Season Preview: Washington Redskins

Sports Mole looks at the Washington Redskins ahead of the start of the 2013 NFL season.

The Washington Redskins will be attempting to win the NFC East for the second year in a row when the 2013 NFL season gets underway this week.

Mike Shanahan's side face divisional rivals the Philadelphia Eagles in their opening game of the campaign.

Sports Mole takes a closer look at the team.

Head coach: Mike Shanahan took charge of the Redskins in 2010, leading the team to a last-placed finish in their division in his first two years at the helm. However, the arrival of quarterback Robert Griffin III last season allowed Shanahan to take his team to the playoffs for the first time. In the past, he has proved that he has the ability to turn a team around in a short space of time. In the 1990s, he turned the Denver Broncos from AFC West strugglers into back-to-back Super Bowl champions in just four seasons.

Last season: 10-6

Review: After a promising win over the New Orleans Saints in week one, the Washington Redskins struggled in the early part of the season, winning just three of their first nine games. A week-10 bye allowed the team to re-group, winning their final seven games of the regular season to give them the NFC East title, and their first playoff appearance since 2007. In the wildcard round of the playoffs, the Redskins struggled against the in-form Seattle Seahawks. More worrying than the defeat was the knee injury sustained by Griffin in that game, which many feared could prevent the offensive rookie of the year from starting the 2013 season.

Notable Ins: Having brought in many new faces last summer, there were few off-season signings for the Redskins this year. However, the Skins did secure the services of outside linebacker Darryl Tapp from NFC East rivals the Philadelphia Eagles. Tapp was used sparingly during his last season with the Eagles, but over his seven-season career in the league he has made 257 tackles, 24 sacks and nine forced fumbles. The Redskins will have plenty of players returning from injury as well, including tight end Fred Davis and linebacker Brian Orakpo, both of whom missed the majority of 2012 with injuries.

Notable Outs: Safety Madieu Williams was released at part of the team's final cuts last week. The 31-year-old was productive during his only season with Redskins, making 66 tackles, a sack and an interception. Despite this, the Redskins chose to keep rookie Bacarri Rambo on their roster, while Tanard Jackson is eligible to return from suspension. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander also left as a free agent, despite being offered a new contract by the team. The 30-year-old instead chose to sign a three-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

Key Player Offense: Robert Griffin III: The team's starting quarterback proved a handful for defenses during his first season in the league. Having passed the final medical checks on his surgically reconstructed knee, RG3 is set to start the Skins' opening game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday. Last season, Griffin was a threat at both passing and rushing, finishing the season with 3,200 passing yards, 20 touchdown passes, 815 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.

Key Player Defense: London Fletcher: At 38, London Fletcher had considered retiring after the 2012 season. However, the oldest non-special teams player in the NFL decided to return for his 16th season in the league. The inside linebacker has not missed a regular season game since being drafted by the St Louis Rams in 1998, and showed no signs of slowing down last season, making 78 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and five interceptions in 2012.

Rookie to watch: David Amerson Washington used their first pick in this year's Draft to select North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson. The 21-year-old has spent the majority of the training camp working with the team's starters, and made seven tackles during the team's pre-season games. The Redskins have injury concerns at cornerback, which could see the second-round pick called upon early in the season.

Pre-season form: The Redskins were unbeaten during their four pre-season games, narrowly beating the Tennessee Titans in their opener, before securing comfortable victories over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

2013 prediction: If Robert Griffin III can return from his knee injury in a similar form to that which he reached in 2012, then the Redskins have an excellent chance of winning their division and making the playoffs again.

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Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan on January 6, 2013
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