Falling into Place: The 2011 Washington Redskins as of Right Now
With the 2011 Draft officially in the books, there are still many questions surrounding the Redskins (see: McNabb, Donovan; Haynesworth, Albert); however, there were a lot of picks that could prove to be productive starters for this team.
Washington came out of the draft with four players that could potentially start this upcoming season. That would be huge for a team that came away from the 2010 Draft with only one, excluding undrafted free agents.
Mike Shanahan, faults aside, did a good job with the draft in my opinion. He brought a culture change to a team that desperately needed it. The Redskins were able to avoid the big names (see: Gabbert, Blaine) and focus on improving their 3-4 defense.
Their first-round pick, DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan, appears to be a player who won't quit on a play and works an entire 60 minutes: what a change compared to some players on our roster.
Depending on how Washington handles free agency, they have a chance to shoot back into the league's Top 10 defenses. Call me crazy, but I think it's true. The Redskins' offense has some major problems however.
The running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions appear to have some young talent that could blossom nicely. The quarterback and offensive line however, are major causes for concern.
With fans unsure as to when or how free agency will take place, let's take a look at the 2011 Washington Redskins in their current form.
Quarterback: The John Beck Question
There are currently two quarterbacks on the Redskins roster.
Both Donovan McNabb and John Beck are under contract.
Many analysts could have put large sums of money on Washington taking a quarterback in the draft, and not thought twice about it, but the 2011 NFL Draft is far over and no new quarterback was added to the roster.
When asked about the reason why, Shanahan only replied with his admiration of John Beck. He told the media that "When John Beck did come out, I had him as the top-ranked quarterback coming out that year, and I didn't even think it was close."
This raises the question, is John Beck, last year's third-string emergency quarterback, really the answer?
As much as I would love to see Beck live up to the "Kurt Warner" potential he was projected as, I don't see it happening. I do however believe that he deserves just as much of an opportunity as anyone brought in, simply due to his year in the system. (We saw the difference that made with Grossman and McNabb).
If the Redskins are looking for a stop-gap until they can look at next year for a shot at a player like Andrew Luck, Beck might be just the guy.
Also, as much as people have forgotten about him, Donovan McNabb is currently still a Redskin.
Do I see him as a Redskin in 2011?
Not a chance.
However, I've been wrong before, and I'm not going to try to make a living predicting the next move of Mike Shanahan.
"Sexy Rexy" Grossman is out there on the free agent market, along with Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Bulger and Alex Smith. Players like Carson Palmer, Vince Young, and Kevin Kolb will also be available via trade, however these seem like the least likely candidates.
There is no doubt that the Redskins will bring in a new quarterback: is the starter already on the roster?
Running Back: Ryan Torain and Co.
Washington's running game might be their best bet towards offensive success in 2011, and even that's pushing it.
When it's all said and done, it really all boils down to the durability of Ryan Torain. No one saw the transfer back from Denver becoming Washington's premier back, but welcome to the new Washington Redskins.
Torain plays with his head down and isn't afraid to use his body to gain more yardage. Towards season's end, I felt completely comfortable with him as the starter.
However, I am still on the fence about Keiland Williams. Although he outperformed his "undrafted rookie" status, I don't see him as a No. 2 back.
That job should and will belong to Roy Helu Jr., the rookie out of Nebraska.
A classic "thunder and lightning" running scheme combines the power of Torain with the speed of Helu. Helu has afterburners that make defensive backs look silly. His weaknesses include pass protection and ball protection.
The Redskins running back coach Bobby Turner held his backs to only two fumbles the entire year, which is damn impressive. I think he will help Helu protect the ball, and turn him into a great speed back.
If (big if) the offensive line can open up holes for Helu, big things are in store for Washington's ground game.
Many people criticize Evan Royster as a "wasted" pick, but I won't cast judgment until I see him make mistakes on the field.
Much like last year, there will be players cut after pre-season, so incumbent players such as James Davis, Chad Simpson, and Andre Brown need to step up their game to hold a roster spot.
Last year's dinosaurs have truly evolved into one of the league's youngest ground attacks.
Fullbacks: Mike Sellers/Darrell Young
Mike Sellers is okay at fullback.
Yes, he is one of the best at paving the way for the back behind him, but years and years of wrong routes and dropped passes have left me with a lack of love for Mike Sellers.
He is one of the biggest contributors on special teams, and I do believe that the man looks like a tank. That aside, Mike Sellers deserves one last year on the Redskins roster.
One more and that is all.
If the Redskins are truly in search of a youth movement, Mike Sellers is on his way out in the near future.
Former linebacker-turned-running back Darrell Young played very little for Washington last season, but his only reception was a three-yard touchdown. He might be the future when Sellers steps down, but it is far too early to determine at this point.
Wide Receivers: Young Potential
Santana Moss, where art thou?
The longtime Redskins receiver is currently a free agent, and his return is up in the air. Even if Moss does return, I don't see him as a No. 1 receiver. He was never supposed to be No. 1; he's too small.
Moss is a much better fit as a slot receiver who plays close to the line of scrimmage and creates yards after the catch with his speed.
Behind him on the roster are a whole lot of young guns.
Malcolm "Disappointment" Kelly is the oldest receiver behind Moss and he is entering his fourth league year, and only third active.
Behind him are sophomores Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks and Terrence Austin. Three new rookies join the ranks at receiver.
Anthony Armstrong, needs to learn to run better routes, because he already can stretch the field with his speed. With the proper technique, he can become a Mike Wallace type of player.
Banks is a game changer with his speed, but I don't see a lot of production in him outside of special teams and the wildcat offense.
Terrence Austin is a player that can develop into the slot receiver if Moss doesn't return.
Leonard Hankerson, the 2011 79th overall pick in the third round, was considered by many as a steal for Washington. Hankerson is a player who can really develop into a solid number-one receiver in the future.
He possesses the size, speed, and route running ability that Washington has been missing for years.
Niles Paul, the last of three Cornhuskers taken from Nebraska could also become a potential slot receiver. He isn't very big or fast, but he is a good possession receiver who can move the chains.
Finally, Aldrick Robinson, a sixth-round pickup, could become the next big returner for Washington.
He was described by ESPN's Todd McShay as potentially the best returner in the draft class. Brandon Banks had better watch his back.
Without Moss, the Redskins have a lot of young potential at their disposal.
With Moss, the Redskins have a true No. 1 receiver in Leonard Hankerson, a rock solid slot receiver in Santana Moss, and a great deep threat in Anthony Armstrong.
Tight Ends: Double Threat
I don't think there's a team in the league that would be disappointed with Chris Cooley and Fred Davis in their arsenal.
Do I think either one of them is the league's best?
However, I do believe they are one of the best double-threats in the league, with respect to the New England Patriots.
Cooley did seem to lose a step this past season as he was back from his season-ending injury in 2009. He took a lot of heat for his touchdown drop against Jacksonville, but he was still very productive.
His 77 receptions were good enough for second-best in the NFL and his 849 yards receiving were the league's third-best.
Fred Davis is always consistent. He isn't the best, but he's a solid tight end. He is decent at blocking and he has solid hands for the most part. He put up 21 receptions for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2010. Those are great numbers for a backup tight end.
Logan Paulsen was picked up as an unrestricted free agent and he was good in his appearances (very limited, of course). Paulsen had 2 receptions and a touchdown last year. I would leave this group alone for years to come.
Left Tackle: Development
Say what you will, but Trent Williams is the best offensive lineman on the team.
Any lineman that had to face the opponents he did, would have average numbers too. Williams is a hard worker that was unappreciated by his critics.
Did he struggle?
However, he was still an effective blocker on the left side. If you need further proof, take a look at the performance of the offensive line without Trent Williams.
Williams does need improvement, that's a given. What's encouraging is that he knows that, too. He was reported to have been practicing improving his blocking skills with Adrian Peterson in Texas a little over a month ago. Williams was one of the players present for the Redskins' makeshift players practice one month ago.
I do think the Redskins got the better end of the deal between Williams and Russell Okung. Okung didn't look that spectacular either in Seattle. Trent Williams will live up to his fourth overall pick; it just takes time.
I wouldn't want him on any other team.
Left Guard: Question Marks
I really don't know what will happen at left guard.
Kory Litchtensteiger will likely remain the starter, as he showed some signs of improvement towards season's end last year. Litchtensteiger could eventually become the Redskins' center, but that's more of wish than reality.
Shanahan is stubborn and will keep him at guard. I think he is an average guard and nothing more. He does have potential, but he'll never be a dominant inside guard on the line.
Litchtensteiger was however, effective at keeping holes open during the running game. If you look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, Litchtensteiger's blocking was a factor in the production of Ryan Torain's monstrous first half.
Maurice Hurt was a seventh-round pick by Washington that was a little undervalued in the draft. I'm not saying the Redskins got a huge steal, but I would give Hurt a fifth-sixth round grade.
Sure, Mike Pouncey was a lot better, but Hurt did a lot of the dirty work on the Florida offensive line along with Pouncey.
As a strong Gators fan, I have respect for Hurt after watching him play and think he is a solid pickup to add depth to the offensive line.
Center: Need for Change
Casey Rabach: Turning Redskins touchdowns into field goals since 2005.
The guy is a good guy, but the time is up.
It was up a long time ago.
I can't blame Donovan for the center stepping on his feet because he's already been beaten before snapping the ball. Rabach is responsible for over 90 percent of the interior sacks given up last season. I really hope that he is relieved of his starting job in 2011.
Will Montgomery or Kory Lichtensteiger could possibly play the center position and would automatically improve the position.
The Redskins also drafted a center in 2010 who could hopefully be seeing a little bit more playing time this year. Erik Cook would probably play just as good at center as Rabach if he stepped in right now.
It doesn't matter who they plug in, they just need to replace Casey Rabach with somebody.
Right Guards: Montgomery, Hicks, and Capers
Will Montgomery is a player who I really don't know a lot about.
I know that he played better on the line than Artis Hicks did, and that's a good thing.
I know he can play center (better than Rabach).
I know he is the starting right guard for the Redskins and that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. Artis Hicks is likely to stay on the team but should serve as a backup and no more.
Selvish Capers, drafted in the seventh round by the Redskins last year can play some guard, but is a better tackle.
I would like to see improvement at the right guard position, but I can live with Will Montgomery for now. This line won't get instant improvement in one offseason, and Montgomery isn't the biggest need of improvement.
Right Tackle: A Gaping Hole
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This should seriously scare any Redskins fan.
Like REALLY scare them.
With Jammal Brown currently listed a free agent, Stephon Heyer is currently the best available right tackle on the team. That was even painful to write.
As much love as I have for the Maryland Terrapins, Stephon Heyer should never start.
They seriously need to bring back Jammal Brown or sign someone to fill this spot. At any cost. As mentioned before, Selvish Capers could play right tackle, but that's a reach.
In my opinion, this is a far greater need than any quarterback. If they fixed this problem and started John Beck, I would be happier than starting Heyer with Kevin Kolb under center.....maybe :)
Left Defensive End: Maturity
Adam Carriker was a first-round pick by the St. Louis Rams out of the University of Nebraska (oh, look, another Cornhusker).
Last year I was impressed with his late season performance. Obviously I have to give him some slack adjusting to the 3-4 defense, but in the last few games, Carriker began playing at a high level.
He wasn't a sack machine, but he did apply a lot of inside pressure, drawing attention, and opening the gates for players like Rob Jackson and Vonnie Holliday to have crazy games with multiple sacks.
If he can play like that this year on a consistent basis, Orakpo and Kerrigan will be even better than expected.
Jeremy Jarmon is listed as a right end, but he is interchangeable at both positions. Jarmon is a solid backup. He isn't a great player, but he is a solid backup.
Phillip Daniels is a good guy and a solid player, but his days of starting at defensive end are over. The Redskins are moving on with younger players.
The biggest need at the left defensive end position is maturity in the 3-4 system.
Nose Tackle: Screw You, Albert Haynesworth
Seriously, screw Albert Haynesworth.
If he didn't have to be such a baby, this defensive line would look pretty stellar.
Instead, we have a need at nose tackle. Imagine how much better the outside rush would be with Haynesworth double-teamed by the offensive line.
Ma'ake Kemoeatu was playing off a serious injury he suffered in 2009, but honestly, he was never intended to be the starting nose tackle (ahem, Albert).
Anthony Bryant finished the year as the starter, and actually performed very well. The guy looks like a human fire hydrant. He is 6'3 and 376 pounds. That is one big man. The Redskins might open the season with him as the starter, but that is unlikely.
They already brought in former Cleveland Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers for an interview early this off-season.
They also drafted a nose tackle with the second-to-last pick in the seventh round, but Chris Neild was added for depth and not for starting. He shows potential and could end up making an impact down the road.
Right Defensive End: The Second-Round "Reach"
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Jarvis Jenkins is a player who many are considered a reach by the Redskins with the 41st pick in the draft.
Yes, he may be a reach, but he's a player that is interchangeable at both defensive end and nose tackle. In fact he even tweeted "There's nothing like playing the nose."
Woah...wait? You like playing nose tackle? Wow, like wow...a player who wants to play nose tackle...interesting concept.
Although he will likely start at defensive end, he could play inside on some nickel packages. The Redskins got a player who "isn't afraid to do the dirty work."
Vonnie Holliday is another player to keep in mind when it comes to the right defensive end. He played well when he did see action, and as a veteran would make a good backup.
Like I mentioned with the receivers, I won't judge Jenkins or call him a reach until I see his production on the field. I hope the best for Jenkins and really hope he turns into a solid player on the defensive line for the Redskins.
They desperately need it.
Left Outside Linebacker: First-Round Transition
I'm not going to lie. I'm psyched to see this Kerrigan kid play.
All I hear is "high-motor" and "relentless," but the only love he gets from analysts is average player.
Well I really have a feeling that the Redskins didn't just grab an average player. I feel they got a player who may not be great player but won't quit until he is.
Will he make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker?
I have no doubt in my mind.
All he has to do is ask his teammate Brian Orakpo how to do it properly.
He is quick off the line and will wear down an offensive tackle's stamina to a nub. And that has more than just one benefit. The weaker the offensive line gets on that side, the more attention goes to Kerrigan, and less goes towards Orakpo, who is the real threat.
I really think Kerrigan will prove a lot of haters wrong when he makes the transition quickly to outside linebacker. Maybe I'm speaking prematurely, but I don't see this kid being a bust at all. It was a solid, safe pick that only has an upside.
Brian Orakpo is only entering his third year and Kerrigan his first. This could really become a powerful pass attack for years to come.
Lorenzo Alexander is a quality backup. He isn't the best at what he does, but he is another player that never quits on a play. He is a great guy to have around, both on defense and special teams.
Left Inside Linebacker: Iron Man
London Fletcher is the captain of captains on defense.
I honestly would call him the best free agent signing the Redskins have had in the past 10 years. The man never misses a game, which is something that you would never expect from a linebacker. He is relentless, and an absolute leader in the locker room.
I don't know how many years Fletcher has left, but he will be truly missed when he finally hangs up the gloves. Fletcher is one of the most under-appreciated players in the league, as he constantly puts up Pro-Bowl numbers but fails to make the team.
The past two years Fletcher has gone to the Pro-Bowl as a default player.
There are currently no players to play behind Fletcher if you include Perry Riley as the other MLB. Both Rocky McIntosh and H.B. Blades are free agents.
Right Inside Linebacker: Empty Cupboards
As mentioned before, Rocky McIntosh and H.B. Blades are free agents.
Rocky started the other position of middle linebacker last year, but is unlikely to return, as he is uncomfortable playing in a 3-4 system.
H.B. Blades however is likely to return, and would unfortunately be the best candidate to replace McIntosh.
There are currently two players on the roster that could fill the position. Perry Riley and Robert Henson are both linebackers that have potential in this defense.
Robert Henson got on the wrong side of the fans when he criticized them over Twitter. I can't judge his production on the field though.
In the pre-season Henson, was a monster at making tackles. If he can continue his success and get on the coaches' good side, he could see himself as a possible successor to London Fletcher or even Rocky McIntosh's replacement.
Perry Riley was drafted by the Redskins in the 2010 draft, and was the only defensive player taken by the team. Riley is infamously known for his block in the back that negated a Brandon Banks touchdown against the Vikings that could have won the game.
As a linebacker though, Riley shows some promise but definitely needs improvement to be a potential starter.
The situation at the second middle linebacker position is bleak at the moment and will likely be addressed in free agency.
Right Outside Linebacker: Brian O"sack"po
2010 Winner of the Most-Held Player Award: Brian Orakpo.
Orakpo did drop a in production after the transition to outside linebacker, but only if you don't include the potential sacks. He could have had an upwards of 11-14 sacks if you include them.
8.5 was still the team's best by a long shot.
Brian Orakpo is the best thing ever to come from the Jim Zorn Era. Yes, he was a big name, but he was also a steal for the 13th overall pick in 2009.
There's no doubt that he is the best player the Redskins have in their front seven, all my respect to London Fletcher of course, and he is set up to have an even better year in 2011 with help from the opposite side.
Rob Jackson had one good game in 2010. Against Jacksonville he had a sack and a forced fumble. That's pretty impressive. Jackson was a member of the failure that was the 2008 draft class, so it was nice to see some production from him.
One of this year's seventh-round picks, Markus White from Florida State will make the transition to outside linebacker. He could find a place on the roster, but will most likely end up on the practice squad.
A lot rests on whether or not the Redskins will bring back Carlos Rogers in the off-season.
Rogers is a good corner, he really is, but a lot of fans judge him for his inability to hold onto interceptions (see: Dallas Week 1, final minute of fourth quarter). He is a good cover corner. He does prevent receivers from catching the ball, which is what a corner is supposed to do isn't it?
The Redskins might be ready to move on without Carlos, though, which leaves a big hole at the other corner position.
DeAngelo Hall is the best cornerback the Redskins have on their current roster, but in my opinion, Hall has yet to live up to his potential. Hall could be in the company of the league's most elite corners if he didn't jump routes. If he learned anything from the Pro-Bowl, it should be that good things happen when the ball comes to you, and not when you attempt to go to the ball.
Right now, the other starting corner would be Kevin Barnes. Barnes is one of my favorite players on the team, and I really don't know why. I really would love to see Barnes become a quality corner in this defense, but if that's going to happen, it's not this year.
The Redskins need to find a good corner if they want to complete one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Nnamdi Asomugha might be a reach, but that would be awesome. The Redskins have the cap room for it, and it would be a big name free agent signing I wouldn't regret.
Byron Westbrook is also currently on the Redskins roster but serves mostly on special teams.
The Redskins drafted DeJon Gomes from Nebraska, who might see some action at nickel corner, as well as Brandyn Thompson, who will likely be a practice squad guy due to his small size.
Free Safety: Finally Bolstered
Finally, the Redskins have found a suitable replacement for Sean Taylor.
Is Oshiomogho Atogwe a Sean Taylor?
No, he's not, but he is one of the league's better free safeties.
Atogwe has been known to be a ball hawk and a turnover machine. His relationship with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett makes me a little more comfortable with his addition to the roster.
He makes interceptions out of incompletions and turns tackles into fumbles. I really believe the Redskins have locked up one of the best safety tandems in the league.
Last year's starter (undeservingly), Kareem Moore will likely back up Atogwe. Moore isn't a terrible player in coverage, just a terrible tackler. I wouldn't be surprised to see him slowly fizzle out from the Redskins roster in the next few years.
The Redskins drafted DeJon Gomes, who is projected as a free safety. He's not likely to unseat Kareem Moore from the second string (although I wouldn't be disappointed), but he could see some action if either Atogwe or Moore became injured.
The Redskins have bolstered a solid free safety position with the addition of Atogwe and Gomes.
Strong Safety: The "Strong" Safety
The man puts the "strong" in strong safety.
Landry was on his way to an absolutely monstrous 2010, before he fell to injury. If he can stay healthy, he could be the most productive strong safety in 2011.
Yes I'm talking to you, Troy Polamalu.
Landry no longer has to worry about the backfield when he enters the box due to the addition of O.J. Atogwe, which should give quarterbacks shivers.
Landry has definitely lived up to his sixth overall pick, becoming one of the top five safeties in tackles, even with the season-ending injury last year.
Between Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry, Joe Gibbs sure knows his safeties.
Between Landry/Atogwe and Orakpo/Kerrigan, I'm looking forward to seeing the defense play.
Backing Landry is Reed Doughty, who isn't the quickest safety but is one of the best tacklers. He doesn't go for the monster hit, but he can wrap a player up in his tracks. Doughty could probably start for some teams in need of safety help, and there is a chance he will do just that in 2011.
I personally would love to see Doughty return, because he is one of the best backup strong safeties in the league.
Macho Harris was added due to injuries in 2010. If Doughty packs his bags, Harris will likely assume his job.
Kicker/Punter: Improvement Mandatory
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I don't know how to properly say this.....Graham Gano has to improve.
Do I want him to stay?
I don't want him to turn into a David Akers, that's for sure.
However, as much as I like a young kicker, Gano has to improve in 2011. He has a powerful leg that could become a pain for other teams on kickoffs, but his accuracy needs to be honed.
Gano has a lot of potential, but I can't take the missed chip shots. I would love for him to fix his accuracy and become a solid starter for the Redskins for years to come, but if I don't see more production by Gano in 2011, he's got to hit the road.
The saga that was the Redskins' punter position finally ended with Sam Paulescu, but I don't see him as the long-term solution.
Kick/Punt Returner: Mighty Mouse
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Brandon Banks was the best thing to happen to Washington in 2010.
The man did things that far exceeded his 5'7" stature. At 145 pounds, many didn't think Banks had what it took to play in the NFL, but he became one of the better returners around the league and was consistently robbed of big gains or touchdowns due to stupid penalties in coverage.
Although Banks is the best option the Redskins have at returner, I wouldn't be surprised to see him split duties with sixth-round pick Aldrick Robinson, who is praised to be one of the best returners in the 2011 class.