Robert Griffin III went down with an injury on several separate occasions in 2012, and none of those was scarier than his season-ending ACL and LCL tears against the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the NFL playoffs.
Next season, the offense is going to have to adjust to avoid RG3 taking the kind of ruthless hits he did down the stretch in 2012 in order to prevent further injury.
The Washington Redskins completed a comeback season this year, surprising us all by overcoming a 3-6 start to finish on a seven-game tear, beat the Dallas Cowboys in the final game of the regular season and head into the postseason on a considerable hot streak.
RG3 then injured his knee badly in the second half against the Seahawks. He underwent successful surgery, and Dr. James Andrews is reportedly happy with the recovery process in his specific case (via CBS DC).
Built around RG3 and rookie running back Alfred Morris, the Redskins finished fifth in total offense. The pistol-based offense averaged 6.2 yards per play (tied with the New Orleans Saints for first in the NFL) and finished plus-17 in the turnover battle, largely because RG3 had just five interceptions and Morris had just four fumbles.
Still, the offense is in for a culture shift in 2013.
Head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have some decisions to make. For starters, how many times will RG3 have the chance to keep the ball in a read-option situation?
That play gained the Redskins a major advantage in 2012, but it also exposed Griffin to more hits from defensive linemen that are a good 100 pounds heavier than he is. For some, the decision is simple—utilize Morris more as a featured back, not just a complementary one.
Greg Aiello and Merril Hoge agree:
If Morris is more of the first-hand option in the running game, it allows both RG3 and his coaching staff to be passive-aggressive with his running abilities. What I mean by that is simple—Griffin is only a runner first when the team needs a jolt or the press box sees progression in some of the defensive tendencies.
It's not as if Morris was a slouch in 2012, either. He ran for over 1,600 yards, had over 300 carries and shouldered a big part of the workload. Unfortunately, he might have to do more to ensure that RG3 stays healthy for the duration of the season. Another option could be using Roy Helu or Evan Royster—both backs that have impressed at different points in their careers—more next season.
Washington is also going to have to shift to a more pro-pocket style for Griffin in the passing game. He has the arm and accuracy to oblige; the only problem is going to be convincing RG3 not to sacrifice his body as much when things break down.
Use the slide, RG3.
One of the ways Washington can convince Griffin III to stay in the pocket is by adding a playmaker that will open things up for the running game. Could Percy Harvin (or a similar player) be in Washington's future soon?
Will Brinson of CBS Sports speculated that Washington would be a likely landing spot for Harvin in a potential exit from Minnesota. While the Redskins lack draft picks and free-agent cap space, Harvin and RG3 would be one of the fastest QB-WR tandems in the game. Think of the option possibilities.
Brinson notes the same:
How many times last year did we see Santana Moss break a short screen pass from Robert Griffin III for big yardage? It felt like a ton and while Moss is fast -- oh-dear-god can you imagine Harvin catching those passes?
That is purely speculation on Brinson's part, but it's a huge tell to consider when thinking about what kind of weapons the Redskins might add to keep RG3 from doing it all himself.
Don't be surprised if Washington is active in picking up an offensive lineman or two in the 2013 NFL draft this year, especially after Trent Williams' fiasco at the Pro Bowl (h/t NESN).
It's clear that Washington needs to take some preventative measures against RG3 getting hurt again. The franchise gave up a ton (two first-rounders and more) to get him, and he proved to be worth that investment in 2012.
He won't be worth that investment from a rehab facility.
By giving Morris more responsibility in the running game, providing RG3 another weapon in the passing game and convincing him to save his body by staying in the pocket behind a solid offensive line, Washington can at least say it did its best in protecting a franchise player.
Shanahan can also show trust in backup QB Kirk Cousins—especially if RG3 tweaks his injury at some point this season. Cousins has earned that trust as a rookie.
But hey—injuries happen. All you can do is hope for the best, and prepare like a team protecting against obvious situations of a dangerous nature.
That should be Washington's goal in this offseason's planning period.