There was always some uncertainty about the Redskins heading into 2014 because franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III had torn up his knee in the wild-card playoff loss the previous season, and wasn't allowed to play a single snap in the '14 preseason. Thus, there were doubts whether or not he was fully recovered from his second such reconstructive surgery (also at Baylor). Well, RGIII looked pretty solid the first three games of the year, throwing for at least 320 yards in each, but the defense was a sieve, and the Redskins lost them all. Washington won at Oakland in Week 4 before entering the bye week, and still had realistic hopes of repeating in the NFC East because everyone had started poorly in that division.
Unfortunately, the defense again was a major issue out of the bye. The Skins allowed 31 points in a loss at Dallas, 41 in a last-minute home win over Chicago, 45 again in a blowout loss at Denver, and 24 in a very fortunate home overtime win over San Diego. That would be the final victory of the season, with Washington concluding on an eight-game skid that was second-worst in the NFL behind Houston's 14. That ended the tenure of embattled Coach Mike Shanahan. Griffin's numbers overall were all considerably down than his Rookie of the Year season, and he clearly was nowhere as mobile while wearing a brace in every game (he won't this season). Alfred Morris proved his rookie year was no fluke by rushing for 1,275 yards and seven scores. All in all the offense was good enough to win games, but the defense finished second-to-last in points allowed at 29.9 per game.
Key Offseason Moves
Redskins owner Dan Snyder always likes to make a splash in free agency, and this offseason was no different. Washington pounced when the Eagles shockingly cut Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson (82 catches, 1,332 yards, nine TDs) and now has a very good 1-2 punch at the position with Jackson and Pierre Garcon. In addition, before Washington knew Jackson would be available, it added solid Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts (43 catches, 471 yards, two TDs). The Redskins' other big moves were signing Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (11 sacks), Texans linebacker Daryl Sharpton (87 tackles), Steelers safety Ryan Clark (104 tackles, two interceptions) and Raiders cornerback Tracy Porter (67 tackles, two interceptions). The team also kept young linebacker Brian Orakpo off the market by franchising him. The Redskins didn't lose anyone of major note, so it appears to have been a very successful offseason.
Fans in D.C. were hoping for a big-name coach to replace Shanahan, but the team opted to hire Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. GM Bruce Allen knew Gruden from their Tampa Bay days. Gruden has been a head coach before -- in the Arena Football League. It's probably fair to say Redskins fans preferred his brother Jon, but Gruden did help turn Cincinnati's Andy Dalton into a good quarterback (in the regular season). Keeping his new job will all depend on his relationship with RGIII.
2014 Schedule (all times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, at Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Thursday, Sept. 25, NY Giants, 8:25 p.m.
Week 5: Monday, Oct. 6, Seattle, 8:30 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, at Arizona, 4:25 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Monday, Oct. 27, at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, at San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at NY Giants, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 20, Philadelphia, 4:30 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, Dallas, 1 p.m.
Washington has a schedule that ranks as the 17th toughest in the NFL with an opponents' 2013 winning percentage of .490. It has five games against playoff teams.
The Redskins opened as 1.5-point underdogs at sportsbooks for Week 1 at Houston. The total is 46.5 on NFL odds. Washington's entire season could ride on the Skins winning those first two games against the Texans and Jaguars, who combined for six wins last year, because the next four are all potential losses. The Eagles are the defending NFC East champions and swept the Redskins in 2013, the Giants also swept Washington, the Seahawks of course are Super Bowl champs, and Arizona was a 10-win team. Both Philly games have been eagerly circled by Washington's Jackson.
That Minnesota game will be an interesting chess match as Gruden goes against his former co-worker, Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer, the long-time Bengals defensive coordinator. The Skins lost at the Vikings in Week 10 last season, 34-27. That was in the Metrodome. This will be outdoors at the University of Minnesota.
It's quite a back-to-back in Weeks 12-13 for Washington. There's RGII vs. Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. The 2013 Niners dominated the Skins 27-6 in Washington, holding Griffin to 118 yards passing while Kaepernick threw three TD passes. The Colts feature Andrew Luck, the guy RGII was picked one spot after at the top of the 2012 draft. Ironically, the team that gave Washington that pick is St. Louis, which follows the Colts on the schedule.
If history is any indication, that Week 17 game against Dallas will be a winner-take-all for the NFC East title. It has been for the Cowboys the past three years -- Washington beat them for the division in 2012.
Free NFL picks: RGIII will never be the running dynamo he was as a rookie, do not let the hype distort your NFL picks. The team is fine with that because he would never make it through a full season. Griffin could be in line for a big year as he clearly clashed with the Shanahans. Adding Jackson could be huge. The defense can only be better.