Ranking the Washington Redskins' Most Irreplaceable Players
The Washington Redskins cannot afford to lose much of anyone on their roster in the first season under new head coach Jay Gruden. Injuries on defense and to their franchise quarterback earned them a 3-13 record and earned head coach Mike Shanahan the boot.
No injury is a good injury when it claims a player of any rank, but there are some players who have made themselves irreplaceable in Washington.
Production alone does not dictate a player's value, though it is certainly an important factor. The role they play or will be expected to play is just as important.
Here are the most irreplaceable players for the Redskins this season.
8) Keenan Robinson, Inside Linebacker
For someone who missed the better part of his first two seasons with pectoral tears, Keenan Robinson has already made an impact this offseason. With London Fletcher retired, there was a void at inside linebacker alongside Perry Riley.
Robinson took center stage during OTAs, beating out veteran free agents Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan for the starting job.
Though Riley has the experience and all the potential to be a star at inside linebacker, Robinson was drafted to be groomed as Fletcher's replacement. Injuries may have put Robinson's status as heir apparent on hold, but he did little to shake the confidence the coaches had in him when he was drafted in 2012.
Losing Robinson would be a huge hit to morale because he does have so much promise, and he has looked excellent in offseason activities. He's bigger and stronger than Fletcher and is better suited for coverage than Fletcher was.
While the Redskins may be okay with the veterans they signed this offseason, they'd be happier with Robinson in the middle.
7) DeAngelo Hall, Cornerback
Washington's secondary, while boasting improved depth, is still a far cry from being considered an asset. Its cornerback situation leaves a lot to be desired, particularly at the top, where David Amerson has yet to show himself capable of locking down the second corner spot.
DeAngelo Hall is the team's top corner, but if he goes down for any reason, the secondary is in trouble.
Always a ball hawk, Hall scored three defensive touchdowns in 2013, taking two interceptions and a fumble recovery to the house. Entering his 11th season, age may become a factor for Hall, but he has adapted his playing style to be more cautious instead of relying so heavily on his speed to make up for the risks he took.
Without Hall, the Redskins don't have an experienced cover man on their roster, which makes their already questionable pass defense even more of a liability.
Leadership, though not Hall's calling card, is something else the Redskins would miss if he was lost for the season. He's been with the team six years now and needs to fill the void left by London Fletcher's retirement.
6) DeSean Jackson, Wide Receiver
Pierre Garcon alone is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He led the league in receptions last season, catching 113 passes on 184 targets from a hobbled Robert Griffin III and an overwhelmed Kirk Cousins.
However, it is DeSean Jackson who changes everything for the Redskins' passing game.
Though he has yet to play a single down in burgundy and gold, Jackson has made a career out of burning defenses for big gains. For his career, Jackson averages 16.2 yards per catch, which makes him one of the best deep threats in the NFL.
Without Jackson, the Redskins are essentially back where they started this offseason, lacking a legitimate second receiver to complement Garcon. Andre Roberts was a decent free-agent signing, but he wasn't a long-term solution to Washington's lack of depth at receiver.
5) Chris Baker, Defensive Lineman
Following free agency—primarily the acquisition of Jason Hatcher—the Redskins had the makings of one of the most underrated defensive fronts in the NFL. Hatcher, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Jarvis Jenkins and Chris Baker aren't household names, but they are capable of controlling the trenches together.
Bad news is, Hatcher is out for four to six weeks following knee surgery, Cofield is recovering from hernia surgery, Bowen is recovering from knee surgery and Jenkins, who was suspended for four games to start the 2013 season, has his own red flags.
Baker, the lone healthy, unblemished player on that list, just became the most valuable defensive lineman on the roster.
Injuries to his teammates aside, Baker was expected to play a big role on defense, having experience as a nose tackle and the ability to play defensive end. He can be moved all along the line and be effective at any spot.
Losing Baker, especially now, would be a crippling blow to Washington's defensive front. He excels in goal-line situations, has great quickness for his size and can make an impact against the run or in passing situations.
Labeling him a utility player doesn't do him justice. He does everything and does all of it well and is precisely the sort of player the Redskins can't afford to lose.
4) Brian Orakpo, Outside Linebacker
Brian Orakpo is in a bit of a compromising position this season, bearing the weight of a franchise tag that guarantees him $11.45 million for the 2014-2015 season. He is coming off a 10-sack season and angling for a long-term (and lofty) contract with the Redskins.
He has everything to gain and just as much to lose by succeeding this season, and a driven Orakpo could be a scary Orakpo.
However, Orakpo has had some troubles with his shoulder, missing all but two games in 2012 with a torn right pectoral—the same injury that led him to undergo surgery following the 2011 season. Without Orakpo, Washington's pressure packages change, even with rookie Trent Murphy in the mix.
Orakpo hasn't lit up the league with 15 sacks per season, but he is among the best in the NFL at applying pressure, collapsing the pocket and holding his own in coverage.
There is no one on Washington's roster who can disrupt opposing offenses quite like Orakpo.
3) Alfred Morris, Running Back
For whatever reason, recognition seems to elude Alfred Morris despite accumulating 2,888 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in his two-year career. He came out of nowhere, or Florida Atlantic University, and has finished in the top five in rushing yards in each of his first two seasons.
The tweaks to the offense have yet to be revealed, but Morris is expected to remain the workhorse back for the Redskins.
Losing Morris would be a crippling blow to the offense, even though they still have Roy Helu as insurance. Helu, though capable, is a different player, better suited to be a change-of-pace back than a feature back.
We also don't know what effect the transition from Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme to what amounts to an imitation scheme will have on personnel and production. Morris is the heart and soul of the offense and its most consistent performer, and reliability is irreplaceable.
2) Robert Griffin III, Quarterback
Imagine the uproar that would occur if Robert Griffin III were to fall to injury once again in his young NFL career. The Redskins gave up three first-round picks and a second-round pick to draft Griffin in 2012, and they would have a season and a half of production in three seasons as a pro.
After a rocky, and shortened, 2013 campaign, Griffin needs a comeback season as much as the Redskins need him to become their franchise quarterback.
Should the Redskins lose Griffin, they would not be dead in the water. Kirk Cousins is still a capable backup and potential starter in the future. However, Cousins isn't the game-changer the Redskins need or want. He isn't the player the team paid a king's ransom to draft.
Cousins is the insurance policy on the ransom, and having to utilize him more than Griffin would be devastating. Questions of whether drafting Griffin was a mistake would arise; the new coaching staff would be under fire for the previous staff's oversight.
In short, losing Griffin would throw the Redskins right back into upheaval.
1) Trent Williams, Left Tackle
Trent Williams is one of the best, if not the best, left tackle in the NFL today. He is excellent in pass protection and run blocking and is about the only part of the Redskins' offensive line that works.
Without Williams, Griffin is in serious trouble, as is the rest of Washington's offense because there is no one available to fill the void Williams would leave.
Franchise left tackles are named as such for a reason. Very few teams, if any, can succeed without a left tackle handling their quarterback's blind side. Griffin was under duress from cracks in the line on the right side; imagine what it would do to him to have it coming from both sides.
Morris and the rest of the backfield would find it tough sledding on the left side where Williams has typically excelled as a run blocker in their attempts to get to the second level.
Simply put, Williams is the most important piece of the Washington offense. Without him, nothing else works.