What to Expect from Each Redskins Starter in 2013-14
I think of continuity based upon all the returning starters. The entire offense is returning, and the defense remains intact.
After a successful 10-6 campaign last season, it’s been other NFC rivals who have been receiving high praise; the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons are all considered Super Bowl-worthy—and rightfully so.
But what are we to expect of this Redskins team? Are they going to take a step back and become mediocre? Are they going to take the success of a division title and continue to grow as a franchise?
How long is Mike Shanahan going to be at the helm? Will Kyle Shanahan take his job or get an opportunity elsewhere?
Are the rookies going to make an impact?
The point is, there are a lot of questions that remain to be answered. As of now, all we have are expectations.
Those expectations will be focused on all projected starters.
Quarterback: Robert Griffin III
Not only is Robert Griffin the team’s biggest question mark, but he may also be the biggest question in the entire league.
Will Griffin be as electrifying as last season? Will his knee injury alter his ability?
Well, hopefully, he’s cut from the same cloth as Adrian Peterson, which wouldn’t come as a surprise given Griffin’s mentality.
Anyway, I would expect a more vanilla version of Griffin this year. Last season, there were instances in which he was susceptible to big hits from defenders. This would occur when he would be running the option (primarily with Brandon Banks) as well as the zone-read option.
On the other hand, Mike Shanahan’s quarterbacks have succeeded when they are going off play action and in open spaces, which, of course, is conducive to Griffin’s skill set.
I envision a slow progression throughout the season with a heavy reliance on the running game.
One of the reasons why Griffin was so effective last year was his efficiency (he only threw five interceptions).
If the Redskins revert back to a more traditional-style offense, than I would predict an increase in turnovers in Griffin’s future; however, he will surpass his 20 touchdown passes of last year.
Running Back: Alfred Morris
Alfred Morris is no longer a secret. He will be the most commonly used weapon in the Redskins offense this season.
Given that role, it will be interesting to see how defenses combat the second-year player.
Will he rush for another 1,600 yards?
It’s hard to imagine another dominating season such as that, especially with a healthy Roy Helu in the mold.
However, I don’t consider that to be discouraging. He’ll still get his carries and will be the first option in goal-line situations.
Fullback: Darrel Young
The Pro Bowl is acknowledgement of stellar play (at least it’s supposed to be). Anyway, Darrel Young not being a Pro Bowl fullback last season is a joke.
He led the way for Alfred Morris all season long and showed his versatility as both a ball-carrier and as a receiver.
I would expect another highly productive season out of him, too. What’s encouraging about Young is he’s still developing at the position (he was a former linebacker).
Wide Receiver: Pierre Garcon
Garcon has breakout potential written all over him. He was given a lucrative contract last offseason with the expectation of becoming an elite wide receiver.
He’s now healthy, familiar with the offense and has a great rapport with Robert Griffin.
There should be no reason why Garcon can’t gain over 1,000 yards receiving and close to double-digit touchdowns.
Wide Receiver: Josh Morgan
Josh Morgan will get the majority of the reps opposite of Pierre Garcon this season, but is he a part of the Redskins' long-term plans?
The jury is still out on the native Washingtonian. For Morgan to be effective in this offense, he’ll need to serve as a complement to Pierre Garcon; therefore, he’ll need to go across the middle and catch the intermediate routes.
I would expect a solid season from Morgan, but not enough to be around in the future.
Tight End: Fred Davis
As far as the playmakers go, this is the biggest question mark (excluding RGIII).
Are we getting the 2011 Fred Davis, who emerged as a legitimate tight end? Or is he now damaged goods?
So far in the preseason, Fred Davis looks active. He’s clearly the most talented tight end on the roster and could potentially make Griffin’s job much easier if Davis is able to carve out a significant role.
The Redskins expect a lot from their tight ends. They are placed throughout the line of scrimmage and run a variety of routes. I like what I see, so far, and I would expect Davis to prove his worth.
Left Tackle: Trent Williams
In 2010, Trent Williams was drafted fourth overall with the expectation of becoming a dominant left tackle.
It took him a few years, but Williams turned out to be one last season. What was even more impressive was that he wasn’t healthy for virtually the entire season.
Anyway, expectations are high for Williams. He’s going to be tested on a weekly basis, considering the NFC East has some of the best pass-rushers in the league.
Although Williams had a very successful season last year, he hasn’t hit his ceiling yet. He’s now ready for an All-Pro level.
Left Guard: Kory Lichtensteiger
Kory Lichtensteiger has been tested over the past couple years. He was able to recover from a torn ACL back in 2011, and Josh LeRibeus was selected as the third back in 2012 as potential competition.
The point I’m trying to make is, Lichtensteiger has fought to remain the team’s starting left guard, and he’s quietly done a great job.
Lichtensteiger isn’t going anywhere; he’s the entrenched starting left guard as he fits into Mike Shanahan’s blocking scheme perfectly.
Let me just point out that I have obviously been writing for awhile when I easily spell his name without hesitation.
Center: Will Montgomery
Will Montgomery is another under-the-radar offensive lineman. Last season was his best, as he has become one of the best centers in all of football.
He’s excellent at reading defenses and is the quarterback of the line. I would expect that to continue, securing him a much-deserved Pro Bowl berth.
Right Guard: Chris Chester
The interior line is very similar. They are all underappreciated (which is common amongst offensive linemen), but are dependable football players.
Chris Chester is never going to “wow” you his play, but he’s remained consistent after signing with the Redskins. His role as the team’s starting right guard is safe.
I would expect another quiet, yet productive, season out of Chester.
Right Tackle: Tyler Polumbus
I expected an upgrade at right tackle over the offseason, but given the salary cap conditions and without a first-round pick, the Redskins went back to last year’s starter.
Tyler Polumbus’ strength is in his running game. He remains efficient in that regard. But it’s his pass protection that has often left Redskins quarterbacks vulnerable.
He’s clearly the offensive line’s weakest link, but the Redskins are hoping they can get just one more season out of the veteran.
This is worrisome, however. Tony Pashos and Tom Compton aren’t seriously vying for his job, and they don’t have the finances to pick up a starting-quality right tackle via free agency.
With that being said, I would expect the Redskins to stick it out with Polumbus again. They will use tight ends and running backs in pass protection to support him.
I anticipate I will be yelling at him quite frequently this season, but I hope I’m wrong.
Defensive End: Stephen Bowen
Stephen Bowen’s the most consistent defensive end on the roster. He’s highly effective against the run and is valued in the locker room.
However, Bowen needs to improve his pass rush, which I would expect to progress with the help of Brian Orakpo back in the lineup.
Bowen is another “Redskin.” What I mean by that is he’s a selfless player, he's respected and he gets his job done. The media isn’t going to follow him around, but the Redskins can depend on this veteran for years to come.
Nose Tackle: Barry Cofield
Casey Hampton, Vince Wilfork, Kelly Gregg and Jay Ratliff (just to name a few) have all been dominant nose tackles in a 3-4 defensive front.
Barry Cofield is ready to take the reins as a top-tier nose tackle, which is arguably the most important position in this defense.
In one quarter of football, Cofield was going against one the best centers in football (Maurkice Pouncey of the Pittsburgh Steelers), and he fully emasculated him in the second preseason game.
Watching Cofield’s dominance proves how important his position is on the field and how much better the Redskins can be when he’s playing at a high level.
Jim Haslett is going to need a lot from Cofield this year. If he’s able to penetrate the interior of an offensive line, then his teammates are going to be able to take advantage.
Defensive End: Kedric Golston
Most likely, Kedric Golston’s starting spot on the defensive line is temporary, as Jarvis Jenkins serves his four-game suspension.
On the other hand, this is why Golston is on the team to begin with. He’s a savvy veteran who can be relied upon in circumstances such as these.
His strength is against the run, but he will need to contribute in pass-rush situations.
One of the longest-tenured Redskins on the team, I expect Golston to go in and do his job, as he’s done consistently throughout his career.
Outside Linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan
Looking back to the 2011 draft, selecting Ryan Kerrigan was a good choice. He’s been a reliable and durable linebacker since arriving in Washington; however, he hasn’t reached “great” yet.
That’s what the Redskins, analysts, fans and Kerrigan himself expect this season.
For the Redskins to improve on their poor 2012-13 defense, Kerrigan will need to get 10-plus sacks on the season.
We’ve seen him make the “big” play from time to time; however, it’s consistently putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks that will put the team’s pass coverage in opportunistic situations.
Inside Linebacker: Perry Riley
Perry Riley is no London Fletcher at this point in his career (which is expected), but he’s shown enough to remain the team’s starting inside linebacker.
He’s another solid starter, which sounds like a broken record, but it’s true.
The Redskins, as a whole, have put together a strong foundation throughout the roster, supplementing that foundation with a few playmakers to put them past mediocrity.
What I expect to see from Perry Riley is an improvement on the mental side of the game. He’ll need to improve on reading offenses and recognizing play-action passes and develop an overall better “feel” for the game.
Inside Linebacker: London Fletcher
The ageless wonder, the future Hall of Famer, the best free-agent signing of the Dan Snyder era, the heart and soul of the team, etc. I could keep going when describing London Fletcher and how much he means to this organization on and off the field.
What do I expect from London? Just another 100-tackle season, a few interceptions—nothing too special right?
Outside Linebacker: Brian Orakpo
By the end of the season, Brian Orakpo will have signed a contract extension to remain a Washington Redskin for years to come.
That’s what Orakpo wants, and that’s certainly what the Redskins want, too. It’s not going to come easy, however.
Orakpo is going to need to stay healthy and finally prove that he’s one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.
He absolutely has the talent and confidence to achieve this, which makes this waiting game over. The time is now for Orakpo to become a premier outside linebacker.
Cornerback: DeAngelo Hall
DeAngelo Hall’s initial release came as no surprise, given the team’s salary cap infractions, but his return didn’t since it was obvious that Mike Shanahan wanted continuity throughout the roster.
During last year’s winning streak, Hall returned to his once Pro Bowl stature. He was the vocal leader of the secondary and took on each team’s best receiver week after week.
Hall is going to have the same role as last season. I would expect him to be lined up against the slot receiver in nickel formations, too.
In addition to that, with an improved pass rush, Hall will have the ability to get more interceptions this season.
Cornerback: Josh Wilson
Similar to DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson responded positively during the team’s stretch run. He served as a great complement opposite Hall, a setup in which I would consider Wilson to be a better cover corner.
Even with the selection of David Amerson, I still expect Wilson to occupy his starting cornerback role this season as the rookie develops.
With the emergence of Amerson, I’m not sure where Wilson fits into the team’s long-term plans, but he’s safe for now.
Strong Safety: Brandon Meriweather
Brandon Meriweather’s health and productivity might be the biggest storyline of the defense this season.
In just one half of football last season, Meriweather made what was an inferior secondary remarkably better against the Philadelphia Eagles.
With the potential of playing alongside a rookie (Bacarri Rambo), Meriweather is going to be heavily relied upon. The issue with this is he’s still recovering from a torn ACL, and he’s not showing the same progress RGIII has.
I am anticipating an up-and-down season for Meriweather. My concern is his health, as he is another year away from his prime, and given the physicality of his position, I doubt his body can hold up throughout a season.
Free Safety: Bacarri Rambo
First thing, it’s considered a great success when an organization can find a starter late in the draft. Bacarri Rambo has occupied the free safety role early on.
However, I’m not sure if he’s ready. He’s clearly shown his inexperience, thus far, and I’m assuming opposing offenses will attack him, especially an explosive offense like the Eagles in Week 1.
On the other hand, I would expect Jim Haslett to put him in positions to succeed rather than confuse him.
Rambo is a smart and athletic player. I would expect to see a game-by-game improvement. I just need to remind myself to be patient with the former Georgia Bulldog.