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How Will the Washington Redskins Use Their Rookies in 2014?

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How Will the Washington Redskins Use Their Rookies in 2014?
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The Washington Redskins 2014 NFL draft can be described with three simple words: Depth, patience and competition.

Washington got deeper at positions of need. It drafted players who will likely endure some growing pains this season before making bigger impacts two to three years down the road. And it loaded up on several positions to create competition in training camp—no one except a select few should feel safe.

When it's time to kickoff the 2014 season against the Houston Texans in Week 1, what will the Redskins be expecting from their rookies? Let's dive in:



Offensive Line

Two of Washington's first three picks were made to protect Robert Griffin III.

The Redskins watched Virginia tackle Morgan Moses tumble down team draft boards, eventually falling into their laps at No. 66 overall. Twelve picks later, the Redskins selected Nebraska guard Spencer Long No. 78 overall.

Regardless of what your thoughts are on incumbent starting right tackle Tyler Polumbus, it's far from a guarantee that Moses—the tenth overall offensive tackle selected in the draft—will automatically be inserted into the starting lineup come September. Yes, Moses will push Polumbus for the starting right tackle position in camp, but his worth doubles as a backup to the Redskins most invaluable piece on the offensive line, Trent Williams.

At Virginia, Moses started 23 games at left tackle. Should Williams be forced to miss any time in 2014, the Redskins now at least have someone to plug-in at that position.

As for Long, at 6'5'', 320 pounds, he fits the build of the larger offensive line that head coach Jay Gruden wants to assemble. He does have a history of injuries at Nebraska but was also known to play through pain. Will he beat out last year's starter Chris Chester in training camp? We'll find out in a couple of months.

At the very least, the selections of Moses and Long provide competition and much-needed depth along the O-line. Chester and Polumbus have heard the noise all offseason about being replaced. Let's see how the vets respond when the new kids show up at Redskins Park to take their starting gigs.

Running Back

Get ready for a 1-2 punch of sixth-round draft picks in the Redskins backfield this season.

There's no debating that Alfred Morris, Washington's sixth-round pick in 2012, still eats first. But picture the speed on the Redskins offense in third-down situations: wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon on the outside, Griffin under center and running back Lache Seastrunk, the 'Skins sixth-round pick in 2014, streaking out of the backfield.

Seastrunk, a consensus first-team All-Big 12 back at Baylor with blazing speed, rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Baylor's offense never required its running backs to catch the football, though—Seastrunk had zero catches last season.

So, can he work in the passing game? A third-down back needs to be able to catch.

In an interview on ESPN 980's The Drive With Cooley and Czabe, Seastrunk said his hands were just fine:

Seastrunk is officially a Gruden guy, but he still must beat out Roy Helu and Chris Thompson for the second running back spot. If he shines in camp and wins the job, the 2014 combined cap number of Washington's backfield (Morris and Seastrunk) would be just $1 million, according to Over the Cap. That could make Helu expendable. His cap number this season, according to Over the Cap, is $1.54 milion.

 

Wide Receiver

Memo to Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson and Santana Moss: the wide receiving corps just got more crowded.

In a mildly-surprising move, the Redskins drafted Tulane wide receiver Ryan Grant in the fifth round. With Jackson, Garcon and Andre Roberts firmly entrenched as Washington's top three receivers, Grant will battle the aforementioned Hankerson, Robinson and Moss for a roster spot.

According to Grant's NFL.com draft profile, he finished the 2013 season with 77 catches for 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns. It also notes that he is a "smooth accelerator off the line" and "makes NFL-caliber catches."

Given that the team invested a fifth-round pick in Grant, it would appear he'd have the edge for one of the final two spots at receiver. Expect him to play sparingly this season and instead spend more time soaking up knowledge from Jackson, Garcon and Roberts.

 

Defense

Stanford outside linebacker Trent Murphy, Washington's second-round pick, and Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland, its fourth-round pick, will undoubtedly have their moments this season, but neither will be counted on to start.

Murphy will be the primary backup to Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan this season, but don't be surprised to see defensive coordinator Jim Haslett use all three together on the field. Murphy led the nation with 15 sacks last season and is all effort, all the time. His addition to the defense, along with newly signed defensive end Jason Hatcher will give Washington a much-improved pass rush in 2014.

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Had Breeland decided to stay at Clemson for another season, NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock considered him a first-round selection in next year's draft. His NFL.com draft profile describes him as a "lean, rangy cover corner who sticks his nose in run support and competes against bigger receivers."

Breeland should be penciled in as the Redskins' fourth corner and could end up competing with Tracy Porter for more snaps. Of the 110 cornerbacks that Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded in 2013, Porter was No. 105 with an overall grade of minus-12.4.

 

Special Teams

A majority of this rookie class must make its mark on special teams if the Redskins are going to have a successful season. The good news is that many of them have a solid track record of doing just that.

Tight end Ted Bolser, the Redskins' seventh-round pick from Indiana, was selected as the Hoosiers special teams Player of the Week three times last season, according to Redskins.com. His ticket to making this team is replicating that special teams-success in the NFL. Gruden likes his chances, via Redskins.com:

He is a fun guy to watch running down on kicks and obviously I’ve mentioned special teams on here a lot. We were the 32nd-ranked team in every special team category and it was a major item for us in the draft, and Ted is a good special teams player as well as a tight end.

 

The Redskins used their second seventh-round pick on Arkansas kicker Zach Hocker. Hocker has a booming leg and will put some heat on Kai Forbath, creating yet another intriguing camp competition.

As for the other rookies, Breeland told reporters on a conference call that he played special teams his whole career at Clemson. Grant played teams during his first two seasons at Tulane, according to The Washington Times' Brian McNally. Murphy's play-to-the-whistle mentality will also be a welcome site to the special teams unit.

 

“We added a few guys from this draft and in free agency that can make a big impact for us on special teams,” general manger Bruce Allen told ESPN 980 on Monday, via Redskins.com. “That is the difference between winning and losing in this NFL.”

 

All statistics and player information are courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.

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