Dazzling NFL defenders and fans with the same intoxicating combination of speed, elusiveness and passing ability that led him to earn the 2011 Heisman Trophy, Robert Griffin III justified the Washington Redskins' aggressive trade up with a spectacular rookie season.
Unfortunately, the Redskins' worst fears were realized when Griffin suffered a major knee injury in a playoff loss to Seattle. He underwent surgery shortly thereafter to repair the torn ACL and LCL in his right knee. The rehabilitation can take upwards of a year.
Coach Mike Shanahan seems convinced that his star quarterback is going to be back sooner rather than later, however.
“[Griffin III] is over at the facility rehabbing all the time,” Shanahan said during a televised interview this week. “He's going to set a record for coming back because that's how hard he works.”
With Griffin hobbled, the Redskins are moving forward with the "other" quarterback whom they drafted last year, former Michigan State standout Kirk Cousins.
In the interview, Shanahan confirmed that Cousins would take all of the first-team snaps while the team waits for Griffin to heal.
“You're hoping [Griffin III]'s ready, but you can't really plan for him to be ready,” he said. “Robert will have a lot of reps, but it will be mental.
“He'll be in the film room watching people on the practice field during his rehab, but you can get a lot done mentally as well.”
With all of the attention heaped on the quarterbacks, not enough credit has been given to the Redskins' most reliable rookie last season, sixth-round pick Alfred Morris, who finished second behind only Adrian Peterson with 1,613 rushing yards.
Shanahan's dynamic, young offense helped hide a defensive unit that ranked 27th in the NFL last year in yardage allowed (377.7 yards per game). Optimism is high, however, that Washington will be improved in 2013 with the healthy return of pass rusher Brian Orakpo, who missed nearly all of last year with a torn pectoral muscle.
Adding depth behind Orakpo and fellow first-round pass-rusher Ryan Kerrigan will likely be a priority for the Redskins, as will be adding more consistency in the secondary. Considering the depth at safety and cornerback in this year's draft, the Redskins could be in good position to do so despite the fact that their first pick doesn't come until the middle of the second round. The Redskins gave up the rights to their 2013 first-round pick as part of the package to land Griffin.
Washington Redskins' 2013 draft picks: 51, 85, 119, 154, 162, 191, 228
Primary needs: S, ILB, OT, CB, OLB
General manager: Bruce Allen, fourth year
Five draft picks that clicked:
-- QB Robert Griffin III, 2nd overall, 2012
-- RB Alfred Morris, 173rd overall, 2012
-- OT Trent Williams, 4th overall, 2010
-- OLB Brian Orakpo, 13th overall, 2009
-- TE Fred Davis, 48th overall, 2008
Five players who should be on the Washington Redskins' draft radar:
Player, school (overall rating, position rating)
CB D.J. Hayden, Houston (62, 7): The Redskins have bigger needs at safety than cornerback but could fall in love with Hayden's upside if the fluid cover corner is still available at No. 51 overall. Hayden fell off the radar after he suffered a torn vein in his heart following a freak collision during practice this past season. Scouts loved his talent before the injury, giving him first- to second-round grades due to his agility, size (5-11, 190) and playmaking ability. Hayden played a role in 13 turnovers during his two seasons at Houston (six interceptions, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery), returned two of his four interceptions in 2012 for scores and has since been 100-percent medically cleared. Some believe he could even wind up in the first round.
FS D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina (97, 5): The Redskins lost Tanard Jackson to a season-long suspension for a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy last year, and his replacement (Madieu Williams) was a disappointment. With solid depth at the position in this year's draft, the Redskins could wait until the third round to find competition. They would likely be thrilled if the highly versatile Swearinger were still available at this point. He saw action all over the South Carolina secondary, showing better field speed than the 4.63-second 40-yard dash that he was credited with at the combine. Furthermore, Swearinger is a lights-out hitter with the fearlessness to handle a starting role immediately.
OLB/DE Cornelius Washington, Georgia (126, 12): When healthy, the combination of Orakpo and Kerrigan ranks among the better pass-rush duos in the NFL. But depth behind them is minimal. The 6-4, 265-pound Washington was a poor fit as a defensive end in Georgia's 3-4 scheme but turned heads at the combine by clocking in at 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash as part of one of the better all-around workouts. Most believe he fits in best as a developmental defensive end for 4-3 clubs, but scouts asked Washington to go through linebacker drills at his Pro Day. He possesses the combination of length and speed to intrigue in this role. As a developmental prospect for a club not needing to rush the process, Washington could prove a steal.
DT Josh Boyd, Mississippi State, (160, 14): With an investment made in former Patriots second-round pick Ron Brace to add depth at nose guard, the Redskins might feel they have enough talent already on the defensive line. Experienced, high effort run-pluggers, however, are always fashionable, especially if they can be found on Day 3. Boyd's production fell significantly in 2012 as the Bulldogs had to adjust to life without 2012 first-round pick Fletcher Cox, but Boyd is a four-year starter from the SEC who could step immediately in as part of the rotation.
ILB Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers (249, 10): Team captain London Fletcher has agreed to stretch his NFL career to at least one more season (his 16th). But with the depth behind him taking a hit with the loss of Lorenzo Alexander, the Redskins would be wise to add talent to the position. Beauharnais was overshadowed at Rutgers by Khaseem Greene, but the heady, physical defender (who showed better-than-expected overall athleticism at his Pro Day) could be an intriguing option late.