Is Robert Griffin III's supporting cast good enough?
The Washington Redskins have made a big bet on the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Baylor, trading three first-round draft picks and a second-round pick for the right to draft him No. 2 overall last week. He has all the makings of a star worthy of such a price, but if the Redskins want to make any real noise in the division race in 2012, he's going to need help. Washington spent big early in free agency on wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, two dynamic young players they believe can grow and develop along with Griffin in Mike Shanahan's offense. But they didn't do much to make immediate improvements to the offensive line. And with Tim Hightower still unsigned, the running game looks a bit short. Griffin's short-term success could ride on the ability of a lot of returning Redskins players to take the next step in their own development.
There are good-looking pieces in place, to be sure. Left tackle Trent Williams, the No. 4 pick in the 2010 draft, returns from his drug suspension to reclaim his spot as the anchor of the line. The Redskins hope that he and tight end Fred Davis, who was the team's best receiver last year but lost those same final four games to a drug suspension as well, have learned their lesson and will be strengths of the offense (rather than ongoing concerns) from now on. Veteran receiver Santana Moss remains on the roster and should be a help to Garcon and Morgan as they work their way into the system. Even Rex Grossman, last year's 20-interception starting quarterback, should be an asset to Griffin, because Grossman understands the offense very well and will be an effective tutor for the rookie as long as Griffin tunes out the parts about throwing the ball to the wrong team.
The Redskins believed they had one of the league's better defenses in 2011, and up front they do appear to be very strong, especially if promising second-year lineman Jarvis Jenkins is recovered from the injury that cost him his rookie season and ageless linebacker London Fletcher continues to perform at his extremely high level. There are questions in the secondary -- both at cornerback and at safety -- that the Redskins hope quantity and competition will sort out in training camp, but overall the defense should be solid. The questions are on offense, where a rookie quarterback for whom expectations are high will need his supporting cast to be reliable if the Redskins are to take a step forward and have an outside chance at a playoff spot. In all likelihood, this is another year in the rebuilding process, and what the Redskins and their fans want to see is a clear step in the right direction. For that to happen, the pieces around Griffin will have to do everything they can to make him look as good as possible.