The Washington Redskins are filled with question marks heading into the 2014 season. A new head coach, offensive coordinator, and by my count 24 new faces on the 2014 53-man roster will naturally bring change to an organization that is looking to bounce back from an abysmal 3-13 campaign last season.
The Redskins have so many question marks, that they have, in my opinion, the potential to win 11 games, but could also only win 6 games if things don't go their way. Now there's obviously a big gap between 6 and 11 wins, which could mean the difference between a division championship and a second consecutive last place finish in the division. So why such a big gap? Because with all the question marks facing the Redskins, if things fall into place this team has the potential to be a force, if not... well we will examine that too.
Let's start with the obvious one: RGIII. A now fully healthy Griffin has by far the most talented set of weapons to throw the ball to in his short three year career, so there will be plenty of pressure on Griffin to take the next step in his development as a quarterback in 2014.
How will new head coach and quarterback specialist Jay Gruden handle Griffin in 2014? Will the first year head coach try to keep Griffin in the pocket as much as possible? I don't believe so, it is likely that you will see Griffin using his legs to extend plays and making plays from outside the pocket (like a bootleg for example) to ease his development into more of a traditional pocket passer.
In my opinion, the two biggest questions facing Griffin heading into 2014 are if he will be able to stay healthy, and if he will be able to regain the "Swagger" you saw him play with both in college and in his rookie season. Gruden recently talked about Griffin's need to trust himself and to make quick decisive throws, and to basically not overthink it and let the ball fly. Griffin needs to regain his confidence if he hopes to lead the Redskins back to the playoffs; Griffin holds the keys to the organization in his hands, the Redskins can go as far as he'll take them.
Will the offensive line hold up? The right side in particular. Griffin's development will be significantly more difficult if he is constantly running for his life. The offensive line is a mix of veterans and young unproven players, although Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus haven't been fantastic, will Josh LeRibeus, Spencer Long, Tom Compton, or Morgan Moses do enough to unseat either of them? I do think there is a brighter future ahead for the right side of the line, but it's tough to see more than one of these positions changing anytime soon. As a result, the offensive line remains one of the weak points of the Redskins roster. With that being said, I have said it before and I'll say it again: Rome was not built in a day, and the Redskins weren't going to go from a 3-13 roster to a perfect roster over one offseason.
Keenan Robinson: This offseason and preseason, the third year Texas product has proven that he can be a difference maker when on the field; but can he last a full season? If he can he will be a major boost to the middle of the Redskins defense, especially in coverage and will make a huge difference for Jim Haslett's unit.
The cornerback position: DeAngelo Hall enjoyed one of his best seasons as a pro in 2013, and was one of the lone bright spots on the 2013 defensive unit. Joining Hall on the outside will be second year player David Amerson who looks to build on a solid rookie campaign and appears ready to step into the #2 cornerback role. But who steps up to man the slot for the Skins? My bet is on Bashaud Breeland. But how quickly can the rookie pick things up? If he develops quickly, he could bolster the cornerback position and could complete the best trio the Redskins have had in some time. If not, the Redskins will have to turn to EJ Biggers or Tracy Porter who have both been inconsistent throughout their careers. Huge difference.
The Safety Position: I love the addition of Ryan Clark, his physicality and communication skills will be a huge boost to the Redskins secondary that has been a weak point of the roster for far too long. Who will play beside Clark however, is not as encouraging. Heading into the season it looked like Brandon Meriweather would man the strong safety position beside Clark. However, the injury and suspension prone safety will already be out for the Redskins opening two contests, and shouldn't be counted on for the other 14. Behind Meriweather, the Redskins have Bacarri Rambo, Duke Ihenacho, and Trenton Robinson. Picking up Ihenacho was a solid move by the Redskins. He possesses far more experience than the other two, including a Super Bowl start. Ihenacho provides physicality and a special teams presence, but I'm still not sure he is the long term option. Rambo and Robinson are both young unproven players who have to prove they could handle a bigger role. The question at the end of the day is: Who can step up and be a consistent option at safety beside Ryan Clark? No matter who it is, it will make a huge difference for the Redskins defense if they can have more consistent play from their safety tandem.
Finally we come to the special teams unit: This unit literally couldn't get any worse than they were in 2013, and the Redskins made improved special teams play a priority this offseason bringing in players both through free agency and the draft with known special teams backgrounds. But just how much will they improve? They looked pretty good during the preseason; but can they make the jump from one of the worst units in NFL history to a top 15 unit? It would go a long way in the Redskins return to the playoffs. The impact special teams has on a game is often undervalued, and the Redskins learned the hard way in 2013 that giving up the big play kills the momentum of your team. If the Redskins hope to return to the playoffs, their special teams unit must improve significantly.
The Redskins have far too many question marks facing them to make a prediction for the 2014 season. All I can say is that it's going to be a wild ride, so buckle up Redskins Nation. Keep your eye on the questions I've highlighted, it could be the difference between 6-10 and 11-5.