Washington Redskins 2013 Roster: Report Card Grades for Every Position

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2013

Washington Redskins 2013 Roster: Report Card Grades for Every Position

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    The 2013 version of the Washington Redskins are well stocked at most of the key positions. But a lack of quality depth along the offensive line, and especially in the secondary, is a real concern.

    Issues at those position groups could undermine the two strongest areas of the team, namely the ground attack and the pass rush.

    The Redskins are loaded at running back, with three players capable of carrying the load. A fourth runner has the potential to be a real wild card.

    Defensively, things appear particularly strong up front. The linebacking corps features some stud pass-rushers, while the defensive line should be as stout as any in football.

    Here is a complete position-by-position grading of this season's Redskins roster, beginning with the defense.

Defensive End

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    Starters: Stephen Bowen, Jarvis Jenkins

    Depth: Kedric Golston, Phillip Merling, Chris Baker

    Defensive end is one of the strongest positions on the team, strong enough to survive a suspension to a talented youngster. The strength begins with ex-Dallas Cowboy Stephen Bowen, the best defensive end on the roster.

    Bowen has quickly proven to be a very astute free-agent acquisition. Signed in 2011, the 27-year-old has produced two fine seasons in D.C.

    A natural two-gapper, Bowen is a stout force against the run. He is also an underrated pass-rusher, having tallied seven sacks since joining the Redskins.

    Third-year pro Jarvis Jenkins has tremendous and as-yet-untapped potential. Sadly, his development has been stunted by a season-ending injury in 2011 and now a four-game suspension.

    Thankfully, the Redskins have the depth to cope with Jenkins' absence. Veteran Kedric Golston is a dependable and scrappy lineman, and Phillip Merling has plenty of 3-4 experience.

    The team was also smart to move mammoth tackle Chris Baker out to end. Baker has the size and power to disrupt any blocking scheme, but he lacks aggression and technique.

    Using him at end gives the defensive front a big body to set the edge against the run. Baker could surprise at his new position.

    The only other negative for this group, apart from Jenkins' suspension, is the prolonged injury-enforced absence of Adam Carriker. Otherwise this is a position group that should be the envy of most 3-4 teams.

    Grade: B

Nose Tackle

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    Starter: Barry Cofield

    Depth: Chris Neild, Chris Baker

    The strength up front continues at nose tackle. Starter Barry Cofield has developed into one of the NFL's best.

    The former 4-3 defensive tackle signed in the same offseason as Bowen, and his impact has been just as impressive. Like Bowen, Cofield has proved he can anchor a 3-4 front, but he also showed a knack for applying pressure, especially from nickel schemes.

    Cofield is primed for a great campaign, but only if the hand injury he suffered in preseason doesn't reduce his effectiveness. Cofield himself has no such concerns, according to Brian Tinsman of Redskins.com.

    Even if Cofield does falter, the Redskins can turn to some intriguing options in reserve. They include 2011 seventh-round pick Chris Neild, a natural nose tackle, who missed last season with a torn ACL.

    Neild looked good as a rookie, and if he can recover that form, the Redskins will have a great deputy to rotate with Cofield. They can also move Baker back inside to clog the middle if necessary.

    Overall, the Redskins have ample talent and options at the most important position on their 3-4 defense. Only the health and durability of Cofield and Neild prevents this grade from being an A.

    Grade: B

Outside Linebacker

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    Starters: Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan

    Depth: Darryl Tapp, Brandon Jenkins, Rob Jackson

    The return of Washington's best pure pass-rusher, along with some smart offseason moves, make outside linebacker a very strong position. The highlight is having Brian Orakpo healthy again.

    The team's first-round pick from 2009 is recovered from the pectoral injury that wiped out most of his 2012 season. That's great news because Orakpo gives the defense a premier pass-rusher every offensive game plan must account for.

    Orakpo's usual deputy, Rob Jackson, lacks the rush skills but has a knack for creating turnovers. However, Jackson is yet another Redskins player in the Mike Shanahan era set to serve a suspension.

    Fortunately, the Redskins have alternatives. They drafted raw but capable pass-rusher Brandon Jenkins in the fifth round and wisely signed veteran retread Darryl Tapp.

    Both are skilled at creating pressure, with Tapp in particular looking like a real threat during preseason. Of course, it also helps to have another starter as dynamic as Ryan Kerrigan.

    The third-year ace is primed for a breakout year. He can take advantage of Orakpo's return to make the most of single blocking and dominate offenses.

    The Redskins boast three players in Tapp, Orakpo and Kerrigan who will be threats to every quarterback they face.

    Grade: A

Inside Linebacker

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    Starters: Perry Riley, London Fletcher

    Depth: Nick Barnett, Bryan Kehl

    The defense is set in the middle with a capable pairing at inside linebacker. Ageing ace London Fletcher and youthful upstart Perry Riley are both active and versatile.

    Fletcher continues to thrive in the pass defense and has always possessed underrated blitz skills. Even at 38, he will be counted on to deliver another big year.

    Next to him, Riley appears ready to come into his own. The key will be finishing plays more often. The ex-LSU product is always around the ball and consistently seems in place to make the play.

    But he doesn't always complete plays. Turning some of those near misses into finishes would allow Riley to enjoy a monster season.

    The Redskins also have decent depth behind their starting duo. Former Kansas City Chief and New York Giant Bryan Kehl has seen more time on special teams but has good size for the 3-4.

    Acquiring castoff Nick Barnett was another shrewd offseason move. The 32-year-old spent time in a 3-4 scheme with the Green Bay Packers and will be useful in giving Fletcher and Riley a breather.

    This group is strong, and only age catching up with Fletcher and Riley not taking the next step can hinder them.

    Grade: B


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    Starters: Bacarri Rambo, Brandon Meriweather

    Depth: Reed Doughty, Jose Gumbs, Jordan Pugh

    The safety position has been revamped but still looks barely stronger than last season's threadbare bunch. For things to improve, sixth-round pick Bacarri Rambo will need to perform above expectations.

    The former Georgia ball hawk appears ticketed for one starting position, after starting most of the preseason. Coaches will hope his poor tackling, especially in run support, doesn't become a major issue.

    Next to Rambo, veteran Brandon Meriweather must stay healthy and prove he can get his career back on track. Once a highly touted defensive back with the New England Patriots, Meriweather's career has hit the skids in recent seasons.

    He was a flop with the Chicago Bears, and injuries destroyed his first year in Washington. He recently returned to the team but needs to show he can use his attacking style to better this suspect secondary.

    The problem for the Redskins is that if Rambo and Meriweather don't make the grade, they have little in reserve. Reed Doughty may be a permanent fixture on the roster, but he is not a viable solution as a starter.

    The Redskins don't have any imposing quality at this position and are relying on some major gambles paying off.

    Grade: F


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    Starters: Josh Wilson, DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson (third corner)

    Depth: E.J. Biggers, Jerome Murphy

    The situation at cornerback is only marginally better than safety. However, the position is also relying on rookie help. Ideally, second-round pick David Amerson needs to make a starting berth his own early in his debut season.

    Amerson is a big corner, something the Redskins lack. But his press technique lacks polish, despite his ample frame.

    However, Amerson can make the big play, evidenced by his 13 interceptions in 2011. That opportunistic streak should give him the edge over current starters Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall.

    Speaking of Wilson, he needs to rebound after a below-par season in 2012. Normally a steady presence in a secondary littered with risk takers, Wilson became increasingly shaky.

    Just like the safety position, the big problem is a lack of quality depth. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer E.J. Biggers and Jerome Murphy, who has played for three teams since 2010, hardly inspire confidence.

    If Amerson can quickly make the grade, things will look a lot better here. But at the moment this secondary looks nothing more than a liability.

    Grade: D


Special Teams

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    Kicker: Kai Forbath    Returner: Chris Thompson

    Punter: Sav Rocca     Long Snapper: Nick Sundberg

    The special teams look more exciting thanks to the emergence of fifth-round draft pick Chris Thompson. The elusive speedster adds a real spark to an otherwise bland return game.

    The kicking game is stable thanks to the presence of two dependable specialists. Kai Forbath's arrival in D.C. was as below the radar as it gets, but he has quickly answered a long-standing need for a reliable kicker.

    Sav Rocca is similarly steady as the punter. He is not likely to post league-leading numbers, but Rocca won't be near the bottom of his position rankings either.

    The coverage units are reasonable, thanks to players like Kehl and Niles Paul. However, the Redskins need more big plays in coverage.

    Long snapper Nick Sundberg is efficient, and that is all anyone asks for from his position.

    New coordinator Keith Burns has a solid base to work with here, but he should get more creative with the personnel this season.

    Grade: C

Offensive Tackles

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    Starters: Trent Williams, Tyler Polumbus

    Depth: Tom Compton

    The strength of Washington's offensive line is the left side, and it starts with tackle Trent Williams. The first draft pick of the Shanahan era began living up to his billing and potential in 2012.

    Williams is becoming one of the league's best, particularly in the running game. The Redskins run most of their zone-stretch plays, the staple of their ground attack, behind Williams.

    He still needs to refine his mechanics in pass protection, particularly footwork. But the signs of improvement are there, and Williams is fast becoming the cornerstone of the O-line.

    Unfortunately, the Redskins cannot claim to have similar quality on the other side. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus is not elite in any single area.

    However, he fits the scheme very well, thanks to a wealth of zone-blocking experience. Polumbus played for Shanahan in Denver and then fit into a similar blocking system with the Seattle Seahawks.

    Yet as with several positions on the team, a lack of numbers in reserve is an issue at tackle. According to Mike Jones of The Washington Postthe Redskins waved goodbye to veterans Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos and youngster Xavier Nixon.

    That cull at the position leaves only Tom Compton as an available deputy.

    Grade: C


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    Starters: Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester

    Depth: Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis

    Just like at tackle, the strength of the guard position is found on the left side. Shanahan favorite Kory Lichtensteiger is a key part of the zone-blocking scheme.

    Like Williams, he is a skilled run-blocker. Staying healthy was Lichtensteiger's problem in the past, but he managed 16 starts in 2012.

    It was no coincidence that the ground game was so effective last season with Lichtensteiger as an ever-present. Second-year pro Josh LeRibeus offers decent cover, but he won't stop the Redskins from hoping Lichtensteiger makes it through another full campaign unscathed.

    Over on the right, Chris Chester has been a solid fit in the zone system. He is effective in space, which the scheme demands, but can be overpowered in pass protection.

    Youngster Adam Gettis is another undersized natural zone-blocker. He has been quietly impressive during preseason and provides good depth.

    Grade: B


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    Starter: Will Montgomery

    Depth: Josh LeRibeus, Kory Lichtensteiger

    Will Montgomery does not dominate in any specific area, but there are not many more solid centers in the NFL. Montgomery is smart and resourceful at the heart of an increasingly efficient O-line.

    Montgomery is nimble enough to quickly shift out into space in classic zone-blocking style. Many expect him to get overwhelmed by mammoth defensive tackles, but it rarely happens.

    He has not missed a game in the last two seasons, and the Redskins need him to remain as durable. They released Tevita Stevens, and The Post's Jones indicates Kevin Matthews will follow.

    LeRibeus was originally drafted as a center and Lichtensteiger can play there at a push, but true depth is in short supply.

    Grade: C


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    Starter: Robert Griffin III

    Depth: Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman, Pat White

    If there were no lingering questions regarding Robert Griffin III's health status, the Redskins would easily merit an A at quarterback. Griffin's ability to offer the same dual-threat he unleashed on the league as a rookie is critical to the Redskins' season.

    With his mobility intact, the pistol and read-option looks will continue to be the scourge of defenses. When Griffin is a threat to run for huge chunks of yardage, opponents are forced to play a passive brand of defense.

    That creates even more room for an already prolific rushing attack. It also helps manufacture a plethora of big plays off play-action passing.

    Griffin has been cleared to start the season by Dr. James Andrews. But the surgeon retains some concerns about how the youngster's knees will hold up under more running.

    Andrews may want Griffin to play with less risk, but the Redskins have to be wary about curbing what makes him such a dangerous playmaker to begin with.

    If defenses know Griffin will stay in the pocket more often, the pre-snap guessing games end, and the offense loses its big advantage.

    Of course, having a backup the quality of Kirk Cousins helps ease any concerns about Griffin's durability. Last year's fourth-round pick has already proved he can win in the NFL and execute elements of the Shanahan offense.

    What is troubling is that the former Michigan State star has had his own injury problems this offseason. He sustained a foot injury that kept him out of the latter part of preseason.

    Thankfully, there was no significant damage, because the Redskins need Cousins to be a dependable insurance policy.

    As last resorts go, the Redskins could do worse than Rex Grossman. The interception-happy veteran has his issues, but he possesses a detailed knowledge of the offense.

    Shanahan has toyed with the idea of letting the more athletic Pat White usurp Grossman this offseason. But while White can be useful in read-option looks, he is too streaky as a passer to supplant Grossman. Shanahan's choice comes down to how much he values the read-option.

    With Griffin healthy and on form, the Redskins can easily register double-digit victories. But if he struggles or breaks down again, the team will struggle to match 2012's heights.

    Grade: B

Tight End

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    Starter: Fred Davis

    Depth: Logan Paulsen, Jordan Reed, Niles Paul

    The Redskins are stronger at tight end after some surprise contributions in 2012. When Fred Davis was lost for the season thanks to a torn Achilles tendon in Week 7, not much was expected from the position.

    But then natural blocker Logan Paulsen stepped in and showed he could produce as a receiver. The 6'5", 251-pounder was not the athletic, move tight end Davis can be, but he still averaged 12.3 yards per reception.

    However, despite Paulsen's commendable efforts, it is the return to health of Davis that keeps this position strong. At his best, he provides a mismatch against most coverage schemes, thanks to a blend of size and wide receiver-like speed.

    As he is in a contract year and coming off a serious injury, the Redskins wisely drafted a tight end with similar attributes. Third-rounder Jordan Reed is a versatile athlete who can be moved everywhere across the formation.

    Finally, converted wideout Niles Paul proved he can make big plays from tight end. He completed a 29-yard scoring pass against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 12 and averaged 19 yards on his eight receptions.

    The Redskins have some intriguing playmakers at this position. But Davis is still the jewel of the group, and his health and consistency will be crucial as the season progresses.

    Grade: B


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    Starter: Darrel Young

    Depth: Niles Paul

    Darrel Young has quickly transformed himself form unheralded linebacker to one of the most skilled fullbacks in football. It is a highly impressive transition and Young has made himself invaluable to the offense.

    Like any good fullback, Young is a willing and punishing blocker. But he is also versatile enough to be a useful receiver.

    As an added bonus, Young is also an above-average runner. However, he naturally only gets a small number of carries to show it.

    It is symptomatic of how the position is viewed in today's NFL that the Redskins don't keep another fullback on the roster. However, tight end Paul was deployed there during preseason. He has the frame and receiving skills to be a success at the position.

    Grade: B



Wide Receiver

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    Starters: Pierre Garcon, Joshua Morgan, Leonard Hankerson (third receiver)

    Depth: Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson

    There are lots of options and plenty of potential at wide receiver. The group is led by last season's major free-agent signing Pierre Garcon.

    The ex-Indianapolis Colt enjoyed only a modest first season with the Redskins. A persistent foot injury limited his effectiveness.

    However, Garcon did offer flashes of his ability to be a prolific playmaker in this passing game. He averaged 14.4 yards per catch and offered a legitimate deep threat more than once.

    Joshua Morgan and Santana Moss are the other veteran wideouts at the Redskins disposal. Morgan was the team's leading receiver in 2012, after signing from the San Francisco 49ers.

    But he only averaged 10.6 yards a catch and found the end zone twice. His possession-type skills are not ideally suited to an offense built to stretch the field.

    If the Redskins need a target underneath, they can always count Moss. The 34-year-old has had his playing time limited but still has a niche for getting open in the red zone and tormenting the Cowboys.

    The potential in this group comes from youngsters Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson. Hankerson has the skill set to produce more than he has during his first two seasons. This must be the year he delivers.

    Robinson certainly has the speed to get behind any coverage scheme. He has enjoyed an impressive offseason and will again make his share of big plays.

    Based on potential, this group merits a high grade. However, too many of its members are blighted by inconsistency.

    Both Garcon and Morgan need to do more to justify their positions. Moss is on the downward trajectory of his career, and Hankerson still drops too many he should catch.

    Without these question marks, the grade would be higher.

    Grade: C

Running Back

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    Starter: Alfred Morris

    Depth: Roy Helu Jr., Evan Royster, Chris Thompson

    Running back is unquestionably the strongest position group on the roster. Shanahan has assembled a quartet of versatile and crafty zone-runners, all capable of exploiting defenses.

    The embarrassment of riches begins with 2012's sixth-round sensation Alfred Morris. A beefy and quick-witted runner, Morris has a great instinct for the cutback lanes in the zone scheme.

    He ploughed his way to second spot on the league's rushing charts last season. But considering Morris had 312 more rushing attempts than the next active back, a more even distribution might be wise this year.

    Roy Helu Jr. has to be the leading candidate to take some carries away from Morris. He will bring greater speed to the ground game and be a productive receiver out of the backfield.

    Helu can play a key role, provided he stays healthy. Turf toe and an Achilles injury meant he had just two carries in 2012.

    If Helu cannot stay injury-free, then Thompson can take his place as a versatile choice on third downs. Standing a mere 5'7", the tiny tearaway has the game-breaking speed to be a real threat from option looks.

    Evan Royster does not possess the dynamism offered by Helu and Thompson, but he is a smart inside runner. Like Morris, Royster has a good feel for the creases created by zone-style blocking.

    It will be a major surprise if the Redskins again fail to lead the NFL in rushing. The blocking scheme is flawlessly executed, and the team boasts four runners who understand how to succeed behind it.

    Grade: A