Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NFL season. This team-by-team preview details why your favorite franchise might have to start looking forward to next year — but highlights at least one reason for you to be hopeful. Today: our Eric Goldschein details why the Redskins are screwed.
Redskins fans are feeling hopeful nowadays. Last year they turned the corner after four straight fourth place NFC East finishes, and are no longer an easy win for the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys. It’s more than just being a playoff team — they’re something to talk about! They’ve got RG3! They’ve got Alfred Morris! They’ve got Mike Shanahan! They’re contenders, baby.
Oh, there’s just one thing about that:
Last year was a total fluke.
The team that started the season 3-6 is much closer to reality than the team that finished out the year 7-0. You could say the Redskins got hot to close out the year — I’d say they played two games against the Philadelphia
Crap Eagles, two games against the Dallas Shitty Cowboys, one game against the fading New York Can’t-Rely-Ants (okay, that’s a stretch), and a game against the Cleveland Browns (no pun needed). They also beat the Ravens, but that doesn’t fit my narrative, so we’ll call that a fluke as well. (It was a three-point win in overtime thanks to a crazy punt return, after all.)
The Redskins needed everything to break their way to close out the year, and break it did. The Giants and Cowboys both faded big-time down the stretch — particularly the Giants, who had an absolutely brutal schedule to close out the year. The plays that meant the most to the Redskins season, in retrospect, were either complete strokes of luck or came against teams that weren’t that good anyway. That 88-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon? The Saints went on to have the worst defense ever. The 64-yard punt return against the Ravens? That was Richard Crawford, who was filling in for a deactivated Brandon Banks. In ways small and large, the Redskins were plain lucky.
Hey, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Many games are decided by the way the ball bounces, and you can’t begrudge a team for taking advantage of opportunities. But lightning won’t strike over and over again two seasons in a row.
And when it comes to actual talent? Expect a regression this year by the ‘Skins two best players, RG3 and Alfred Morris.
Morris was the league’s second leading rusher last year behind Adrian Peterson with 1,613 yards. Those yards came from three things: Morris is a good player; he was unheralded and under-appreciated by opposing defenses; RG3’s read-options opened up massive lanes for him. Two of those three things won’t happen for him again.
Teams know about Morris now. No flying under the radar. The boxes will be stuffed to stop the run this year, and the Redskins don’t have consistent, healthy receiving talent to help ease that pressure.
And, of course, let’s not forget about Robert Griffin III.
RG3 is awesome, and even as a Giants fan I have to respect the hell out of him. But he’s going to run into the same issues Michael Vick has had throughout his career: scrambling all over the place gets you hurt, and you can’t win games from the sidelines. Plus, the truly great quarterbacks can win with their arms only. Of course it helps to be able to take off running, or to move around so your receivers can get open. But let’s just do a quick examination of the last, oh, 10 quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl:
Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, Kurt Warner.
Any of those guys considered “running quarterbacks”? Nope. Rodgers is mobile, and Roethlisberger can shake off tackles like bad a case of fleas, but they are traditional QBs, every one.
Luckily for RG3, he’s going to get the chance to prove he can win with his arm. Shanahan won’t let him run nearly as much this year as he did last season. He had a great passing rating and completion percentage to end the year, but that was with the added threat of the run at his disposal. I’m not convinced we see the same guy who electrified the league as a rookie. Not everyone is Adrian Peterson — hell, no one except AD is AP. Coming back from a major injury, RG3 is going to be more cautious, less explosive, and overall, not as good. Simple as that.
Why you might not be screwed: It’s no sure bet that the NFC East will be markedly improved this year, and that bodes well for the division winners. I could also be completely wrong and all that “fluke” could really be “momentum” as the Redskins destroy the league with a young, explosive offense. Plus, a 28th-ranked defense will be bolstered by the return of Brian Orakpo and the up-and-coming Ryan Kerrigan.
Actual season prediction: 8-8, miss the playoffs. I ain’t drinking the Kool-Aid, folks.
Photos via Getty