How can the Washington Redskins improve during the offseason as their franchise quarterback mends? Start game planning for a less mobile passer.
In most years, the Redskins become offseason champions by making a bunch of marquee personnel moves. But Washington is coming off its first NFC East crown in 13 years, so it won't do anything quite as dramatic.
The Redskins surely can improve the secondary, and the hope is that injured linebacker Brian Orakpo's return is an automatic upgrade to the pass rush. But considering its improvement over the final seven games, the defense probably won't undergo a radical change.
Neither will the offense. The receivers, who double as excellent downfield blockers, are a strong group when healthy, and running back Alfred Morris set the team's single-season rushing record. Maybe Washington will find a new right tackle, but the offensive line played much better than expected. It wasn't the reason Griffin was hurt.
The Redskins are still hampered by an $18 million salary cap sanction and have no first-round selection, so restocking won't come easily. They might be able to use the second-rounder on an offensive lineman or safety, but a best-player-available scenario should dictate the move.
Free agency probably won't include a big name, but there's room for a couple of good players. Now that Washington is winning, free agents might be more inclined to come here. Before, it was strictly money that lured them.
No matter what, the offseason is more about tweaking the roster than rebuilding. Washington can contend once more with this team without relying on a late seven-game winning streak.
But Griffin is the big uncertainty. First, it's unclear whether he even will play in 2013 after surgery to repair two knee ligaments Wednesday. Second, figuring how to let Griffin be Griffin without exposing him too often is vital. And, by the way, the Redskins need to have an offense that fits backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, too.
Griffin's concussion as he ran for the sideline against the Falcons was on him. He needed to learn that NFL players hit a whole lot harder than college players. Griffin was smarter after that about going for an extra yard. The knee injury came as he turned inside on a run, leading to a freak collision. The knee was then reinjured against Seattle in the playoff opener when he simply twisted to throw in the opposite direction. Then, of course, he crumpled while trying to retrieve a loose ball.
Griffin wasn't running wild or sacked when he was hurt, so it's too simple to say the Redskins need to keep him out of the running lanes and in the pocket. That's not how Griffin excels. He would be a decent quarterback without mobility, but Griffin is a great one when he runs as well.
So how do the two needs merge? Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan must limit the runs to critical downs. Griffin needs to protect himself better and shouldn't return until he's completely healthy even if that means missing a season.
It may be a slightly different offense once Griffin returns, but it needs to be anyway. Defensive coordinators will spend the offseason watching film, too. Griffin and Shanahan need to stay a step ahead.