The NFL season is approaching and Shutdown Corner is previewing all 32 teams, counting down our power rankings with one team a day until No. 1 is unveiled on Aug. 4, when the preseason kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton. Go to our Facebook page after you read the preview for all airing of grievances; we’ll have a daily discussion there to go with each preview.
Seeing as how our last image of Robert Griffin III on a football field was of his knee twisting in a gruesome direction, it's fairly amazing that it seems like a foregone conclusion he'll be in the lineup in Week 1.
And with that, Redskins fans can resume hope.
Washington paid a heavy price to get its franchise quarterback with the second pick of last year's draft, and the Redskins must feel they got a bargain. Griffin revitalized a franchise. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner showed off his impressive display of skills from a great first game against the Saints on, leading a late-season charge to an unlikely NFC East championship.
Mike Shanahan made a mistake leaving Griffin in a playoff game against Seattle when his quarterback obviously was hurting, and Griffin blew out his knee. But with a surprising recovery, everything seems to be back on track for the Redskins and one of the brightest stars the league has.
Is the roster better, worse or about the same?: The Redskins were pounded with salary-cap penalties by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for the way they structured deals during a year without a salary cap, which is obviously unfair. But Goodell did it anyway, and the Redskins paid a price this offseason. Washington couldn't be a player in free agency and didn't make any big additions. They also didn't have a first-round pick because of the Griffin trade. It wasn't a good offseason for an up-and-coming team, but it wasn't all their fault.
Best offseason acquisition: The Redskins managed to add a solid cornerback, E.J. Biggers, in free agency from Tampa Bay. He started 12 games for the Buccaneers and can help a secondary that is one of the weaknesses on the roster.
Biggest hole on the roster: The Redskins gave up 4,511 passing yards and 31 passing touchdowns last season. Washington tried to add to the secondary, but the limitations in free agency and the lack of a first-round pick kept it from making a big addition. The Redskins used their limited resources to sign Biggers and draft cornerback David Amerson and safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo. That shows that Washington understands its pass defense isn't good enough.
Player you might not have heard of yet, but will soon: Receiver Leonard Hankerson is a great athlete who had a injury-filled rookie year in 2011, but made some key strides last year. He had 543 yards and three touchdowns and seems capable of more in an all-important third season. Pro Football Focus ranked him 13th in its wide receiver rating metric (among players who got 25 percent of his team's targets), which is quarterback rating on passes thrown to each receiver. He was efficient last season, and Griffin is certainly talented enough to make any good receiver a star.
Stat fact: Griffin led the NFL in yards per pass attempt at 8.1 (he was the only quarterback above 8 yards per attempt), and also yards per rushing attempt at 6.8. No other qualifying player had better than 6 yards per attempt. That's clear proof of how unbelievable his skill set is.
This team’s best-case scenario for the 2013 season: The Redskins won their last seven games before losing to a very good Seattle team in a first-round playoff matchup. It was a team that leaned heavily on what it did best, and the rest of the NFL couldn't stop it. In a wide open NFC East, if Griffin is healthy and second-year running back Alfred Morris repeats his great 2012, the Redskins could win the division again.
And here’s the nightmare scenario: Any nightmare scenario revolves around Griffin's health. The Redskins better hope he's not pushing himself back too quickly. This is also a team that started last season 3-6, so there's a possibility Washington could take a bit of a step back, especially if the pass defense isn't any better.
The player who could swing this team’s season one way or another: The Redskins' offense was very dangerous when Pierre Garcon was healthy. When he was hurt, Washington doesn't have a true No. 1 receiving option. Garcon finished last season strong, and the Redskins and Griffin need him to stay healthy to occupy opposing secondaries.
The Shutdown Countdown previews you might have missed
32. Oakland Raiders
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Arizona Cardinals
29. Buffalo Bills
28. Cleveland Browns
27. Tennessee Titans
26. Kansas City Chiefs
25. New York Jets
24. San Diego Chargers
23. Philadelphia Eagles
22. Miami Dolphins
21. St. Louis Rams
20. Minnesota Vikings
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
18. Dallas Cowboys
17. Detroit Lions
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
15. Indianapolis Colts
14. New Orleans Saints
13. Chicago Bears
12. New York Giants
11. Carolina Panthers
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