Washington Redskins: Stock Up, Stock Down for Key Players Heading into Camp
It's been an interesting offseason for the Washington Redskins, but the arrival of training camp signals that it is drawing to a close.
Soon we will be able to forget the cap penalty—for a year at least—stop debating whether the front office gave up too much for Robert Griffin III or Pierre Garçon, and judge the team solely on their football.
That time is not quite here, however, and there are still chances for players to make some noise ahead of the season.
As any college athlete hoping to be drafted will attest, there are many ways to affect your stock in the eyes of potential employers. On-field performance is always the best way to get noticed, while off-field controversy is the quickest route to anonymity.
While there is a certain amount of comfort to be taken from their contracts, NFL players are by no means exempt from the same fate. Training camp is an interesting time in the year when fortunes can change almost daily.
These Redskins already know how that feels.
Stock Up: Jarvis Jenkins
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While it may be easy to suggest that getting anything from Jenkins this year would be an improvement on 2011, his recovery from a torn ACL has been under scrutiny.
This scrutiny only amplified after the Redskins gave up their second-round pick this year to seal the Grffin deal.
Since Jenkins himself was a second-round pick in 2011, the easy conclusion to arrive at is that he will be the additional selection this year.
The signs have been good so far, and the pressure on Jenkins to produce and fill the gap in this year's draft hasn't affected his development.
Both London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo were impressed by Jenkins' contribution when they talked to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, and Mike Shanahan was equally enthusiastic when talking to the same writer:
"We’ve been working the heck out of Jarvis to see if he’s in football shape. He’s got a little brace on his knee, but he’s been taking all the reps and doing extremely well, so hopefully there’s no setback.”
Assuming that he makes it through the rigors of training camp intact, Jarvis Jenkins will immediately strengthen the rotation of the defensive front seven and has the speed and strength to bulldoze through the offensive line and get to the quarterback.
Creating pressure is where he should excel, and if he can get three or four sacks in key situations, Adam Carriker may find himself looking over his shoulder more than he would like.
Stock Down: Fred Davis
Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
The suspension was put behind him, and he was adamant that lessons had been learned.
Although this latest incident is 18 months in the past, the fresh negative publicity that Davis received has only added fuel to the fire of the doubters who maintain that he can't be trusted.
The case is unlikely to affect his place on the team, but it leaves Davis with further work to do. If he was serious about making amends to his teammates for his suspension, there is now a section of the fan base who will also need convincing of his commitment.
This means that Davis will have to have an exceptional 2012 to prove to everyone that these sorts of incidents are behind him. He was on course for a 1,000-yard season last year, and he will need at least that to live up to his potential as one of the top five tight ends in the league.
He can do it, that's never been in question. Davis is an exceptional player with an innate ability to stretch the field and create huge problems for opposing defenses. If he has the career year that he's been threatening, everything will be forgiven.
After that, the Redskins will have to work out a way to afford him in 2013.
Stock Up: Niles Paul
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Since switching from wide receiver to tight end, Niles Paul has been riding a wave of encouraging appraisals.
When talking to Tom Schad at the Washington Times, Mike Shanahan compared him to Shannon Sharpe, then Chris Cooley and Logan Paulsen followed up with similar comments to the same writer.
With Cooley still trying to recover from injury—looking noticeably slower in the process—and Davis continuing to dominate headlines for the wrong reasons, the door is certainly open for Paul to earn the Sharpe comparison.
The key feature in this will be to determine the level of Paul's blocking ability. Cooley remains the Redskins' best blocking tight end, so the level of Paul's contribution will largely be determined by his ability to emulate this.
Despite this, Davis remains at the top of the depth chart, but with a good performance in training camp, Paul could leapfrog Cooley ahead of the season opener against the Saints.
Stock Up: Tim Hightower
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After voicing their concerns about the durability of Roy Helu, Pro Foootball Weekly stated that Tim Hightower is the favorite to take the role of No. 1 running back in 2012.
Now, that term is a little looser with the Redskins than a lot of other teams. In the past, Mike Shanahan has gone with whichever guy has the hot hand, and I don't expect this year to be any different.
Ben Standig reported for CSN Washington that Alfred Morris is stepping up to the role of typical Shanahan back and impressing with his catching—as well as providing some useful versatility along the way.
Despite this, it's unlikely that he climbs to the top of the tree, and Hightower's experience and ability in pass-protection will keep him ahead.
Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme has the potential to elevate all running backs to new levels, so there's every reason to expect each player getting plenty of carries in 2012.
However, right now it seems that Hightower will be the one handed the ball first..
Stock Down: Josh LeRibeus
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With the news that Robert Griffin III had worked out the details of his contract—and signed it—Josh LeRibeus remained the only Redskin absent from training camp.
LeRibeus has since signed his contract, but the time lost affects his stock much more than Griffin's.
Griffin's safety net—despite being absent from the first couple of days of rookie camp—was that he knew the offense was being tailored around him, so he could return to camp to find it in a similar state to how he left it.
In the meantime, Cousins would get valuable experience and nothing new would be practiced until Griffin came back.
LeRibeus did not have this luxury. Having played very little zone at Southern Methodist, LeRibeus needed all the reps he could get in an unfamiliar system in order to force his way into contention.
It's likely that last year's undervaluing of Terrell McCLain and Nate Irving under the new CBA had a knock-on effect on the third-rounders this year, as indicated in Tim Graham's report for BuffaloNews.com.
LeRibeus needed to get his deal done before camp—he showed a lot of promise in OTAs, but his absence for the first few days may hinder his progress before the start of the season.
Stock Holds Firm: Evan Royster
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It might be a little bit of a cop-out to include someone whose fortunes have essentially remained the same, and I could have easily included most of the team under that banner or focused on someone like Chris Cooley, who seems to fall more out of favor with each passing day.
However, in the interests of making this article sufficiently different from one I wrote after OTAs, I've selected a guy whom I haven't quite made my mind up about, at least in terms of his position within the 2012 Redskins.
What's my problem, you may be asking? Bizarrely enough, considering the limited NFL time he's had, it's with his ceiling.
Take Roy Helu, for instance. Watching him, he's got the ability to change a game with one play, and his athleticism makes up for his inexperience. Royster doesn't have the freakish athleticism to carry him through, so he's made up for it with excellent vision and timing.
These are great attributes to have, and they will serve him well in his NFL career, but since they are things that rookies usually develop after a few years in the league, I wonder how much more Royster will progress.
I'm not down on him by any means, and I think he'll have a great career as a role player in the Redskins' backfield, but there's there are some things being said that tout him as the feature back in 2012, and I just don't see it happening.
Of course, I should know better than to second-guess Shanahan when it comes to running backs, so look for me to be proved wrong by Week 5.