Washington Redskins: 5 Players Who Cannot Get Hurt in 2012
I know what you're thinking. You're going to click through to the end of the article and be greeted by a picture of Robert Griffin III. It's obvious that Griffin must remain healthy if the Washington Redskins are to succeed.
However, I am loath to opt for the obvious.
Since being drafted, the importance of Griffin to the Redskins has been etched into the minds of the team's fans, to the extent that it now actually goes without saying.
Although it's certainly true that so much depends on Griffin in 2012, I have instead chosen to focus my attention elsewhere, picking out five other players whose importance to the team goes beyond that of mere performance.
5. Josh Wilson
There has been very little talk of Josh Wilson this offseason, but the already patched up secondary would look far worse without him on the field.
Wilson was a consistent performer in his first year as a Redskin, and he has the ability to thrive under Raheem Morris.
While DeAngelo Hall continues to raise doubts about his abilities in coverage, Wilson goes about his play in a solid—if unspectacular—manner. His own coverage skills are good, and he has excellent instincts and the football intelligence to read plays and make interceptions.
Now, it may be that Redskins fans were expecting him to be a shutdown corner after his great year for the Ravens in 2010.
However, as we enter the new season with the secondary looking the way it does, there is a lot to be said for consistency, and Wilson offers a combination of dependability and skill that would be sorely missed.
4. Kory Lichtensteiger
Prior to his injury, Lichtensteiger was having a career year. The Redskins were 3-1 and there were optimistic whispers running through the fanbase, with the word “postseason” suddenly entering the conversation.
When he was ruled out of the final 11 games, the line struggled to gel.
Although the signings of Adam Gettis and Josh LeRibeus provided the team with much-needed depth along the line, their ability to step up and immediately perform is much less certain.
In order to give the new quarterback the chance to show what he is capable of, the offensive line must be consistent, and an ever-changing cast of players will not accomplish this.
If Lichtensteiger is lining up every week, it will always be a contest between opposing lines. That goes a long way in the NFL.
3. Brian Orakpo
Remove RG3 from the equation for a second, as well as the fact that it's a rookie year for the Redskins' quarterback. Who would you least like to lose?
If I had any money whatsoever, I would bet that Brian Orakpo figures highly in those thoughts.
In his Redskins blog, Rich Tandler made reference to a question posed to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett last year. Haslett was asked what Orakpo needed to do to rise to the level marked “elite”.
Haslett’s response was matter-of-fact, and right on the money:
I think he's got to understand that no matter where he lines up, they're going to have two guys on him. Either they're going to chip him or they're going to have two guys on him because they’re going to slide to him. And that's kind of (the) way it's been and he gets frustrated.
He's got to learn, like the other great rushers in the league, the Jared Allens or the [Dwight] Freeneys, they're always going to have two guys on them. He's not going to get around it and he's going to have to learn how to beat two guys.
What Jared Allen does particularly well is combine old-fashioned brute strength with a studious knowledge of modern pass-rushing techniques.
This ensures that he is never predictable, and can beat two players and battle through coverage to get to the quarterback—something that Orakpo certainly has the ability to emulate.
Now that Ryan Kerrigan is maturing, he and Orakpo should dominate games, and Orakpo should look to record double-digit sacks in 2012.
Orakpo should be entering the best years of his career, so any injury in 2012 would delay his ascent, affecting the ascent of the Redskins in the process.
2. Trent Williams
I know that I've taken Griffin out of the equation, but I'm going to bring him back for a minute.
I admitted that Griffin had to stay healthy in order for the Redskins to prosper in 2012, but in order for him to do that, Trent Williams has to step up and be the leader that he has built himself up to be. This means staying off the sidelines—and out of the headlines—for whatever reason.
There are massive expectations being heaped upon Griffin, and Williams summed up his role nicely when talking to Dan Graziano at the end of June:
…No one player makes the offense. It takes all 11, and if we're not doing our job, he won't do as well. But as long as we're doing our job and surrounding him with good examples of how to be a pro, he could be one of the best to ever do this."
In the same Graziano article, the writer quotes Kyle Shanahan as saying that Williams is one of the most talented guys he has ever seen. Occasionally Williams will show the rest of us that, too.
However, on other occasions he appears disinterested—switching off during games, getting beaten and giving up sacks.
Williams knows that he absolutely has to fulfill his potential this year—or he will find himself to blame for a large portion of the team's failures.
1. London Fletcher
Along with being the leader of the defense, London Fletcher is its beating heart. He has played in 224 consecutive games, so it's impossible to overestimate the damage that an injury to Fletcher would do to the Redskins.
Having led the league in tackles in 2011—and signed to a new contract in the offseason—Fletcher is showing no signs of deterioration as he passes his 37th birthday.
The rise of Orakpo and Kerrigan has afforded him teammates in whom he can trust—meaning that he is free to concentrate on his own game, relieving some pressure in the process.
Not content with being a leader on the field, Fletcher is a model professional off it, as well.
No DUIs and court battles with dubious women for Fletcher; instead he was voted the Bart Starr Man of the Year. It was certainly no coincidence that Robert Griffin’s locker was placed next to Fletcher’s.
The consistency that I mentioned earlier is going to be a huge factor this year if the Redskins hope to get the results to go with their potential.
For a human face to go with that call for consistency, look no further than London Fletcher.
Then start praying that he remains on the field.