Washington Redskins: Which Young Player Will Breakout in 2011?
Contrary to what "the experts" say, the Redskins do have a lot of young potential on their roster.
Injuries are never a good thing, unless it forces washed up veterans to sit down and give youth a shot at full-speed professional football. Last year, injuries brought many players, who would have never had a chance at the 53-man roster, into starting situations on both offense and defense.
For example, if Clinton Portis doesn't injure his groin, Ryan Torain doesn't humiliate the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 114 yards in the first quarter. Thanks to the poor play of "over-the-hill" Joey Galloway, Anthony Armstrong stepped into the starting role and turned in a season performance that more-than-rivaled that of first-round pick Dez Bryant. Brandon Banks needs no introduction, and was by far the biggest surprise on the roster.
There are young players on both offense and defense that could see more action next year, but which one of these players will seize the opportunity and breakout in 2011?
10. Perry Riley
The Redskins have London Fletcher, who as a veteran, puts out his best effort on every down.
Unfortunately his 2010 counterpart, Rocky McIntosh, appears to be leaving as soon as he gets the chance. I don't blame him, for a player who wants to play in a 4-3 scheme, at least he handled it better than Albert Haynesworth.
This leaves a hole at MLB for Washington, and whether or not they look to fill it in free agency, Perry Riley is likely to see more action in 2011. Riley was a rookie last year, who many blame responsible for a block in the back that negated a Brandon Banks touchdown against Minnesota. Riley is small and isn't the fastest guy, but that never stopped London Fletcher.
I think Riley has a lot of upside and could become either Fletcher's counterpart or replacement in the future.
9. Anthony Armstrong
One pleasant surprise last year was Anthony Armstrong. I was almost an immediate fan of his when he began position battling with Joey Galloway.
I don't think anyone would argue that Armstrong was a solid receiver for the Redskins.
He also must be made of steel after bouncing up from the merciless shot he took from Chad Greenway against the Vikings.
Armstrong's biggest problem is his versatility. It's not that he was completely predictable, there's just only so much you bring to the table as a "stretch-the field" deep threat. He might be able to get away with challenging Chad Ochocinco to a race, but he needs to broaden his resume if he wants to be a legitimate starting receiver.
With Moss's possible departure, Armstrong's development as a receiver becomes even more crucial. With the right training, Armstrong could become a receiver similar to Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
8. Rob Jackson
Rob Jackson is a player that could be a diamond in the rough at outside linebacker.
He made his first NFL start against Jacksonville last year and recorded 3 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack. Not a bad deal for one game.
Jackson is a big physical player that was originally intended as a 4-3 defensive end, but was asked to play 3-4 outside linebacker in the Jacksonville game.
The Redskins need a player to play opposite Orakpo, but might not be able to find a quality player in the draft, or even participate in a free agency market this year. That is why Rob Jackson could really have an opportunity to step up at that spot and hold onto it if he plays well. The release of Andre Carter only increases his shot at a roster spot.
7. Ryan Torain
I don't think there was any player that stepped up last year and made as big of a difference as Ryan Torain.
When I saw him sharing the starting job with Clinton Portis against St. Louis, I was like "Who is this guy?" When I saw him bulldoze Quintin Mikell, I was surprised with his power.
If Ryan Torain can stay healthy, and that's a big "if," he can be one of the top rushers in the league. Torain isn't a superstar back, he's just a player that doesn't give up on a play and uses his body to extend plays.
I was laughing during the Tampa Bay game, because I hadn't seen the Redskins been so dominant in a rushing attack in years. I also liked his ups against Jacksonville when he leaped over the line and into the end zone.
Torain never really had a bad game, he just couldn't stay healthy.
With the starting job completely secure, Ryan Torain could be a beast unleashed in 2011.
6. Keiland Williams
Keiland Williams was in many Redskins mock drafts in 2010. Some had Williams as high as a fifth-round addition to answer the needs at running back. Williams found a way to sneak through the entire draft without being picked up, until he signed with the Redskins and was added to the practice squad for depth.
Williams has the opportunity to become the starting back in Washington, although that is unlikely.
His versatility and elusiveness is better than Torain, and Williams was a little more productive in the passing game.
The former LSU back (that never started a game) was the best high school prospect for running backs and could be the perfect combination with Torain in a two-back system.
5. Trent Williams
Trent Williams was the best player on the offensive line last year.
Before you snap to judgement, take a look at how the line performed in his absence. There is a significant drop off when the likes of Stephon Heyer played in his place. Williams has to work on his hands and his first step off the line, but he is on his way to becoming a solid lock on the left side.
He was last reported to be working on his techniques and improving his game with players in Texas, one of whom was Adrian Peterson.
The Redskins will have to wait to see the full potential of that fourth overall pick, but I'm looking for the sophomore to have a better year on the left side in 2011.
4. Kory Lichtensteiger
Whether it's at center of guard, Kory Lichtensteiger could be a good player for the Redskins.
I think he is athletic enough to fit well in Shahanan's zone blocking scheme, while big enough to still be a hard assignment for defensive ends and nose tackles. Like Trent Williams, he is still raw and has a lot of room for improvement. I'm holding him partially responsible for some of the disasters on the interior O-line, but not too much.
Lichtensteiger did play better than Derreck Dockery, and there's a reason why Dockery is gone and he still remains.
He needs to work with Trent Williams this off-season to improve both his personal skills, as well as his role within the whole unit. If he can fix some of the problems with his first step, he can be a decent player for the Redskins on the offensive line.
3. Malcolm Kelly
Yes, the fact that he is still on the Washington Redskins may come as a shock to most, but the 2008 second-round bust is still around.
That makes this off-season of pivotal importance for Kelly if he ever wants to rebuild his image.
He still has the size and speed to make an impact on the Redskins if he can avoid injury and improve his skill set.
I know it may sound like a long shot, but if Malcolm Kelly could work on his hands and his route running, he could be a starting receiver if Moss left. It is all up to Malcolm Kelly.
He has nothing to lose and everything to gain. No one wants to quit on the guy, but if he doesn't put up some numbers this year, I don't have time for him in 2012.
2. Terrence Austin
One player that was welcomed to the Redskins with open arms prior to the Tennessee Titans game was Terrence Austin.
The Redskins were generating solid numbers from Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong, but Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams were non-factors in the receiver corps. The Redskins released Galloway and promoted Austin from the practice squad. Austin didn't see a lot of action until the end of the year, but he did make some receptions in the final game of the year, including a 28-yard catch.
Austin has the makings of a young Santana Moss, and with the right development, could assume his role in the offense should Moss not return.
I do see Austin getting more looks in 2011, both as a receiver and in the return game.
1. Brandon Banks
There was no player on the Redskins that was more of a surprise story than Brandon Banks.
I attended Fan Appreciation Day at Redskins Park and paid particularly close attention to the receivers. Banks looked like a boy among men, but I was impressed with his speed and his hands.
I was excited when the announcer said he was lining up to return the punt in the Buffalo Bills pre-season game. I was even more excited when he ran past the entire field en route to a touchdown. I nudged my sister and said, "What do we have here?"
It might seem strange that the player that had such a breakout 2010 could breakout more in 2011, but Brandon Banks could be more involved in the offense. I would like to see more looks at the wildcat offense or even at running back.
Banks is a lock at returner and should hold onto that position. If the team can quit making mental mistakes on his returns, Banks could have an even bigger year in 2011.