The 2011 Washington Redskins: What Shanahan's Team Should Look Like Next Season
There's not much more to do with the NFL but speculate.
From a Redskins perspective, the 2010 NFL season has all but come to an end. The NFC and AFC Championship games will be played, and the Redskins will not be a part of either one of those games. The Pro Bowl has yet to be played, but (as of this writing) there will be two Washington Redskins in the Pro Bowl (Brian Orakpo was an alternate, as either Clay Matthews or Lance Briggs will be in the Super Bowl).
All there is to do is to look forward to the next season and hope for the best, as we do every season. It is tiring, and exhausting, but half the fun of being a football fan is wondering what goodies the next year will bring.
Speculation is running wild with mock drafts and potential free agents, but I want to take things a bit further. Why speculate on who could be added or subtracted, when I could more easily speculate the exact roster of the football team next season?
Without further ado, here's your look at what the Washington Redskins will (or rather, should) look like next season.
Your Starting Offensive Line
Tackles: LT Trent Williams, RT Ryan Harris
Guards: RG Mike Pouncey (University of Florida), LG Logan Mankins
Center: C Kory Lichensteiger
Yes indeed, in a draft day shocker, the Washington Redskins will forgo taking a quarterback in the first round and instead chose to rain on the Steelers parade by drafting Mike Pouncey in the first round (or possibly the second, if he falls for some reason).
Meanwhile, Jammal Brown will leave the Redskins on good terms, but seeking more money to play in his natural position of left tackle, a job held steadfastly by Trent Williams. In his place, Mike Shanahan will bring in another offensive linemen he originally drafted in Denver, RT Ryan Clark.
Casey Rabach will be given the opportunity to compete for his starting job, but the long time center will ultimately lose his job to Kory Lichensteiger, who was originally drafted to play the position.
But the biggest addition in the offseason will be that of Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins. After weeks of speculation and teams engaging in a bidding war for his services, the Redskins will outbid everyone else (this is Dan Snyder we're talking about) and add Mankins to the roster.
Over the course of one offseason, the Redskins offensive line will be completely revamped and built better than ever.
Back-Ups/Reserves: C Casey Rabach, T Selvish Capers, C Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU), T Clint Oldenberg, C/G Will Montgomery
Your Wide Receiver and Tight End Core
#1: Sidney Rice (17 receptions, 280 yards, 2 touchdowns in 2010)
#2: Santana Moss
#3: James Jones (50 receptions, 679 yards, 5 touchdowns in 2010)
#4: Anthony Armstrong
The Redskins will forgo taking a big name wide receiver in the draft, instead choosing to go through free agency. After weeks of Jason LaCanfora and Adam Scheffler claiming that there's no way the Redskins don't pick up Vincent Jackson, news will break that they went with the younger, less troublesome wide receiver, Sidney Rice.
Another offseason acquisition will be current Green Bay wide receiver James Jones. The Packers have so much depth at every position it's ridiculous, and they will let Jones slip through the cracks when he asks for a little more money coming off a (potential) Super Bowl run.
This will knock 2010's breakout star to number four on the depth chart, but he will still get a ton of looks, and will be occasionally rotated into the line up in Santana Moss' spot, in preparation for that day when Moss is a Redskin no longer. Jones has a bit more size and is a bit more physical, and Rice has tremendous upside, provided he can stay healthy.
On the tight end front, despite buckets of rumors, the Redskins will retain all three of their tight ends for the season. Why mess with a good thing? With an improved offensive line, Fred Davis and Chris Cooley will bother get more opportunities on offense, and don't be surprised if you see Logan Paulsen snag a touchdown or two on the goal line.
Back-Ups/Reserves: WR Terrence Austin, WR Brandon Banks (who will get his chances to play on offense), WR Ryan Whalen (Stanford), TE Logan Paulsen
Your Starting Running Backs
#1: Ryan Torain
#2: DeAngelo Williams (361 yards on 87 attempts, 1 touchdown in 2010)
#3: Evan Royster (Penn State University)
#1: Mike Sellers
#2: Stanley Haveli (USC)
The Redskins don't need to draft any running backs, at least not with a high draft pick.
No, seriously. They just don't need to draft running backs. Shanahan's system has produced a ton of 1,000 yard rushers. Off the top of my head, I can only name two—Terrell Davis, and Clinton Portis. Shanahan is the crowned king of taking running backs no one has ever heard of, plugging them into his system, and having them look elite for a little while.
Coach Shanahan was deliberately vague in making assessments about the running back position in his last press conference of the season, explaining that breakout running back Ryan Torain will be given every opportunity to compete.
He was also vague about Clinton Portis' future, but the Redskins will part ways with the former starting running back, firmly placing Torain into the number one back position until someone takes it from him.
Enter DeAngelo Williams. The Panthers will decide to go with youth over experience after a few injuries derailed Williams' season, and the Redskins will snag him for a bargain, providing the Redskins with the speed element of their running game they've been lacking. Evan Royster will be drafted in the fifth round, will out-perform Keiland Williams in training camp and preseason, becoming the third back on the depth chart.
In the meantime, the Redskins realize that Mike Sellers is not getting any younger. Sellers will start the season as the number one fullback, but will get bumped down the depth chart in favor of another draftee, USC's Stanley Haveli. Darrel Young, the converted linebacker, will spend a lot of time being either inactive, or potentially demoted to the practice squad.
Back-Ups/Reserves: RB Keiland Williams, RB James Davis, FB Darrel Young
Your Starting Defensive Line
Muhammed Wilkseron (Temple University)
It's been said before, and it can be said again; the most important part of the 3-4 defense is the nose tackle position. Without a nose tackle, you've got nothing. Nada. The big goose egg, as we saw time and time again with Ma'ake Kemoeatu. If you can't create pressure from the nose position, then the linebackers behind the defensive line can't do much of anything.
The Redskins know this. And while Anthony Bryant performed admirably in his playing time, he's not likely to be a guy who can do it week in and week out as the starting guy.
With that in mind, the Redskins will bring in a free agent, as well as draft their nose tackle for the future. Aubrayo Franklin will in all likelihood be a free agent this season with a new coaching regime in place and lots of people who need to get paid.
The 'Skins will also draft Muhammed Wilkerson from Temple, who had a simply monsterous season in his senior year. The 'Skins will kick him out to defensive end alongside Adam Carriker, who had a pretty good season from the position.
Back-Ups/Reserves: DE Jeremy Jarmon, NT Ma'ake Kemoeatu, DE Vonnie Holliday
Your Starting Linebacker Core
Rocky McIntyre performed as well as he could (if not better), but the Redskins will chose not to bring him back, instead handing his job to the man who did well in his place, Perry Riley. London Fletcher (the most unsung linebacker in the whole damn league) will continue to be the quarterback of the defense while bringing along Perry Riley to be the next guy.
On the outside, Brian Orakpo is a beast, and had offensive tackles not held him like a small child holds its mother, he would've had far more sacks. He was solid defending the run and has come along in defending the pass. But one of the biggest surprises of the season was when Orakpo had to sit out a game. In came Rob Jackson, who completely dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line and wreaked havoc most of the day, including getting a sack-fumle.
Jackson outperforms Lorenzo Alexander in training camp and the preseason (provided he keeps that hunger going) and the Redskins have that pass rushing nightmare that everyone thinks they should have.
Back-Ups/Reserves: ILB Josh Bynes (Auburn), ILB H.B. Blades, OLB Lorenzo Alexander, OLB Cliff Matthews (South Carolina)
Your Starting Defensive Backs
Champ Bailey (2 INTs, 45 Tackles, 1 Sack, 13 Passes Defensed in 2010)
Jermale Hines (Ohio State University)
That's right; Champ comes back home in the offseason. When Champ slips into free agency, the Redskins will aggressively pursue the veteran cornerback who most say should've never been traded at all. One more mistake from the past will be erased (or at least temporarily patched up) when Champ puts on the number 24 in burgundy and gold once again.
The Redskins will retain Carlos Rogers, as long as he agrees to moderate pay. Unfortunately, this will come before the Redskins get Bailey back, meaning Rogers (a pretty solid cover corner) slides down the depth chart into nickel packages with Kevin Barnes.
LaRon Landry will be healthy and back to 100 percent at strong safety, but Kareem Moore will be benched in favor of the rookie Jermale Hines. Even if there's only two preseason games, Shanahan knows and realizes that Moore can't tackle and can't cover and the rookie is a safer bet. Moore will be retained for depth, which will drive yours truly nuts.
Back-Ups/Reserves: S Kareem Moore, S Reed Doughty, CB Reggie Jones, CB/S Macho Harris, CB Byran Westbrook
Your Starting Kick Returners
Brandon Banks and Terrence Austin
This one isn't really surprising. Banks was one of the Redskins most explosive weapons this season, and had several would-be touchdowns called back, otherwise more people would know about him.
The Redskins will choose to have Terrence Austin also return kicks in the interest of keeping Banks healthy, who will find more looks on the offense. Austin was pretty solid at returning kicks for UCLA and will be able to spell Banks in the event he gets injured.
Either one of these guys are solid kick returners, and we have both.
Your Kicker and Punter
Going, going, Graham Gano is gone.
While kickers who have played for the Redskins have gone on to do well for other teams in the past (see: David Akers), it's clearly something mental and not physical with Gano. He has plenty of leg for field goals, but his confidence is shaken, and kickers have to be confident, otherwise they're completely useless.
Shanahan will either draft Dan Bailey with one of his several picks in the later rounds or invite him to training camp, along with Rob Long, who will be brought in to replace the aging Josh Bidwell.
We will spend all of next season going nuts over the rookie kickers, wondering why Shaun Suisham was let go.
And The Starting Quarterback For The 2011 Washington Redskins Is...
#1: Alex Smith (2,360 yards, 14 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 59.6% CMP, 82.1 QB Rating in 2010)
#2: Rex Grossman
#3: Andy Dalton (TCU) or Ricky Stanzi (University of Iowa)
Yup. I went there. Alex Smith will be the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins next season.
Smith will likely be on his way out of San Fransisco, as the Niners didn't even want to renew his contract last season. With John Harbaugh coming in and likely wanting to draft his own guy, that leaves Smith without a home.
He'll trade in the cherry red and gold for the burgundy and gold.
Smith largely has the title of bust, which isn't entirely fair to the young quarterback. Multiple coaches and multiple offensive coordinators curbed his development, along with multiple benchings. His completion percentage is higher than Rex's and John Beck's, and when Smith is on, he's really on.
In three of his last four starts, his completion percentage was over 60% and he only threw one pick.
Shanahan took a chance and acquired Jake Plummer from Arizona and had some success with him, before Plummer turned back into a pumpkin and Shanahan drafted Jay Cutler to replace him. Smith isn't the raging jerk Plummer is, and is likely eager to prove his bust status wrong. And Shanahan loves taking guys at the bottom and building them up to the top.
Shanahan will cover his bases though. Smith will outperform Rex is training camp and preseason, but Shanahan will still retain him just in case. And in the draft, Shanahan will use one of the draft picks he gets for trading either Donovan McNabb or Albert Haynesworth. Shanahan will take either Andy Dalton or Ricky Stanzi—QB's who won't be taken high for various reasons—that he can mold into starters.
The McNabb Era Ends...and the Smith Era Begins?
Who knows for sure, but this offseason is shaping up to be an interesting one to say the very least. Some of these signings are a stretch, some of these are impossible, and some will make people angry.
But hey, maybe, just maybe, some of these picks are just crazy enough to come true.