Recently, Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman sat down with veteran NFL writer Don Banks from SI.com to discuss his in-depth preview of the Redskins' season ahead.
As always, Banks gave very candid answers, some of which may surprise fans of the Washington Redskins. For more of his great content, follow along on Twitter, @DonBanks.
Q: How important is getting a win in Week 2 vs. Green Bay?
Don Banks: "An 0-2 start statistically puts you in a hole. Lambeau is always a tough place to play and it's better to visit in September. Green Bay is coming off a really tough game against San Francisco. The short week and then going to Green Bay really makes it a challenging start for Washington.
"If you look at the schedule, you see the Eagles and Chip Kelly's offense is the unknown. Then that stretch in late October where they go at Denver, home against San Diego, at Minnesota on a short week for Thursday Night and then at Philadelphia. That's difficult. Then San Francisco coming in the following Monday Night. They need to have some wins in the bank going into that stretch if they are going to have 9-10 wins."
Q: We didn't have much of a taste of the gameplan in Week 1. What do you expect the offensive identity to be this year?
Don Banks: "They know what they do well and what we saw in the seven-game win streak was pretty much what they are hoping for. They need a tighter secondary than what we saw last year. If they can get that front-seven, if they can get Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Rob Jackson really creating pressure I think it helps the entire defense.
"They can play a brand of ball where they do try to shorten games with the running game and try to keep constant pressure on the opposing offense which should create some turnovers. It's a little different not drastically different and it's going to start with RGIII and his ability to make plays on the move."
Q: Since you bring it up, how much mobility should we expect to see out of Robert Griffin III this season?
Don Banks: "I think they'll do that in time I don't think they are going to maximize him mobility this early in the season. I think it's an air of caution that has descended in light of his injury. I wrote that it wouldn't be the craziest idea in the world to try to ride Alfred Morris' shoulders early in the season.
"I do think that maximizing his mobility may not be there upmost concern early on. There is a fine line that you can't take him completely out of the game that makes him affective. There is probably room in there for them to lower the number of play calls that would put Robert in any real open space. "
Q: Everyone knows Alfred Morris will be key to the team's success again this year. What are your expectations for an encore performance?
Don Banks: "He could get better this year and not rush for the number of yards he did last year. I do think he is that rare guy that is not going to take that attitude that I have arrived. In training camp Shanahan couldn't say that enough and obviously the way he lives his life, his car, his choices , screams that he takes nothing for granted. In fact that it was the focus of the team preview that I wrote that Morris wants to get better.
"He was trying to work on his pass catching. He was trying to give them something of an option to keep him on the field on third down, give them a little more confidence in his hands and his ability to run routs. I think that Shanahan is absolutely convinced that he is a guy is going to be a great running back for how long who knows but he thinks he's one of the special ones that he's had. His ability, his vision, to hit the hole, hit it quickly and run north and south. He thinks Morris is a guy that from preseason last year is destined for greatness. His track record on the running back front is solid.
"I think Morris is going to have another huge year for the Redskins. I don't know if he is going to have the same amount of yardage but I don't think he is going to have a drop off season whatsoever."
Q: How much does the Redskins' defense of the NFL rushing title rely on No. 46, and how much will fall to the other talented backs around him?
Don Banks: "I think they're going to ride him. I think that Shanahan believes that he is the kind of guy that could put 3-5 years of real dominating types of running together. He didn't say Terrell Davis to me, he didn't say that we don't need anybody else around him because these days you do want a change of pace type threat on third down.
"You do want a guy that can pick up a game or two in case of injury to the number one. I think they have a real high confidence level that he is going to really carry the mail for them for the next three to four years."
Q: One of the biggest concerns heading into 2012 was the offensive line, who seemed to perform very well. Was that a product of improved play or the playmakers around them?
Don Banks: "I think it's the latter, but they at least got consistent. Certainly when you have a running back like Morris it helps a line. Once you get the running game going a line loves to run the ball. It feeds their confidence. I think it had to do with Griffin's playmaking and Morris' consistent five-yards-a-carry type of threat, not losing yardage, not being tackled after first contact.
"I thought that line a little bit overachieved, based on the guys they were blocking for in those two very specific cases. Now, they may take that confidence into this season and continue to play like they know they've got two premier playmakers to protect and to block for. But I thought the success was more the product of the playmakers than the line itself."
Q: In two months, who will we be talking about as far as Pro Bowl players on the Redskins?
Don Banks: "I do think [Brian] Orakpo is going to come back with a bit of a vengeance. Clearly he has been motivated I think he is eager to make up for in essence a lost year. It's interesting, talking briefly to [defensive coordinator Jim] Haslett in camp, he really thought that he left a lot of sacks on the field in a 2011. I think he's going to hit double digits/ low teens and it's going to benefit [Ryan] Kerrigan.
"Once the suspension is over, Rob Jackson can help and they can ride that pass rush and if they can get the running game and the front-seven, playing stifling defense. It will really take some pressure off Griffin III.
"If there is a perfect blue print for Washington, it's the running game, the pass rush with the front-seven, and it's not making Robert do too much."
Q: What are the Redskins chances of repeating as NFC East division champions in 2013?
Don Banks: "I look at the schedule, and it's strange because I like this team a lot more than I did last year at this time. I don't think I'm going to have Washington in the playoffs; I think I have them at a 9-7 pushing all the way, challenging all the way up until Week 17.
"I'm going to have the NFC East once again, the top three teams separated by two games which has been the case in the last two years. I think I'm picking Dallas."