- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Whatever Robert Griffin III's timetable for recovery from knee surgery turns out to be, the Washington Redskins will enter the 2013 season as a defending division champion with high hopes. No team has repeated as NFC East champion since the Philadelphia Eagles won four division titles in a row from 2001-04, and the Redskins surely believe they have enough building blocks to buck that trend.
One critical element of their success that might be tough to repeat, however, is the plus-17 turnover ratio. The Redskins turned the ball over just 14 times in the 2012 regular season, the lowest such number in the league. It was also the lowest in team history, and as CSN Washington points out here, only five teams in NFL history have turned the ball over fewer times in a season:
Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III attempted 393 passes and threw just five interceptions. He is one of only six players in NFL history to throw at least 375 passes in a season with five or fewer interceptions and the only rookie ever to do so. The previous season Rex Grossman and John Beck threw a combined 24 interceptions.
When it came to fumbles, it looks like the Redskins just had some good fortune. They put the ball one the ground 26 times last year compared to 25 in 2011. But they lost just six of them while in 2011 the other team pounced on 11.
Yes, obviously, the fumble stats have a lot to do with luck. That ball is shaped funny, and you never know how it will bounce. In 2012, when the Redskins dropped it, it almost always bounced back into their hands. They will not be able to control, in 2013, the potential continuation of that trend. Odds are, if they fumble 25, 26 times again in 2013, they will recover fewer than 20 of them.
The key will be Griffin's ability (or Kirk Cousins' ability, if Griffin has to miss time) to continue to be responsible with his throws and his decisions in the passing game. If Griffin's knee problems force the Redskins to adjust their offense to make him more of a pocket passer, will he continue to be as accurate downfield as he was in his rookie season? Or will any adjustment to the way he plays take time and require a period of discomfort as he adjusts? My guess is the former, but the fact is Griffin could have a brilliant 16-year career and still never repeat the remarkable interception-avoidance aspect of his rookie season. He was, simply, that good.
You have to assume the Redskins will turn the ball over more in 2013 than they did in 2012, if for no other reason than the law of averages. But their giveaway number could go up some and still be very good. If they can make some improvements in the secondary, it's possible they could offset that law of averages with some more takeaways and continue to rank among the league leaders in turnover ratio.