Washington Redskins: Rookie, Free-Agent Midseason Progress Report
Another year of salary cap restrictions limited what the Washington Redskins were able to do in free agency. In fact, three defensive reserves are the only veteran newbies who have had a chance to make an impact in D.C.
Things are just as thin in the team's 2013 draft class. Four of the seven players selected have made either limited or no contributions at all.
The other three are showing varying degrees of progress. A pass-catching playmaker is making great strides, while the team's top pick has found his first experience of life in the pros tough going.
The midseason progress report for the team's newcomers begins with those seven draft picks.
David Amerson, CB
David Amerson was thrown into the deep end as a starting cornerback to begin the season. It is fair to say he has struggled with that responsibility early on.
Those performances left Amerson splitting reps with veteran Josh Wilson. But after his initial struggles, some improvements have been noticeable in Amerson's game.
He has looked more solid as a press corner in a scheme that takes better advantage of his 6'1", 205-pound frame. Amerson is now working his way toward becoming a key fixture in the secondary.
Jordan Reed, TE
When head coach Mike Shanahan selected a tight end in the third round, the pick was questioned by many. After all, the team already boasted Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen.
But Reed has wasted no time becoming a key playmaker in the Shanahan system. He has given the offense a legitimate "joker" tight end who can be aligned anywhere across a formation.
Wherever he lines up, Reed is presenting mismatches in coverage. His quick moves off the snap and skill in the open field have made Reed an invaluable outlet for quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Reed's versatility and athleticism has already produced 34 receptions for 388 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He is primed to become a real star in this offense.
Phillip Thomas, S
Suffering a Lisfranc injury ruled fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas out for the season. His loss was a blow to a secondary that really needs a playmaker at the safety position.
The Washington Post's Mike Jones recently reported that Thomas is making positive progress post-surgery, and the youngster hopes to play a big role in 2014.
Given the current state of the team's safety position, Thomas' progress this offseason will be a storyline to keep a keen eye on.
Chris Thompson, RB
After showing potential as a dangerous return man during preseason, fifth-round pick Chris Thompson has failed to make an impact in real action.
The former Florida State dynamo has been usurped by veterans Joshua Morgan and Niles Paul in the return game. Thompson was counted on to provide a spark for a new-look special teams, but he has been missing in action in recent weeks.
Brandon Jenkins, OLB/DE
Washington's second fifth-round pick was expected to help boost the pass-rush rotation. But Brandon Jenkins' contribution has been limited.
He has made only one tackle so far. Jenkins has instead spent most of the first half of his rookie campaign inactive.
Bacarri Rambo, S
With Thomas lost for the season, sixth-round pick Bacarri Rambo was perhaps pressed into service a little too soon. It certainly appeared that way after he endured a torrid time as a starter.
He was soon benched and hasn't really managed to return to the starting lineup. As a ball-hawking free safety he would have answered a major need for the defense.
Instead, his struggles have only compounded already significant problems at the position.
Jawan Jamison, RB
As a late-round running back selected by Mike Shanahan, many were optimistic seventh-round pick Jawan Jamison would contribute this season.
But the ex-Rutgers star, who initially looked like a useful and crafty zone runner, failed to make a strong enough impression during preseason.
He was eventually consigned to the practice squad after being unable to overcome the strong level of competition at his position.
His lack of progress is another indictment of a 2013 draft class that, aside from Reed, has so far been a disappointment.
E.J. Biggers, CB
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and secondary coach Raheem Morris would have hoped E.J. Biggers would prove to be a capable supporting cornerback.
But the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers castoff has done little to boost the team's options at the position. Biggers has been in on 15 tackles but has made no impact in coverage.
He has defensed only one pass and has yet to tally an interception. Biggers hasn't necessarily been helped by being moved to safety in some games.
But it says a lot that given Amerson's early problems, Biggers has failed to supplant him or even fill in for Wilson as a slot corner.
Nick Barnett, ILB
Veteran Nick Barnett looked a useful signing to provide depth for inside linebacker tandem London Fletcher and Perry Riley Jr. But Barnett has so far found it difficult to get on the field.
The 32-year-old has registered just six tackles since joining the team. Of course, that could be taken as proof of the continued success of the Fletcher-Riley partnership.
But it is also easy to think that given his coverage expertise, Barnett may have at least featured more in nickel and dime packages.
He did take some snaps away from Riley against the pass-happy Denver Broncos in Week 8. But this 3-4 defense needs more production from the members of its linebacker rotation.
Darryl Tapp, OLB/DE
Darryl Tapp has not quite delivered on the promise he showed during preseason. As a specialist pass-rusher, Tapp has a key role to play on this defense but has so far produced only one sack.
The 29-year-old is supposed to be a key weapon in sub-packages. He needs to prove he merits such an important responsibility.
The pass-rushing potential should be huge every time Tapp joins the field alongside starters Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. But until the ex-Seattle Seahawk and Philadelphia Eagle starts to do more, this defense will lack the flexibility to show credible wrinkles to an offense.
Tapp's quiet showing is symptomatic of the struggles of all of the team's new faces. The front office found it tough trying to regenerate the group that won the NFC East in 2012.
Not enough of the newcomers have performed to or above expectations, and that is directly linked to a 2-5 record at midseason.
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