Projecting Redskins' Depth Chart After Peak of Free Agency
With plenty of time still remaining between now and the start of the regular season, the Washington Redskins' roster is sure to be moved around, shook up and changed. But after a quiet start to free agency, the depth chart may have already begun shifting in Washington.
Here's an early look at the familiar names we can expect to see atop the chart, as well as the new guys who could be key contributors for the Redskins in 2014.
The only change at quarterback should be the optimism among Redskins fans. Robert Griffin III is one year removed from his devastating knee injury, and new coach Jay Gruden has helped instill assurance after seeing what he was able to do with Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.
As for the past trade-market hype surrounding backup Kirk Cousins, all seems quiet for now. Perhaps talks will begin to heat up again around draft time, but the team isn't chomping at the bit to trade their young second-stringer.
After nearly 3,000 rushing yards in his first two seasons, Alfred Morris remains atop the backfield chart, despite new coaches and schematic changes. Offering reliability, toughness and a hard running style, Morris is the bell cow in Washington.
Roy Helu Jr.
Roy Helu Jr. seems like the right fit for the backup role, but it'll be interesting to see how he does in camp. Sure he can both run and catch, but what about playmaking ability? Although it's easy to root for him and he's a back who can contribute, Helu is replaceable.
It wouldn't be a surprise if Gruden targeted a running back in the draft. With a class that lacks elite talent, there should be options in the middle rounds, and Gruden certainly won't forget his success with Giovani Bernard in Cincy's backfield last season.
Chris Thompson will be another interesting name to keep an eye on. While his elusiveness and versatility is attractive, Thompson's durability remains a huge question mark, and he's not a guy anyone can rely on right now.
He wouldn't seem like a natural fit; it's a wait-and-see situation with Evan Royster.
Darrel Young remains the staple at fullback.
The boss and bully of the Redskins receiving group, Pierre Garcon is RG3's go-to weapon.
For a team that needed more speed, an additional receiver and more versatility, adding Andre Roberts was a huge get for the Redskins. Although he has a lot of value as a slot receiver, Roberts also has the speed to play outside. Expect Gruden to get creative with Roberts' looks, which will make Pierre Garcon's job easier.
Veteran Santana Moss is back for another run, and there could potentially be a role for him in the slot if the Redskins plan on using Roberts on the outside. And if Roberts is in fact the slot guy himself, Moss will serve as a reliable backup on the depth chart.
The Redskins re-signed speedster Aldrick Robinson to a cheap, team-friendly deal, but it's about time we see him take the next step as a receiver. While his speed is desirable, Robinson simply needs to offer more.
Recovering from a torn ACL, Leonard Hankerson can't be relied on, and he's far from a lock to make the roster.
Nick Williams showed good results in limited action last season. Hopefully, he can make a run at the bottom of the receiver chart.
Assuming good health, Jordan Reed is a top-notch tight end who has only scratched the surface of his overall potential. He's a natural pass-catcher with superb athleticism and playmaking ability—all great assets for a creative coach like Gruden.
He's not necessarily a receiving threat, but Logan Paulsen finds time among improved blocking to pull in a tough catch here and there. With Gruden's strong liking for two-tight end sets, Paulsen wouldn't be the team's best option, but blocking is obviously a critical role of the position as well.
As a converted wide receiver, Niles Paul may have a better set of hands than Paulsen, but he doesn't do the other things as well. Entering his third season as a tight end (fourth as a pro), it'll be interesting to see how much of a role the coaches have for Paul. At the very least, he's one of the Redskins' best special team players.
Trent Williams, Tom Compton
Trent Williams is the anchor at left tackle and the Redskins' best offensive lineman. Serving as the team's swing tackle would be the inexperienced Tom Compton.
Shawn Lauvao, Josh LeRibeus, Maurice Hurt
The four-year, $17 million deal Shawn Lauvao received after a few mediocre years in Cleveland was a bit surprising, but he looks like the guy at left guard for the Redskins next season, perhaps playing alongside Williams helps.
Josh LeRibeus has the look of a wasted third-round pick. While he's on the team for now, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him released before the season starts if he can't put together a decent camp.
Kory Lichtensteiger, Adam Gettis
After the Redskins released Will Montgomery, it allowed them to move former left guard Kory Lichtensteiger to his more natural center position. Hopefully, addition by subtraction (plus a little rearranging) improves the interior.
Assuming the versatility we believe he has, Adam Gettis can be a decent backup at both guard and center.
Chris Chester, Mike McGlynn
It's tough to feel good about right guard after the kind of performance we saw out of Chris Chester last season, but for now he's the Redskins' best option. Maybe the recently signed veteran Mike McGlynn puts together a better camp and takes over the position.
Tyler Polumbus, Tom Compton
Even as a guy who has been overly critical of right tackle Tyler Polumbus, I'll admit he wasn't as bad last season as he was in 2012. Truth is, upgrades along the interior make it possible to live with Polumbus on the right.
It's too early to call it, but former sixth-round pick Tom Compton has a chance to beat out Polumbus and earn a starting spot at tackle.
Jason Hatcher, Stephen Bowen, Kedric Golston
One of the larger deals signed by the Redskins this offseason was for former Dallas Cowboys lineman Jason Hatcher. Despite turning 32 in July, the Redskins dished out a four-year deal for him, but they worked the money to their advantage. They'll get the most out of him while they can as a primary defensive end.
There's still a chance Stephen Bowen becomes a cap casualty with his large cap number and continuing recovery from microfracture surgery. His status will require a watchful eye throughout the summer.
Barry Cofield, Chris Neild
The Redskins re-signed Chris Baker to a $9 million deal, but that doesn't mean the undersized Barry Cofield won't return in 2014 as the team's starting nose tackle. The Redskins are changing their defense a bit, and Cofield should remain a quick and reliable centerpiece.
Chris Baker, Jarvis Jenkins, Clifton Geathers, Doug Worthington
Even at 329 pounds, Chris Baker would appear to fit best at end in the Redskins' scheme. However, his versatility allows him to be effective in the middle if coaches so choose.
Jarvis Jenkins hasn't exactly turned out as well as fans would've liked since tearing his ACL as a rookie. It's hard to believe he starts ahead of Baker, assuming the Redskins use Baker at end.
Larger in size than he was as a free-agent signing, the 6'8", 340-pound Clifton Geathers shouldn't be anything more than a backup at defensive end.
Brian Orakpo, Brandon Jenkins
Returning after signing his franchise-tag contract, Brian Orakpo enters 2014 with tons of eyeballs on him. Yes, we've seen bright spots, but everyone's waiting to see Orakpo take his next step in becoming an every-down threat. Hopefully, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's philosophy (now no longer "handcuffed" by Mike Shanahan) helps Orakpo excel.
Brandon Jenkins entered the league as a rookie last season with lots of raw potential as a pass-rusher. His progress and development should be a priority in 2014.
Perry Riley, Darryl Sharpton, Will Compton
Although he's not a sexy name, re-signing Perry Riley was a good move for the Redskins, given his familiarity with the defense. His improved coverage skills toward the end of last season hopefully work in his favor as well.
Darryl Sharpton was signed as an experienced 3-4 inside linebacker who provides depth and strong play against the run.
Will Compton can carve out a spot on this roster with strong special teams play, and the inside linebacker position isn't exactly boiling with a talent. For a workaholic like Compton, he might have a chance to make some waves in camp.
Akeem Jordan, Keenan Robinson, Adam Hayward
The Redskins didn't make headlines when they signed veteran Akeem Jordan a couple of weeks ago, but he looks like the early favorite to start alongside Riley. He has good experience with versatile defenses, and he's not being asked to compete against top talent in order to break the starting lineup.
It'd be great to not only see Keenan Robinson stay healthy but also for him to play up to his fourth-round draft selection from two years ago and break the starting lineup. Regardless of whether he starts inside or not, though, Robinson's a young, athletic backer with potential.
Adam Hayward was added for his special teams contribution, and he can play inside in desperate situations.
Ryan Kerrigan has logged 25 sacks over his first three seasons, and 2014 should be a lot of fun in Haslett's new style, which should include more direct pass rush off the edge.
Not many outside of the Redskins fanbase understood the team's decision to re-sign DeAngelo Hall, but count me as another guy who was fully on board. Hall has been very good since the end of 2012, and he's a playmaker in the Redskins secondary.
David Amerson enters his second season with hopes of starting opposite Hall in 2014. He showed well in spots last season, and he should get a fair shot this summer. There are a lot of things to like about his size and potential.
The $6 million for Tracy Porter last month seemed a bit high, but it's not off-putting. The hope is that he's an upgrade over Josh Wilson who can help as a slot corner.
There's familiarity with both Jim Haslett and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, so re-signing E.J. Biggers on the cheap made sense for depth at the position.
He showed promise late in his rookie season, but Richard Crawford missed all of last season with a torn ACL; the verdict is still out on the former seventh-round pick.
This is just me wishing that Chase Minnifield somehow finds a way to stay healthy. He's still young, at just 26 years old; natural talent shouldn't be an issue.
Brandon Meriweather, Jose Gumbs
Another unsexy re-signing for the Redskins, but bringing back Brandon Meriweather was the best move to address a gaping hole on the roster. He's familiar with the coaches, and he actually looked pretty decent toward the end of last season.
Jose Gumbs should see a majority of his action on special teams. However, it'd be interesting to see what he could offer at safety in the unfortunate situation that Meriweather goes down with an injury.
Bacarri Rambo, Phillip Thomas, Trenton Robinson
Bacarri Rambo struggled last season. No debate there. But we'll see how he looks in camp in an otherwise wide-open position battle.
Meanwhile, fellow sophomore Phillip Thomas will get his shot after missing all of last season with a Lisfranc injury. It'd be nice if the former fourth-rounder could turn into a dependable starter, but recovering from a bad foot injury isn't always that easy.
As a strong foot with consistency, Kai Forbath seems like the early favorite to retain his job at kicker.
Seeing as how he's the only guy listed on the roster, Robert Malone looks like the starting punter for now.
Reliable, dependable, hard working—Nick Sundberg's the most important player no one ever thinks about.