As we approach the start of training camp, there is a very different feel to this summer. Since Mike Shanahan arrived, each spring and summer has been spent calibrating personnel and teaching schemes and philosophies to new players at key positions. Take last year's offense for example: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and even Niles Paul (considering he was learning a new position) were all guys who had to learn something fairly brand new. Feel free to include Kirk Cousins as well. Quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end...pretty much covers it all. The sneaky success story that was our offensive line in 2012 stems largely from their familiarity with one another. That same kind of familiarity can likely be attributed to plenty of other key positions in 2013.
Granted...our lack of salary cap space dictated our path in free agency this year for the most part. Still, this team figured out how to keep the band together (except for the painful loss of Lorenzo Alexander) and they added a nice batch of raw young talent through the draft--again. While it is always nice to succeed in snagging a blue-chip free agent or two, it is hard to understate the value of bringing back a squad that has already been indoctrinated in our schemes.
Instead of waiting for something to click inside a rookie's brain, or for the light bulb to flash on for a veteran free agent trying to translate a new language, Redskins coaches can really just pick up where they left off last season. This is how organizations "take the next step." This is how elite franchises become and stay elite.
Of course, there is no way to downplay the value of having your franchise quarterback on the roster--something we have not had since...please don't make me finish that sentence. Assuming Griffin can continue to develop at the pro level, you pretty much have to assume that the Redskins offense is unlikely to backtrack, but having so many key skill players return to develop with him is a real treat--one we have not had the pleasure of enjoying very often in recent...decades.
For all the warts this roster may or may not have, what the front office has succeeded in doing is setting up our team to BUILD ON last year's success. There is very little being started from scratch this summer. It is up to the players and coaches to maximize this benefit, and we shall see how that works out, but continued stability at very key positions on this roster keep me from being terribly disappointed in not being able to participate meaningfully in free agency.