Breaking Down the Washington Redskins' Rookie Class After the Preseason

Tom NataliCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2012

Breaking Down the Washington Redskins' Rookie Class After the Preseason

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    Good teams out there can’t just hit on their first-round pick, they need production out of every round over time. They need guys who can play a role not only on game days, but in practice, preparing the veterans for their opponents.

    As we are less than a week away from playing in New Orleans, the Redskins had an impressive preseason. They had some ups and downs, but overall seemed to gel as a team.

    Unlike last year, this year’s batch of rookies had a full offseason to prepare themselves for the upcoming season and it's clearly paid off.

    Considering last year’s success with the draft class, it’s hard to imagine Mike Shanahan and company doing that again. However, it could very well happen.

    We were able to get long looks at just about all nine selections this preseason and almost all of them had positive results.

    They showed physicality and versatility, and I believe all of them to be collectively precocious with no major injuries, which is a huge plus.  

    Below you will find a breakdown of each rookie drafted by Mike Shanahan this year.

Robert Griffin III

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    Well this one is pretty self-explanatory. He’s the unquestioned starter. He’s already the face of the franchise and has the weight of every Redskins fan on his shoulders.

    That all being said, RGIII had a good preseason—not great, but good. He seemed to have a good understanding of the offense and is developing a positive rapport with his pass-catchers, most notably Pierre Garcon.

    I was a bit concerned that he was inaccurate on his deep passes, which was considered a strength of his coming out of college. I still like the aggressiveness though.

    He also held on to the ball for too long against the Bears. Doing something like that is going to injure your quarterback. He seemed to make the adjustment the following week against the Colts, however.

    Robert Griffin is going to have a bad game, because every player at some point is going to have one of those days. However, I can only assume Mike Shanahan will have a lot of patience with the youngster.

    This is still a youthful team that hasn’t won games yet. All I’m saying is that everyone (including myself) needs to relax and not freak out if he’s not dominating in fantasy football.

    I would rather him go 18-32 and two interceptions and win than him go 30-35 and 300 passing yards and lose. Winning is the only thing that matters and Griffin doesn’t care how it’s done–nor should he.

Josh LeRibeus

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    When the Redskins were approaching the third round, I knew they needed to address the interior of the offensive line.

    So I was pleased to see that particular position selected, however, I knew nothing about the former guard out of SMU.

    I really don’t see LeRibeus getting much playing time this season, barring any injuries. Kory Lichtensteiger is coming back from his knee injury and Maurice Hurt is ahead of him on the depth chart.

    He had a solid preseason, but didn’t really stick out. In fact, no one really stuck out on the offensive line besides Trent Williams, which is a huge concern for me (that’s an understatement too).

    Being a mid-round pick like LeRibeus, that’s okay for him to essentially “redshirt” this year. He’s in the process of learning both guard and center and versatility like that is valued.

    Give him a year to learn Kyle Shanahan’s system and transition to life in the NFL.

Kirk Cousins

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    I remember when the Redskins drafted Cousins back in March and I was thinking to myself: Ideally, we could eventually use Cousins as trade bait similar to Matt Cassel or Kevin Kolb.

    Not right now, but Cousins is starting material. He was more than impressive in the preseason. He’s tremendously poised, deceivingly athletic and a great teammate.

    Given Rex Grossman’s familiarity with the offense, I don’t see Cousins surpassing him as the second stringer behind RGIII.

    That all being considered, did Shanahan need to draft him in the fourth round? Absolutely not, there were still holes at offensive tackle and the secondary positions. Shanahan, however, was adamant on taking the best available, which is something successful teams are notorious for doing.

    We really don’t know how the Kirk Cousins selection will play out and we won’t find out for at least a couple of years.

Keenan Robinson

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    Keenan Robinson will be an inside linebacker. Those two starting positions are set (London Fletcher and Perry Riley) and their backup (Lorenzo Alexander) probably won’t be supplanted either.

    Robinson will need a year (or two) to develop, earn his playing time with effective special teams play and learning under London Fletcher, which is exactly what Perry Riley did.

    I like Robinson’s upside a lot. He’s agile for his size and is coming from a similar defense at Texas. Even though I don’t see him pulling off substantial dividends this season, he’s a great project.

Adam Gettis

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    After Chris Chester’s injury, Adam Gettis gained some great experience as the team’s starting right guard against some very good defenses.

    Despite that experience, Gettis is not ready to start. He certainly struggled in limited action and is best served as a backup—similar to Josh LeRibeus.

    Personally, I thought Gettis would have had higher value on the practice squad; however, the Redskins deemed it to be too risky to place him on waivers.

Alfred Morris

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    This year’s draft class biggest outlier: What are we to make of Alfred Morris? Remember who dominated in last year’s preseason? Yeah that was Tim Hightower, who is currently out of a job.

    Even though Hightower is suffering from a lingering knee injury, his release says a lot about what Mike Shanahan and the coaching staff feel about Morris and the rest of the running backs.

    I initially thought Alfred Morris was heading down the Evan Royster trail by stashing him on the practice squad for half of the season and then bringing him on.

    Morris made that decision for Redskins coaches easy, he was simply too good.  Other than RGIII, Morris could have a substantial role as a starter.

    I love his powerful running style too. It complements the speed of Roy Helu and the decisive one-cut running attack of Evan Royster. So you got your momentum swinging, change of pace back in Helu. You have the grind it out, control the possession style in Royster and now you have the smashmouth, short-yardage style of Morris.

    The only issue is that he’s a running back in a Mike Shanahan offense, so we really have no idea what the situation is. Either way, we’ll see Alfred Morris with a 20-plus carries, 100-yard performance sooner or later.

Tom Compton

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    Mike Shanahan obviously wanted a veteran to play the swing tackle role (Jordan Black) and the organization lucked out that they were able to keep Tom Compton on the practice squad.

    Coming from the DI-AA or FCS ranks, Compton will need some time to develop, especially being a late-round pick.

    That said, I thought he had an impressive preseason. He managed to stay balanced in pass protection and engage defenders at an acceptable pace.

    I’m not too confident in Jordan Black as the team’s primary backup tackle, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Compton promoted at some point this season.

Richard Crawford

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    Richard Crawford is the reason why Kevin Barnes is now in Detroit. Other than RGIII and Alfred Morris, Crawford impressed me the most.

    He showed his versatility by playing both the outside and slot positions as a cornerback and also had some productive punt returns.

    He had a couple of interceptions, which is something the Redskins need to improve on tremendously this year.

    DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson have locked up the two starting positions, but Cedric Griffin was outplayed by Crawford in the preseason. It was Griffin’s seniority that got him that role initially.

    Don’t be surprised to see Richard Crawford on defense a lot this year. Not bad for a seventh-round pick out of SMU.

Jordan Bernstine

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    Similar to his Iowa teammate, I thought Bernstine was destined for the practice squad given the influx of safeties on the roster.

    With the suspension of Tanard Jackson, Bernstine found himself in a roster spot. The Redskins went with five safeties and four corners this year, which is rare. Note that Bernstine played both safety and cornerback in college, but is technically listed as a safety.

    Bernstine had an impressive preseason too, as he was very impressive against the run. He reminds me of another No. 48–Chris Horton.

    If Bernstine gets any playing time this year, I don’t see it going beyond special teams, which is realistic considering he was a seventh-round pick.