Breaking Down the New Faces on the 2014 Washington Redskins
When you're 3-13 like the Washington Redskins were last season, you could stand use a little help from the outside.
General manager Bruce Allen has been a busy man this offseason. Through a combination of practical free-agent signings, the acquisition of a big-name wide receiver and a promising draft class, the 2014 Washington Redskins are beginning to take shape.
Let's take a deeper look into what we can expect from some of the newest members of the Burgundy and Gold. Here are six players who could drastically change the landscape of the upcoming season.
DE Jason Hatcher
Hatcher did not participate in Tuesday's minicamp practice with knee swelling, according to Andrew Walker of Redskins.com. Later in the day, Hatcher tweeted out that there's no need to worry:
My knee is ok. It's minor I'll be ready to kill quarterbacks when the season starts. Just a Lil bump in the road. God is good!! #HTTR— Jason Hatcher (@hatcher97) June 17, 2014
The Redskins can ill-afford to lose Hatcher, who will be counted on to bolster the pass rush in 2014. Last season Hatcher netted 11 sacks, with eight of them coming against NFC East opponents. He was graded by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) as the fourth-ranked pass-rushing defensive tackle in 2013.
|Jason Hatcher via Pro Football Focus - 2013|
|Run Def.||Pass Rush||Overall Grade|
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Hatcher will be used as a defensive end in Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme in Washington. His presence should also free up outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo and Trent Murphy to get after the quarterback.
The move to acquire Hatcher not only improves Washington's defense, but it also drastically weakens its division rival. The Cowboys also lost DeMarcus Ware to the Denver Broncos this offseason and middle linebacker Sean Lee was lost for the 2014 season with a torn ACL last month.
Hatcher put a scare into Redskins faithful Tuesday, but all signs point to a crisis averted.
WR Andre Roberts
When Andre Roberts signed with the Redskins this offseason, his expectation was that the No. 2 starting receiver job across from Pierre Garcon was his.
The acquisition of DeSean Jackson bumped Roberts to Washington's No. 3 receiver. Add tight end Jordan Reed to the mix, and Roberts is now widely-viewed as Robert Griffin III's fourth option in the passing game.
Roberts isn't sweating his role though, as he told ESPN.com's John Keim Monday:
In Arizona it was a new staff and they didn’t know me. The Redskins brought me here because they want me to make plays on special teams and offense. So it’s a different dynamic.
We’ll do a lot of three-receiver stuff. We can run well out of the three-receiver sets. Obviously you have to do the two tight end and fullback out there. You have to have a running game and we have a great back in Alfred [Morris]. We’ll definitely do both, but I think our best personnel will be three receivers and one tight end.
Keim also noted that Roberts is working as the Redskins' primary punt and kickoff returner in practice, roles that he hasn't taken on full-time since 2010.
Roberts is certainly a player to watch in 2014. When he's on the field together with Jackson, Garcon and Reed, chances are he'll have the most favorable matchup of the four. If defenses are fixated too much on preventing the big play or doubling the sure-handed Reed, Roberts could be in for a career season.
CB Tracy Porter
Cornerback Tracy Porter has made some signature plays over his six-year NFL career.
Those moments are the reason why he's now a member of the Washington Redskins. But does he still have any of that magic left in him?
|Tracy Porter via Pro Football Focus - 2013|
|Run Def.||Pass Cov.||Overall Grade|
Porter is currently recovering from surgery for a torn labrum, per ESPN's Chris Russell:
Jay Gruden confirmed that new #Redskins CB Tracy Porter had surgery for a torn labrum and will be "fully recovered by training camp."— Chris Russell (@Russellmania980) May 17, 2014
Saw Tracy Porter doing some deep ball tracking drills on the back practice fields. Again, should be ready for training camp. #Redskins— Chris Russell (@Russellmania980) June 11, 2014
The No. 3 corner spot is Porter's to lose, but it's worth monitoring how much rookie Bashaud Breeland will have improved by training camp. Breeland has been feisty during OTAs and is a candidate to take snaps away from Porter.
G Shawn Lauvao
New head coach Jay Gruden hasn't been shy about revamping the offensive line.
Last month, the Redskins drafted guard Spencer Long and tackle Morgan Moses, two powerful men who could meaningfully contribute as early as this season.
Taking a chance on a 26-year old player isn't curious, but the money that was shelled out to sign him is. Of the 81 guards graded by Pro Football Focus in 2013, Lauvao, who is currently penciled in as Washington's starting left guard, was ranked No. 70.
|Shawn Lauvao via Pro Football Focus - 2013|
|Run Block||Pass Block||Overall Grade|
In Lauvao's defense, he did suffer an ankle injury last preseason which may have set the tone for his underwhelming performance in 2013. And while it's entirely too early to start forming sound opinions from June practices, the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Michael Phillips had this interesting observation from last week's OTAs:
Jason Hatcher looked strong, and dominated new OL Shawn Lauvao. At one point Lauvao was pushed back so far RG3 had to jump out of the way.— michael phillips (@michaelpRTD) June 11, 2014
It's simple: Lauvao must improve this offseason for this offense to function properly come September. If he doesn't, there are even more layers of uncertainty that lie behind him.
S Ryan Clark
This season for Ryan Clark, leadership supersedes talent.
The 12-year veteran will be expected to make his fair share of plays, but the role of leader left behind by London Fletcher is now Clark's primary responsibility. ESPN.com's John Keim observed him in action last weekend:
Clark shouts to players pre-snap, telling the young corners (David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland) what to watch for and if he thought a play was coming their way. Whether it did or not doesn't matter as much; it forced the young players to react as if it was coming to their side. Clark shouted out adjustment; he'd loudly praise teammates after a play.
Nobody else on defense gives the Redskins what Clark can in this area. He has to prove he can still play, but the leadership and knowledge he brings will be vital.
Clark's wealth of experience could pay dividends for a young secondary. The development of second-year players like Bacarri Rambo and Amerson mean much more to the Redskins than whether or not Clark starts 16 games this season. In a perfect world, Rambo or Tanard Jackson will prove himself worthy of starting games at free safety at some point during the season.
But make no mistake: Clark was also brought back to Washington for when the stakes get high. He's been to a Pro Bowl and won a Super Bowl. If the Redskins' youth-laden roster plans to make noise in December—and possibly January—guys like No. 25 should be the ones patrolling the secondary.
WR DeSean Jackson
As we sit here in the middle of June, what more can be said about what DeSean Jackson's impact on the Redskins will be? Here's what we know happened last season.
Here's another nugget from PFF: Jackson dropped only five balls, tied for ninth in the league.
Philly.com's Jimmy Kempski noted earlier this offseason that Jackson hauled in 25 receptions of 20 yards or more, second in the NFL only to the Cleveland Browns' Josh Gordon. He also had three touchdowns wiped away by penalties.
Jackson is 27 years old. He's in the prime of his career. And he's motivated.
Why did Philly let him go again?
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.