Predicting Washington Redskins Depth Chart, Post OTAs
Even though organized team activities are just the first in a long process of learning, working and assessment, they offer the first glimpses of action and the earliest inkling of the final depth chart.
It feels somehow foreign to not have a season where the Washington Redskins see a great deal of roster turnover, but Mike Shanahan has made that a thing of the past it seems.
Without pads, it is difficult to get a solid grasp on the strength and speed of some of the players, particularly on defense. You can't truly gauge their aggressiveness or physicality, but rather how they perform in the framework of the offense and defense.
Here's how the Redskins' depth chart looks after this offseason's OTAs.
Starter: Robert Griffin III
No one really knows where RGIII is in his recovery right now, which is both good and bad. On one hand, he looks like he's well ahead of schedule, throwing, running and dancing with only a few signs of stress or strain on his twice-repaired knee.
On the other hand, because no one truly knows, Griffin could be in for a Gilbert Arenas-like situation where he rushes back from a major injury and feels great until he doesn't, and he can't start the season—or play at all. For now, he's the starter, and his participation in OTAs shows he isn't about to loosen his grip on the position.
Backup: Kirk Cousins
Rex Grossman doesn't have a snowball's chance to beat "Captain Kirk" out for the second-string job, especially after the heroics Cousins staged late in the game against the Baltimore Ravens and the great start against the Cleveland Browns.
That was last season, but Cousins took all of the first-team snaps during OTAs, with Griffin working back from his knee surgery. That should be enough to settle what little competition there may have been behind RGIII.
Starter: Alfred Morris
There is a lot of pressure on Alfred Morris to put together a strong second season, but the consensus seems to be that he'll fall short of his unexpected 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. The thinking being that Morris got a lot of yards because of the zone-read offense that forced defenses to spy Griffin, leaving gaping holes for Morris to walk through.
Morris, however, is dedicated to improving himself this offseason, and if he can bring a refined approach to the regular season, show more patience and somehow make better cuts than he did as a rookie, he's a lock for 1,500 in 2013.
Backup: Evan Royster
The biggest thing working in Evan Royster's favor through OTAs was his health compared to the likes of Roy Helu and Chris Thompson. Jawan Jamison had some impressive runs and could easily make the roster, but he has his work cut out for him to oust Royster at this point.
Royster, however, has never shown himself to be a great fit in Shanahan's scheme, which means his position as backup coming out of OTAs is extremely tentative. If Helu and Thompson can show off during training camp, expect Royster's stock to drop precipitously.
Starter: Darrel Young
There may be more notable fullbacks in the NFL right now, but few are as quietly excellent as Darrel Young. He may not have to worry about any competition this offseason, but that would be a pitiful excuse to let himself get comfortable.
Expect to see Young play a bigger role on offense, though probably not nearly the type of play some fans may have been used to seeing from Mike Sellers several years ago. He'll play a bigger role in blocking for Morris, considering the possibility that the offense will feature less of the zone option plays that resulted in unnecessary hits on Griffin.
Starters: Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen
Davis has very little room for error this season, having seen the last two seasons end unceremoniously. Logan Paulsen stepped up last season, but he doesn't offer the playmaking ability or matchup nightmare that Davis does. He's a better blocker, but is known to have lapses now and then.
Either way, the top position is Davis' to lose, which is a legitimate possibility if recent history is an indicator.
Backups: Jordan Reed, Niles Paul
Reed has the potential to sneak into the starting lineup due to his athletic ability. He's been working through a knee injury, but he is easily ahead of Paul on the depth chart, if only because Paul becomes the resident special teams ace with the loss of Lorenzo Alexander.
A starting lineup with Davis and Reed running routes is a dangerous prospect, but for now, it looks like Reed has his work cut out for him.
Starters: Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss
There shouldn't be any significant shakeups in the top of the depth chart at receiver since Garcon is expected to be healthy for the start of the season, and both Morgan and Moss played big roles on offense last season.
Backups: Aldrick Robinson, Leonard Hankerson
The Washington Redskins are waiting for one or both of these guys to break out, and this could be the season it happens. Robinson is a big-play threat with the skills to replace Moss whenever he decides to hang them up.
Hankerson is a big target who has all the physical skills, but has had some issues with concentration, ranging from dropped passes to not even looking for the ball.
Hankerson may have the edge on the depth chart because he is a better blocker than Robinson, and Shanahan's offense often calls for receivers to get physical on a regular basis.
Starters: Trent Williams, Tyler Polumbus
Trent Williams is the unquestioned starter at left tackle; that much is certain. At right tackle, however, there is a bit of a jumble. Tyler Polumbus has the inside track at the starting job, but there is pressure from Jeremy Trueblood, Tony Pashos and undrafted free agent Xavier Nixon.
Nixon has the skills to play left tackle, but could end up being the starter at right tackle if he shows the proper work ethic.
Backups: Xavier Nixon, Jeremy Trueblood
Nixon is too talented to stash on the practice squad and risk having him get picked up by another team. While he slipped out of the draft, meaning everyone passed on him, he was a starter in the SEC, which is as close to the NFL as you can get in college football.
Trueblood's size may give him the edge to backup Polumbus, but it could just as easily be Nixon getting the nod, particularly if Tom Compton shows any signs of being a capable option at left tackle.
Starters: Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester
Unless either of them go down due to injuries, which is possible considering the bumps and bruises suffered last season, Kory Lichtensteiger and Chris Chester are locks to start throughout this offseason and into the regular season.
Backups: Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis
Josh LeRiBeus got his chance to shine in spot duty late last season when Lichtensteiger was forced out of the game for a few plays. He performed well and gave some glimmer of hope that drafting him with a third-round pick in 2012 wasn't a reach.
AdamGettis is a different story. Taken in the same draft with a fifth-round pick, Gettis has a ton of upside, but hasn't shown it on a consistent basis. Luckily, this isn't a case of not having any better options. Gettis has legitimate starting ability; he just needs the chance to show it.
Starter: Will Montgomery
Unless you count Tevita Stevens as a legitimate threat, there is nothing to stop Will Montgomery from resuming his starting role. He's underrated in the middle of the line, and he's earned his position. Hopefully, he can avoid injuries and be the anchor he's proven he can be.
Backup: Tevita Stevens
Nick Sundberg is the long snapper, but he's undersized and isn't the ideal candidate to step in should Montgomery go down with an injury. Stevens is an undrafted free agent and may not even make the roster, but he may be insurance to stash on the practice squad until it is absolutely necessary to add him to the active roster.
Starters: Stephen Bowen, Jarvis Jenkins
There's no doubt Stephen Bowen slides into his familiar position at right defensive end, but things may change on the left side. Adam Carriker's quad injury isn't healing quite right, while Jarvis Jenkins has had more than a year to get back to full strength after his ACL tear suffered as a rookie.
Jenkins looked good through OTAs, showing the form that made him the talk of training camp as a rookie, having been drafted before the highly touted Da'Quan Bowers, Jenkins' teammate at Clemson.
Backups: Adam Carriker, Kedric Golston
With the setback, Adam Carriker will have to fight his way back into the starting lineup. However, the Redskins could easily adopt a rotation similar to the New York Giants to get the most out of the talent they have, as well as keeping everyone fresh.
Kedric Golston signed a three-year deal to remain with the team and offers a veteran presence, as well as versatility.
Starter: Barry Cofield
He may never show up in top player rankings, but maybe he likes it that way. Barry Cofield is no different than any other nose tackle not named Vince Wilfork in that he doesn't get the credit he is due.
Nose tackle is a thankless job, but Cofield is one of the most underrated nose tackles in the NFL, and there's very little chance he loses the starting job anytime between now and the end of his contract in 2016.
Backup: Chris Baker
If not for an injury to Chris Neild, Baker wouldn't have been much of a factor on defense, if he had even been a part of the roster at all.
However, he showed up big on goal-line stands, getting great push and forcing running backs to stop their forward progress, giving the rest of the defense time to close lanes and stop the play behind the line.
Unless Neild has a great camp, he isn't likely to make the roster this year with impression Baker made.
Starters: Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan
I do not envy anyone standing between Brian Orakpo and a quarterback in 2013, because he is a man on a mission. Not only is he frustrated by missing most of last season with a torn pectoral, but he's entering a contract year to boot. Expect him to wreak havoc early and often this season.
Ryan Kerrigan is entering his third season, and if Orakpo stays healthy, and creates the chaos in the backfield he is capable of, Kerrigan could have a huge season. He's got ball skills where Orakpo is a more single-minded QB killer and figures to score another touchdown just as he has in each of his first two seasons.
Backups: Rob Jackson, Brandon Jenkins
Rob Jackson cashed in a great season in relief of the injured Orakpo into a new contract, but was also popped for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and will miss four games. Still, he's a great option to have should either Orakpo or Kerrigan suffer an injury or need a rest at any point during the season.
Jenkins was drafted in the fifth round and is an intriguing prospect as a pass-rusher. He's quick where Orakpo and Kerrigan are more powerful, but his smaller 6'2" frame could make him susceptible to being overpowered by bigger tackles.
Starters: London Fletcher, Perry Riley
This season is likely to be the final time we see London Fletcher take the field, which leads to the question of who will assume his position as top dog on defense. Until then, he's one of the easiest starters to write in for opening day, and Perry Riley is just as certain to line up beside him.
Backups: Keenan Robinson, Roddrick Muckelroy
Keenan Robinson has his work cut out for him, but shows enough talent and natural instincts to possibly be a replacement for Fletcher when he's done with the NFL. Still, he has to prove himself, prove that he's recovered from pectoral surgery.
Though Bryan Kehl has the experience, Roddrick Muckelroy was getting snaps in place of Fletcher, who is nursing ankle and elbow injuries. For now, it seems, he has the edge, but it isn't likely to be a factor with an iron man like Fletcher out there.
Starters: DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, David Amerson
Neither DeAngelo Hall nor Josh Wilson were particularly impressive for most of last season, and it led to the Redskins spending their first pick in the draft on David Amerson. Hall's role as top dog is secure, but Wilson's spot as second cornerback may be in jeopardy, if he doesn't rebound this season.
Wilson is recovering from labrum surgery this offseason, which could give Amerson the time to supplant him as the second starter before the season.
Backups: Richard Crawford, E.J. Biggers
The 'Skins signed E.J. Biggers away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, reuniting him with former coach Raheem Morris. He's primarily a nickel corner, but he'll have his work cut out for him to hold off the rising Crawford.
Crawford has been impressive this offseason, making himself a film rat, and showing significant improvement from last season. Unless Wilson has a terrible early-season injury, or a worse showing, Crawford won't move up the depth chart much. In theory, it could be a battle between Crawford and Amerson for the third spot, which should be interesting.
Starter: Bacarri Rambo
He's got ball skills, he's good in coverage, he's aggressive, and, arguably most important, he is head and shoulders above any of the free safeties the Redskins had on the field last season. Though he's still learning the subtleties of the game, Bacarri Rambo has enough raw talent to be a game-changer from the start.
It is a good sign when a player gets mad at himself for making mistakes, because it shows he takes pride in being his best, while working to refine his craft. Rambo can be a monster close to the line and a menace in coverage if he finds his feet at the NFL level.
Backup: Tanard Jackson
Tanard Jackson's spot is tentative, at best, considering he has yet to be reinstated following his most recent substance abuse violation. Expect to see a great deal of flux behind Rambo, which may include Phillip Thomas seeing spot duty if Brandon Meriweather has a better camp.
Starter: Phillip Thomas
With Rambo seeing a good deal of time at free safety, it makes sense for Phillip Thomas to naturally slide over to assume the starting strong safety position. Though Brandon Meriweather looks to come back healthy, he's got his work cut out for him with the ball-hawking, physical rookie leading the way.
Rambo has shown a natural ability to play both the ball and the man as a center fielder or near the line of scrimmage.
Backup: Brandon Meriweather
Being injured for most of last season did not help Meriweather's case heading into this offseason. The Redskins didn't just draft for competition, but a probably replacement as starting strong safety. Meriweather gets the second spot because he's more athletic than Reed Doughty.
Doughty will still have a spot on the roster, but his role will likely be diminished, despite his consistently surprising play last season.
Starters: Kai Forbath, Sav Rocca
No surprises here, as "Cobra" Kai Forbath returns as the Redskins kicker after replacing the ineffective Billy Cundiff early last season.
He proved his ability to hit kicks both in the clutch and just to put points on the board. He was near perfect last season, and while it may be unwise to expect the same performance, given the team's history with kickers, he's still the best option they've seen in a while.
Sav Rocca returns at punter, and he'll be 40 after the season begins. Leg injuries played a role in his down year in 2012, but he's had surgery to take care of the problems and should be healthy and better than before come the regular season.