Washington drafted its franchise savior by selecting Robert Griffin III out of Baylor with the No. 2 overall pick during April’s draft. The Heisman Trophy winner could single-handedly help the Redskins avoid a fifth consecutive last-place finish in the NFC East.
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Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan has amassed a dismal 11-21 record in his two seasons at the helm in the nation’s capital, and the team will need to make big strides in Griffin’s inaugural season to eliminate any speculation of an impending coaching change. Griffin’s leadership, maturity and football acumen have wowed his coaching staff, but the young gunslinger will certainly experience a few hard knocks during his rookie campaign.
The Redskins routinely spend big bucks during the offseason period, and this year was no different. The Hogs dug deep in the pockets of owner Daniel Snyder to finalize a five-year, $42.5 million contract for wide receiver Pierre Garcon. Washington franchise-tagged tight end Fred Davis to provide Griffin with a reliable target over the middle.
On the defensive side, the Redskins signed cornerback Cedric Griffin and safety Brandon Meriweather to two-year deals, while inking former Giants linebacker Jonathan Goff to a one-year contract. Washington was also able to lock up one of the NFL’s most accurate placekickers in Neil Rackers. Backup quarterback Rex Grossman, running back Tim Hightower, defensive end Adam Carriker and ageless linebacker London Fletcher all re-signed with Washington.
Brian Orakpo has gone to two Pro Bowls in his young career.
Griffin could be an early Rookie of the Year candidate. The Redskins were determined to shore up their offensive line, drafting guard Josh LeRibeus of SMU in the third round, guard Adam Gettis of Iowa in the fifth round and tackle Tom Compton of South Dakota in the sixth. Washington also landed one of the best outside linebackers of the 2012 draft in Texas standout Keenan Robinson.
The Redskins open the year with a pair of road games against dome-dwelling teams in New Orleans and St. Louis. In its home opener, Washington hosts Cincinnati followed by clashes with NFC South opponents Tampa Bay and Atlanta. The Redskins will not face a NFC East foe until Week 7, when they’ll try to defeat the Giants for the third consecutive time after sweeping the season series from New York last year.
Starting in Week 11, the Redskins play three straight divisional games against the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants, marking their most difficult stretch of the season. Washington takes on the AFC North powerhouse Ravens during Week 14 before preparing for its final two divisional games against Philadelphia and Dallas.
Washington’s regular season slate is the most favorable of any NFC East squad as it will play the ninth easiest schedule in the NFL.
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Robert Griffin III, quarterback. If the Redskins have any chance of tasting the postseason, Griffin will have to play at an MVP-type level to keep them in contention.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Brian Orakpo, linebacker. The former University of Texas standout is a holy terror for opposing quarterbacks and can single-handedly change the complexion of a game with his penchant for forcing turnovers.
WILL WIN DIVISION IF ...
Griffin dominates in all facets of the game and Washington’s opportunistic defense leads the league in turnovers.