Chase Minnifield was a guy who made a lot of noise in camp last year, but those expecting a repeat of those actions would do well to temper their enthusiasm. Recent updates on Minnifield's progress have been encouraging, but the Washington Redskins cannot rely on him to answer any of the many questions surrounding the secondary.
For a while, it seemed like the Washington Redskins had unearthed someone who could make an impact as an undrafted free agent, and it prompted this writer to confidently state he would be the steal of 2012.
That never materialised, obviously, and Minnifield now faces the biggest challenge of his short career. It was impressive to see him overcome the odds once and force his way onto the roster—to do so again would be superhuman.
Minnifield has got a lot of talent, and his impressive camp performances saw him entered into discussions about the third corner on the depth chart. He looked agile and appeared to have great instincts, and reports emerging about him “playing mad” marked him out as one to watch.
An ACL tear—his second, also following on from microfracture surgery in January 2012—meant those reports were the highlight of his 2012 season, and he was forced to sit out the entire season and rehab his knee.
With the release of DeAngelo Hall and Cedric Griffin, the Redskins are worse off at cornerback despite the recent signing of E.J. Biggers. The draft is stacked with talent at corner and safety, so that's obviously a solution. A contribution from someone already on the roster would be even better, though.
There's no denying that Minnifield would be a huge asset, and many people are quick to name him as someone who can return and give the team a boost in the absence of draft picks. This year's Jarvis Jenkins, if you will.
After all, Robert Griffin III has had two ACL tears, and recent reports seem to indicate that he's the prototype for the T-800, so why can't Minnifield re-emerge as good as before?
It's not the ACL repair that's the worry, but the microfracture surgery.
When Minnifield spoke to John Keim at the Washington Examiner, he remained optimistic about his ability to get healthy for 2013. However, when Keim contacted Dr. Richard Lehman of the U.S. Center for Sports Medicine, Lehman was much more realistic in his diagnosis:
A guy who has microfracture and then tears his ACL and then you have to rehab that and it's your second rehab can only expect so much from the knee after that. It will only recover so well. You have weakened the knee and you can expect there to be further problems and difficulty getting back to 100 percent. ... What happens is you get weakening of the joint and you're at risk for further injury and at risk for early arthritis.
While this would appear to be a worst-case scenario, the Redskins would be unwise to rely on Minnifield to contribute much in 2013. At this stage, anything he can give the team would be incredible, but the front office has to plan for the season as if the young corner doesn't exist.
It may seem harsh, but the situation in the secondary absolutely demands it. The team cannot afford to pin any hope at all on a corner with no NFL experience, coming off his second ACL tear and currently experiencing a problem with the healthy knee used to repair the injured one.
The fact that Minnifield remains on the team speaks of how highly he is valued among the Redskins coaches. With good reason, too—remember, this is a guy who John Keim noted had no trouble keeping up with Pierre Garcon last year, intercepted Rex Grossman and never looked overmatched against the starting receivers.
Minnifield has shown enough to make people believe in him for 2013, despite not playing any NFL minutes in his rookie year. There's not a lot of UFAs who inspire that sort of loyalty, and it's not even as if the Redskins have much invested in him.
However, his return must be set at a realistic pace, much like Griffin's. Minnifield may be optimistic about his recovery, but he also told the world in 2012—via NEPatriotsDraft.com—that he was fully recovered in 2012 and to prepare for a special combine showing.
Everyone is rooting for Minnifield to make it in the NFL, but he can't be burdened with the problems affecting the secondary right now. If it takes him most of 2013 to get back on the field, so be it. He deserves the chance to prove himself, and this could well be his last one. It has to be done right.
Let him heal, then watch him fly.