Washington Redskins: 10 Veterans Who Could Be on the Bubble
Mike Shanahan has developed many strategies upon his arrival as coach. One of them is competition. At almost every position, athletes on the roster have been competing with their teammates during training camp.
With a team like the Redskins, this is a great thing to have.
Without getting too negative, the Skins record has been poor, very poor. Sure there has been some great player development over the years, but they still aren’t winning ballgames, which is of the utmost importance.
In general, it appears the Redskins coaches play no favorites. Each player is treated the same and patience is often stressed.
With a youth movement taking over at Redskins Park, training camp will be a tryout to many veterans who could be fighting for their jobs, whether it’s due to poor play or contract issues. Either way, Skins fans might be saying goodbye to some of their favorite players.
Below is a list of 10 veterans who could be in that particular position. To avoid any controversy, I am not saying that these individual players will be released—I’m just evaluating the possibility.
Right Tackle, Jammal Brown
I can’t believe he’s still on the roster. His two seasons in Washington have been a disappointment. Despite his inefficient play, Brown received a contract extension last year as Redskins officials were hoping the former All-Pro tackle would recover from his lingering injuries.
Well that didn’t happen. Filling in for Brown, Tyler Polumbus performed decently and second-year pro Willie Smith showed some promise in limited duty as well.
In addition to that, due to the salary cap infractions, the Redskins will need to adjust their spending limit. Jammal Brown’s $27.5 million contract could certainly be a target.
Of course, if Brown enters training camp healthy, then it would be hard to imagine him not being the starting right tackle, but how many chances will the Skins give him?
Left Guard, Kory Lichtensteiger
Just how bad is Lichtensteiger’s knee? We don’t know that answer yet. Sure, we can all assume that the former left guard will be ready come training camp, but it’s going to be an uphill battle for any athlete who's suffered a knee injury of that magnitude.
To Lichtensteiger’s advantage, he doesn’t have much competition. Maurice Hurt will most likely be used in a reserve role despite earning some valuable playing time. Rookies Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis will have their hands tied as they get accustomed to playing professionally.
That being said, the NFL can be an acronym for “Not For Long” and an injury like that can certainly end a player’s career.
Wide Receiver, Santana Moss
Santana Moss might be one of the most unappreciated players in recent history. Standing fourth all-time in receiving yards in the franchise’s history, the undersized wide receiver has been frequently double-teamed and subjected to different offensive schemes and inefficient quarterback play pretty much upon his arrival in D.C. back in 2005.
Not to mention, the former speedster has transformed his game to a short-to-intermediate slot receiver as well as being a team leader.
Now onto the bad part: Santana is coming off of a rough year. He had some injury woes, he was outplayed by his veteran counterpart Jabar Gaffney and had a tough time separating from cornerbacks.
This offseason included a major upheaval in the receiver department. Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan were signed from the Colts and 49ers, up-and-coming second-year player Leonard Hankerson is recovering from a hip injury and second-year player Aldrick Robinson has been impressive in OTAs thus far.
So where does that leave Moss?
Well I will already pencil in Garcon as one of the starters and most likely Morgan opposite of him as Hankerson continues to recuperate. That would lead me to believe that Moss will be suited in the slot, which makes perfect sense.
At 32, Santana doesn’t have the legs to be every-down receiver anymore, putting him in spot duties and three-to-four-receiver sets seems sensible to me. However, similar to Jammal Brown, Santana is an aged veteran with a contract that can be dumped to remedy this salary cap debacle.
To Santana’s advantage, there’s not a proven slot receiver on the roster, so once again I consider this to be doubtful, but still speculative.
Tight End, Chris Cooley
For the record, I love Chris Cooley. How can any Redskins fan not like him? He’s the team’s all-time leader in receptions by a tight end. He’s made Pro Bowls, been great with the media and one of funniest players in the NFL.
Unlike many football players, Cooley has been humanized, whether it’s through his blog, his often-publicized marriage with a former cheerleader and his numerous radio appearances.
On the contrary, Cooley’s teammate and other tight end Fred Davis was the team’s best offensive weapon last year prior to his suspension. While Davis was putting up career numbers, Cooley was stuck on injured-reserve.
Similar to Jammal Brown and Santana Moss, Chris Cooley also has a hefty contract. In fact, he has the largest out of the three. Why would the Redskins pay Cooley a Pro Bowl-type contract if he’s not even the team’s No. 1 tight end?
It doesn’t make sense.
That leaves us three solutions: The first is that they release him. The second is they re-structure his contract, which of course is the most logical. Thirdly, they leave his contract as is.
One major aspect that needs to be noticed is the development of Niles Paul. The former wide receiver has received high praise from Mike Shanahan in his transition to tight end and could compete with Cooley for second on the depth chart.
That all being considered, I would like to see Cooley given a mulligan just like other guys on the roster. His production remains consistent as long as he’s healthy. Under one condition: he takes a pay cut. He’s a company man, one who I would hope is willing to oblige.
Kick/Punt Returner, Brandon Banks
This is not Brandon Banks’ first rodeo. He’s been on the bubble the moment he put on a Redskins uniform.
After an overall successful rookie campaign, Banks regressed in his second season. He once showed breakaway speed with the ability to take one to the house at anytime; Brandon lacked that sprinter’s speed this past season.
Banks’ biggest problem is his inability to play on offense. Technically he’s listed as a receiver, but his frame is too small to install him in the playbook. Therefore, he’s holding up a roster spot.
There’s no harm in bringing him back for training camp. His impressive performances are what kept him on the roster for the regular season, but this time he’ll have even more to prove.
Late-round picks Jordan Bernstine and Richard Crawford both have experience in the return game, as well as third-year receiver Terrence Austin. They might have the upper-hand due to their ability to play other positions.
Kicker, Graham Gano
How do I end up writing about the kicker in almost every article?
I’ll tell you why: More often than not, the Redskins are playing in close games, and more often than not the team has a chance to win with a nail-biting field goal. However, it’s been over a decade since the Skins had a placekicker who they can trust.
For those who have had read my previous articles, I’ve stated that Graham Gano certainly has the leg to do it, but mentally, he’s still struggling.
For the second year in a row, Gano will have competition in training camp, as the veteran Neil Rackers will challenge him for that position. Out of all the players mentioned in this list, Gano might face the most difficult task.
With all due respect to last year’s competitor Shayne Graham, Neil Rackers is of higher quality, having completed over 84 percent of his attempts last year.
Similar to last year, both will have plenty of opportunities in the preseason and I expect this to go down to the wire.
Wide Receiver, Anthony Armstrong
Two years ago, Anthony Armstrong was a Cinderella story (ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration). Armstrong came from nowhere, where he had previous experience in the Intense Football League.
In his first season under the Shanahan regime, Armstrong was a legitimate deep threat, which will presumably be a major aspect of the Robert Griffin offense.
Sadly, Armstrong regressed in his second season as he found himself buried on the depth chart even after injuries to Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson. The tape was out on Armstrong this year as he struggled to create separation downfield.
To Armstrong’s advantage, he can play special teams too, which might be his one chance at remaining on the roster.
Looking deep at the receiving corps, there are three players whose job is not on the line. That’s Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson. That leaves the rest to the previously mentioned Santana Moss, Anthony Armstrong as well as Terrence Austin and Aldrick Robinson.
If it were up to me, I would like Armstrong to remain a Redskin.
With his versatility and knowledge of the offense, I feel it would conducive to the young offense to have some veterans to lead by example. (Moss and Armstrong.)
Cornerback, Kevin Barnes
I had high hopes for Kevin Barnes last year. He had paid his dues on special teams in his first two seasons and learn how to play the safety position.
He earned the spot as the team’s nickel corner last year in which he was eventually replaced by veteran special-teamer Byron Westbrook.
Playing nickel corner is a vital role to the Redskins defense, or any defense for that matter. With the emerging presence of three-receiver sets on offense, the need for three starting-quality cornerbacks have been used to combat that.
Kevin Barnes has a lot of competition this year. Veterans Cedric Griffin and Leigh Torrence will be vying for the job. Second-year corner Brandyn Thompson will be given an opportunity and rookies Richard Crawford and Chase Minnifield may surprise some people.
Given Barnes’ versatility, his chances of remaining on the roster are favorable, but he may be used more often on special teams in comparison to being a part of the defense.
Safety, Madieu Williams
As a University of Maryland fan, I’m always rooting for the former Terps, however, Madieu Williams is not the same player he once was, having rarely seen the field last year in San Francisco.
This is the most open position (both free and strong safety for that matter) on the roster. Looking at the safeties currently on the roster, I only see two players who are guaranteed a roster spot: DeJon Gomes and Brandon Meriweather.
That leaves Reed Doughty, Tanard Jackson, Madieu Williams and rookie Jordan Bernstine left to battle it out. I give Doughty one of those spots, he can play both safety positions and be a major contributor on special teams. I give Tenard Jackson the other spot, given his familiarity with secondary coach Raheem Morris and his youth.
Jordan Bernstine looks like a valuable practice squad candidate.
As of now, it looks like Madieu Williams is the odd man out.
Cornerback, Cedric Griffin
Two years ago, I would have loved this signing. Prior to injuries and obvious aging, Cedric Griffin was once a reliable starter for Minnesota.
With the two starting positions locked up (DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson), Cedric Griffin will be competing with veterans, second-year players and rookies.
I currently given Leigh Torrence the upper hand due to his ability to play special teams, which Griffin has not done in the past.
Unless youthful corners like Brandyn Thompson, Chase Minnifield (who would have been a second or third-round pick if it weren’t for his injury concerns) or Richard Crawford turn out to be a steal, the Redskins are creating a bridge for that valued third corner role, which is something that can be addressed next year.