3 steps to success: Can Washington put its stamp on the NFC East?

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The Redskins have more hope going into 2013 than the previous decade combined.

No team had more of a stark turnaround last season -- save for the Indianapolis Colts -- than the Washington Redskins as they went from the decade's divisional doormat to NFC East champions.

The Redskins are now looking to take the next step, but Washington has its work cut out in a tough division and even tougher conference ... but the talent in the nation's capital seems to be geared up for a legitimate run.

There are also many questions surrounding the Redskins, however, so it could be a challenge for Washington to repeat due to one of the tougher schedules in the NFL -- but that comes with winning a division.

3 Steps To Success

1. Staying grounded

The Redskins experienced a ton of success last season for a team not accustomed to playing important football past Thanksgiving. Washington started 3-6 before rattling off seven straight victories while showing some magical confidence. This group can't forget where it came from, and how hard it is to win consistently.

This also refers to staying committed to the running game, which was the second-most productive in the NFL according to Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings. Alfred Morris had a good case to be rookie of the year, if not for his teammate. Washington ran the more on than 50 percent of its offensive snaps last year. That also helped set up a devastating play action pass. In addition to its effectiveness, leaning on the run will help keep RGIII healthy.

2. London Fletcher

Fletcher is the leader of the defense and plays like a warrior, never missing a snap. At the ripe old age of 37, Fletcher recorded 137 tackles and five interceptions last season while proving that he's still one of the better linebackers in football. Now, the 38-year-old Fletcher needs to remain a force if the Redskins are going to continue building a strong defense.

3. Brian Orakpo raging

Orakpo is one of the most devastating pass-rushers in the NFL when health -- something he wasn't in 2012 as the former Texas Longhrons standout played just two games last season before being placed on injured reserve. Washington's playoff hopes will be boosted this year if Orakpo can have 10+ sacks.

3 Feats Toward Failure

1. Robert Griffin III and his knee

Griffin plays a wild style as he's not afraid of taking a hit downfield in order to pick up some yardage. That moxie is admirable, but this could eventually lead to major problems -- as evidenced last season when Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata injured Griffin. The Heisman Trophy winner says he'll be smarter, but he needs to prove it.

RGIII also needs to show that his knee is stable and ready to play for four months ... and maybe even more.

2. The final three games

Washington doesn't have the luxury of an easy late-season slate from the looks of thing as the Redskins final three regular season contests are at the Atlanta Falcons before hosting the Dallas Cowboys and then finishing in MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants. The Redskins will need to be up to the challenge in December if they want to be successful this season.

3. Regression for Alfred Morris

Morris took the league by storm last season, setting a franchise record for rushing yardage in his rookie season. It will be interesting to see if Morris can match or exceed his 4.8 yards per carry from 2012, however, because if Morris suffers from a sophomore slump there's a good chance that the Redskins will be in trouble against the better defenses.

Ultimate Answer

It would be a successful season for Washington if it wins a playoff game because the Redskins haven't won a postseason contest since 2005. Washington is a contender to make it out of the NFC and into the Super Bowl, but a fringe contender at this point with so many talented NFC teams.

Should Griffin and the boys take the next step by winning in the playoffs this year, it bodes very well for the future of this young team on the rise.

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