Redskins roster analysis: Offense

September, 1, 2013
9/01/13
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Taking a look at the Redskins offense by position -- are they better or worse at each spot? No group suffered a drop off from a year ago, thanks in large part to every starter returning. It's not an aging unit, either, so the experience should help considering there were six new starters in 2012. It's real hard to make a case that any group suffered a drop off. In fact, I don't think any did.

Quarterbacks (4): Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman, Pat White

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsLed by Robert Griffin III, the Redskins appear to have a strong group at quarterback in 2013.
Note: White was the only surprise. He progressed throughout camp, but will his stay be short-lived? With Jarvis Jenkins and Rob Jackson suspended for four games, it’s doubtful the Redskins stick with four quarterbacks for too long. Still, he deserves a lot of credit for forcing his way onto the roster after starting at such a low point in the spring.

Better or worse than 2012: Better, mainly because Griffin and Cousins are a year older and therefore more advanced in the offense -- yes, that’s true even with Griffin coming off an injury. Now, the asterisk comes with Griffin's durability and it could take him a couple games to return to the dynamic player he was pre-injury. But he's a smart kid who will evolve as a passer, particularly in his ability to diagnose schemes sooner. And because of Cousins' emergence, this position is more sound. If Grossman is your No. 3 QB, you're doing well.

Running backs (5): Alfred Morris, Darrel Young, Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Chris Thompson

Note: No surprise that they kept five. Thompson deserved a spot, thanks to his speed and natural running ability. He sets up blocks well and can cut sharply. Yes he fumbled, but that’s a correctable issue. He’s still learning as a punt returner, but he’s dangerous once he gets started. And, again, his style is excellent. For a little guy with speed, he doesn't dance and doesn't try to hit the hole too hard. He's patient, then explodes. Royster was telling friends he was pessimistic about his chances. That was before a big final game against Tampa Bay, which helped him knock out Keiland Williams. The Redskins have some variety here: A standout rusher in Morris; a third-down back in Helu; change-of-pace guy in Thompson and insurance in Royster. This is, potentially, a strong group.

Better or worse than 2012: Better. Morris is a better runner; Helu is healthy and Thompson is a legitimate speed guy. And if something happens to either Morris or Helu, they at least know Royster can handle either role. Good depth here. Real good.

Receivers (5): Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson

Note: This is the fewest they’ve kept at this position under coach Mike Shanahan in Washington (though he kept as few as four on a couple occasions in Denver). Had Dez Briscoe not hurt his shoulder in the preseason finale he could have been on this list. But they likely will place at least one receiver (Nick Williams) on the practice squad. Lance Lewis is another possibility. As a unit I’m not wowed by them, but I’m also not underwhelmed, either. Garcon is excellent and Moss is a reliable and clutch target in the slot. They need Morgan and Hankerson to blossom at the Z receiver spot. Morgan needs to show he’s regained explosiveness lost in his 2011 ankle injury. Hankerson needs to show consistency. Robinson is an occasional threat behind Garcon. If something happens to Garcon, then this group doesn’t instill fear in the opposition. However, with receiving threats at tight end and running back, this group does not have to carry the passing game. And I like that each one knows the offense well; makes a difference.

Better or worse than 2012: Slightly better. If Garcon plays every game, then that’s a big help. But did the others look dramatically different than 2012? Debatable. Hankerson dropped too many passes in camp; Robinson looked better, but he did so last summer, too. Morgan looked more explosive on some cuts. If he can show that during the games, then this group will be better. Regardless, the passing game can flourish with what they have. The scheme gets receivers open.

Tight ends (4): Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul, Jordan Reed

Note: I’ll be curious to see how they develop this group in the passing game. Davis, once again, is playing for a contract and should get plenty of chances. Paul showed improvement as a blocker this summer and dropped one ball in training camp practices. Reed showed flashes this summer of what he could eventually become; he just needs time. Paulsen is Mr. Reliable; a strong-handed target and solid blocker. Having multiple tight ends can cause matchup problems for defenses. It can also help on plays such as the bubble screen, where you can split better blockers out wide in some cases (Paul).

Better or worse than 2012: Better. Paul has improved -- his footwork is better on blocks and, this summer, caught the ball well -- and Reed gives them terrific depth. Davis doesn’t appear to be affected much by last year’s ruptured Achilles. Paulsen is consistent.

Offensive line (8): Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Tyler Polumbus, Tom Compton, Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis

Note: The starting five was never really in doubt. Tony Pashos showed some positives at right tackle, but he did not move as well as Polumbus. Still, minus Pashos, they’ve left themselves with inexperienced backups. That doesn’t mean they can’t handle the job, but until you do it in a game it’s just speculation. There was noticeable improvement in both Compton and Gettis. LeRibeus? He had a chance to build on a good showing versus Seattle and instead failed to get in the necessary shape, setting himself back.

Better or worse than 2012: Same. The starting five’s consistency makes this group go. They work well together, a necessary trait in a zone-blocking scheme in which you need to know how the guy next to you handles certain combination blocks. Right tackle will again be scrutinized until Polumbus reduces the amount of pressures allowed. If he does, then this group can claim they were better than in 2012. Even with those issues last year the offense averaged 6.2 yards per play. The inexperienced depth is a concern – they’ve combined for zero starts and five games – or, at the least, bears watching. I'd say if something happens to Williams they're in trouble, but any team that would lose a Pro Bowl left tackle with his athleticism would suffer a big drop off.

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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