He’s as fast as Michael Vick, but he can make all the throws that Peyton Manning can make, and he can make all the reads Tom Brady can make.”
Of course, Griffin’s aggressive game has led to some scares in Washington. RGIII suffered a concussion in week 5 against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, and has been taking beatings all season. This week against the Steelers, Washington ran a play in which Griffin pitched the ball to receiver Josh Morgan and went downfield, where he was intended to be the receiver for Morgan’s pass. But the play was unsuccessful, and Griffin took a hit from a Pittsburgh defender–something the coaching staff wants to avoid at all costs. Head coach Mike Shanahan said of the play, “Robert’s so competitive that he goes for that ball, and that one safety that comes over just killed him. Yeah, I felt like to do it over again, we’d tell Josh don’t throw it unless he’s wide open, I mean wide open. Of course from his perspective, he was. But that’s part of the growing process for me and having the guys throw a pass from the backfield.”
Griffin has been an outstanding performer this season, but the team must be cautious with him, for fear of losing the face of their franchise
The second of the aforementioned players, running back Alfred Morris, has defied the odds, coming out of Florida Atlantic to become third in the league in rushing yards behind only Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. This adds another dimension to a Redskins offense which has been outstanding this year–currently third in the league in total offense, up from 16th last season. Santana Moss said of Morris, “You got yourself a diamond in the rough”
While this duo hasn’t yet been able to pull the team to great success, it’s difficult overcoming the league’s fourth-worst defense, and far and away the worst passing defense, allowing 314.3 yards per game (the next worst is the Titans at 282). However, with the exception of the recent Steelers game, every loss has been by no more than one possession. The week-five meeting with the Falcons very well could have swung the other way had Griffin not been concussed, and the week-seven game against the NFC East-leading Giants was down to the wire. Even though the Redskins sport a modest 3-5 record, every week has been competitive, and the squad’s three wins have been offensive shows–the team is averaging 34 points per game, impressive considering it did not score 30 points even once last season. This year also brought the first home win since September 2011 in a victory against the Vikings where Griffin produced a 76-yard touchdown run.
The Redskins face a daunting schedule ahead, with the majority of the NFC East slate remaining in addition to a match-up with the nearby Baltimore Ravens. Next week, the burgundy and gold face the Carolina Panthers at FedEx Field.