1. Welcome back, Tim Hightower. Whether or not Hightower returns to the form he displayed on his best day as a Redskin (you pick the day), the fact is that his presence solidifies the running back position. If he is good enough to win the starting job this summer, the Redskins will be sitting very pretty. If Hightower is merely in shape enough to push Helu for the top spot before falling to #2 on the depth chart, the Redskins still win, as Hightower is a heady presence in the backfield and has proven himself to be a capable pass blocker.
2. In his first career start, Roy Helu broke the Redskins all-time record for receptions in a game with 14 grabs. He put together a string of three consecutive 100-yard games late in the season--a franchise record for rookies. One could argue that a player like Helu could be ready to assume the load early in 2012, with a couple of fresh bodies on the sideline to aid the cause. Having Tim Hightower not only allows Mike Shanahan to continue to bring Helu along in a manner that won't add undue tread to his tires, it gives Robert Griffin III a player he should be able to trust on Day One to read blitzes correctly and pick up the right pass rusher to either buy Griffin additional time or simply save him from a crushing hit.
3. My point there is that there is plenty to be optimistic about when it comes to Roy Helu, but this team is in no position to hang its running back position on a second-year guy with a second-year guy backing him up (Evan Royster)--especially when neither guy went 16 games as the primary back in 2011. Once again, Shanahan and Bruce Allen have focused on creating very meaningful depth at a crucial, crucial position. You may have heard exasperated fans or even a talking head or two lament the possible onslaught of dumpoff passes this season in Washington. I am not certain why this is sometimes stated as such a potentially negative thing, especially if it saves Griffin from taking a few extra hits during his rookie year. Before we can even get upset about this though, we have to have guys in the backfield able to get on the same page with Griffin that are capable of both catching as well as quickly turning up the field for what yards there are to get.
4. Helu and Hightower should be worth at least 2,000 combined yards from scrimmage in 2012 (assuming both play full seasons. If both stay healthy for 16 games, that number should be higher. I think Griffin will absolutely find these guys in the flats for drive-extending catch-and-runs. I think that the threat of Griffin running, along with any early success getting the ball to Fred Davis, Chris Cooley, Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan will open up running lanes for these two horses. You can bet the house that defenses will be forcing Griffin to make plays all season long, or until RG3 proves he can consistently beat what he sees. That could complicate our early success in the running game, but one has to wonder aloud how much damage can be incurred by switching from Rex Grossman to RG3. It says here that while the passing game may take a little time to heat up, our running game should very much be a strength of an offense led by Griffin.
5. I am always amazed at the appetite of diehard Redskins fans for an old-school ground-and-pound rushing attack. I get it--we have been born and raised as fans to cheer on the 4.0+ yards per carry runners with an expectation that our success hinges on the ability to get that 4.0+ yards on "3rd and 3" situations. (This site's name is a testament to our affinity for that side of the offense.) No matter how much the NFL changes, running the ball effectively is ALWAYS going to be a core component of a successful offense--especially a successful playoff offense. What this fanbase is likely to be treated to in the next few years (and longer if we're lucky) is a different way to achieve that rushing success. I do try not to compare RG3 to Michael Vick at every turn, but when Vick was getting after it in Atlanta in his formative years, the Falcons were always at or near the top of rushing offenses in the league. Whether it is the way defenses have to cover the edges because of the threat of a lightning-quick quarterback, or because the pocket can be moved so effectively and quickly with a fleet-footed signal caller, rushing lanes will most definitely be there for the Redskins. I don't think the idea will be to ask Griffin carry the rock a ton, but between him, Helu and Hightower, Redskins fans should have plenty to cheer about from the rushing game.
6. I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to thank the Washington Capitals for a great ride in this Stanley Cup Playoff season. My team came up short in Game 7 against a very solid New York Rangers team, but in their loss, they showed a resolve and resiliency that a fanbase can take great pride in. It was awesome seeing Dale Hunter at the helm of such a strong and unflappable ship. Losing hurts, and DC fans have experienced their fair share of pain in recent years (as well as maybe a few other cities' fair shares, too). To all of my fellow D.C. sports fans, keep the faith--our continued support and unsinkable passion for our favorite teams will only make our inevitable championships taste that much sweeter!