Rick Snider: Redskins have cornerstones in place for future playoff run

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The blueprint starts with a top quarterback, running back, pass rusher and kicker. The Washington Redskins' revival includes three first-year players as cornerstones.

The Redskins (5-6) likely still don't have enough playmakers to outlast the New York Giants (7-4) -- whom Washington plays on Monday at FedEx Field -- for the NFC East title. But this season may be the foundation for future playoff runs.

Washington filled three major long-term voids in quarterback Robert Griffin III, running back Alfred Morris and kicker Kai Forbath. Most years the team was lucky to find one playmaker, but this time it gained three. While Griffin cost a king's ransom to obtain, Morris was a sixth-rounder and Forbath a free agent.

Plus, Ryan Kerrigan, their best healthy pass rusher, is only in his second year.

The luck went Washington's way for once.

A big receiver is valuable, but a 1,400-yard back is more productive. A shutdown cornerback is golden but not as much as a sack master. A speedy returner changes the game, but a kicker clinches it.

And nothing beats a good quarterback.

Great Redskins teams always had the four cornerstones. The 1970s featured quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, running back Larry Brown, kicker Mark Moseley and defensive tackle Diron Talbert.

The three Super Bowl champions under Joe Gibbs from 1982 to 1991 varied, but the first quartet of quarterback Joe Theismann, running back John Riggins, defensive end Dexter Manley and Moseley ranks as the team's best ever.

Griffin has been phenomenal. He has two rookie of the month awards and is in the league MVP discussion. He was supposed to be great as the team's most hyped draft pick ever, but he has exceeded even those lofty expectations. Griffin is coming off back-to-back four-touchdown efforts in wins over Philadelphia and Dallas in five days.

Morris is a surprise, though. He opened training camp as the fourth running back, but injuries gave him a chance. Morris is now 18 yards short of 1,000 this season and 82 from eclipsing Reggie Brooks' team rookie record of 1,063. A 1,400-yard season seems possible. Maybe Griffin's mobility gives Morris some added room other passers wouldn't provide, but the running back grinds away by himself, too.

Kickers are often overlooked until they start missing field goals. And Redskins kickers have missed often, with Forbath becoming the team's 20th kicker since 1994. It's too early to know whether he's a long-term solution, but making his first 10 kicks is impressive. Forbath's simple approach may help him avoid slumps caused by overanalyzing.

Kerrigan, meanwhile, finally is re-emerging. He had few big plays right after fellow pass-rushing linebacker Brian Orakpo suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2.

Maybe the group isn't quite ready for the playoffs right away, but at least Washington's base was established this season with young talent.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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