7 Players the Washington Redskins Can Least Afford to Lose in 2013
This year's NFL draft offered only a brief respite from the perpetual spotlight glued to Robert Griffin III and his recovery from knee surgery. Speculation about his Week 1 readiness has opened the door for concern that he may not be in tiptop shape come opening day.
Griffin's absence would be a critical blow to the playoff hopes of the Washington Redskins, but there's more to the team than just RG3.
For a moment, assume that Griffin is, as his Adidas ad will have everyone believe, all in for Week 1. Who else on the roster can the Redskins least afford to lose?
Honorable Mention: Alfred Morris, RB
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Alfred Morris found himself in the perfect situation as a rookie: Thrust into the starting role due to Roy Helu's injury; playing for Mike Shanahan, who pulls 1,000-yard backs out of his hat; and playing alongside one of the most dynamic players the NFL has seen in recent years.
As important as Morris is, as seemingly unstoppable as he has shown himself to be, this is still a Mike Shanahan offense, and an unsung rookie or second back could be a happenstance away from 1,000 yards.
It is difficult to consider the idea that someone else could have rushed for 1,613 yards and finish the season as the second-leading rusher in the NFL. Morris came out of nowhere and created his own legend while reinforcing Shanahan's existing legacy.
His spirit is irreplaceable, but it is just as difficult to decide if his breakout season was a product of sheer ability, or Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme.
Fred Davis, TE
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His breakout season was cut short as a result of a drug suspension. His follow-up season was cut short as a result of a torn Achilles midway through the season. Needless to say, Fred Davis has a lot riding on his one-year show-me deal.
However much Davis needs to have a big season, the Redskins offense needs Davis more, if only to show progression from last season.
The success of Washington's offense was the read-option that kept defenses guessing, opened up passing lanes, play-action and huge running lanes. If defenses, after seeing Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and RG3 in Washington, have adjusted to the wrinkle, a strong tight end will help immensely.
Behind Davis is a solid, if unproven, group of tight ends. Rookie Jordan Reed is an intriguing prospect, but hasn't played a single down to earn the respect of being considered a suitable replacement for Davis.
Kai Forbath, K
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The revolving door of kickers finally came to a stop last season, with Kai Forbath not only nailing the makable kicks others had missed, but also making every single one of his 11 attempts from beyond 40 yards.
He hasn't had a chance to build on his unexpected first season with the Redskins, but losing him to an injury would be just as bad as a disappointing return.
For comparison, Billy Cundiff, who started the season as the Redskins kicker, missed both of his attempts from beyond 50 yards, one attempt between 40 and 49 yards and two attempts between 30 and 39 yards. He finished his tenure with Washington having made a pathetic 58.3 percent of his kicks.
David Amerson, CB
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Untested rookies are a difficult commodity to assess, and David Amerson is no different. He starts his NFL career likely as the third cornerback, with the potential to surpass at least Josh Wilson as the second starter alongside DeAngelo Hall.
Amerson's 13 interceptions as a sophomore showed his tremendous ball skills, and though he has yet to play a single down for the Redskins, losing him would leave the secondary almost precisely where it was last season.
Drafting Amerson was among the best moves the Redskins made this offseason, since it addressed a pressing need and increased the potential for turnovers. Even though he's an unknown at this stage in his career, the need he filled would once again be vacant if he got hurt.
Pierre Garcon, WR
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Though he would be considered the third weapon on the offense behind Morris and Griffin, Pierre Garcon, if healthy, could have been near the top of the NFL receivers. He really played just one half at full strength, catching four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in the season opener, but still outran defenders with a hobbled foot down the stretch.
Losing Garcon, or getting a hobbled Garcon for most of the season, would be a terrible blow to an offense that needs to evolve.
Without a healthy elite receiving threat, Washington's offense must again rely on Morris and Griffin, likely putting more pressure on the duo to recreate their rookie success. It is concerning for Griffin considering it is that same pressure, the emphasis on the threat he poses, that saw him hit so many times throughout 2012.
Trent Williams, LT
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Even though the right tackle position was the primary weakness on the offensive line last season, there is a spectrum of hope that it will improve in 2013. What everyone knows, and expects, is that Trent Williams will improve and truly lock down the left tackle position.
Williams struggled with injuries in his first two seasons before earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2012, but this coming season may demand the best out of him.
With Griffin's health an ongoing concern, which is likely to last until the next injury he sustains even if it is three seasons from now, Williams has the difficult task of tangling with the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, DeMarcus Ware and Trent Cole, who combined for a disappointing 21 sacks last season, just one of which came against the Redskins.
London Fletcher, ILB
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What would the Redskins be without the heart and soul of not only their defense, but also their locker room? London Fletcher may be entering his final season in the NFL, having started 240 consecutive games while playing at an elite level.
If Fletcher is lost for any period of time, the defense may be in for a rude awakening since there is no clear-cut successor to his veteran leadership.
Though he may not be a lock to lead the league in tackles in his final season, it would be an unceremonious end to an illustrious career, and leave the Redskins fumbling for a suitable replacement in the middle of the D and in the locker room.
Brian Orakpo, OLB
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Brian Orakpo is entering a contract year following a disappointingly short season due to a torn pectoral muscle suffered in the second game of the 2012 season. A beast of a man with the potential to bull his way to double-digit sacks will be on a mission in 2013.
If Orakpo suffers yet another injury, not only will there be even more pressure on Ryan Kerrigan, but Orakpo may start hearing bust whispers.
After tallying 11 sacks as a rookie, Orakpo managed just 8.5 sacks in 2010 and nine in 2011. He needs a big season to earn a new contract as well as keep the doubters at bay. If he's hurt, he can do neither and could be on borrowed time with the Redskins, who may see health as a long-term concern.