Depending on when the NFL lockout ends, the "next season" in my title, may end up being in 2012. Nevertheless, there are numerous players who need to step their game up. Definitely more than 10, but for now, I will countdown the 10 players who need to step it up the most, so that they do not embarrass themselves next season.
Writer's Note: I will not name any of the potential quarterbacks due to the uncertainty of the position.
Last season, Washington's secondary was one of worst in the NFL, allowing over 261 passing yards per game against opponents. Not all of that can be pinned on the free safety position, but the addition of O.J. Atogwe should definitely alleviate some of the pain.
Kareem Moore, who started the majority of games as free safety last season, was clearly not the answer. Moore was a sieve in coverage and provided limited help in the run game. Atogwe is a former Pro Bowl selection and still has at least four good seasons left.
After a disappointing season by Derrick Dockery, Will Montgomery, who took over for Dockery halfway through last season, will be the de facto choice to start at left guard next to Trent Williams. Montgomery, who can also play center, has been with the team for years, but has failed to make much of an impact.
Another thing that has been evident for years is the weakness of Washington's offensive line. The addition of Trent Williams, Jammal Brown, Artis Hicks and Derrick Dockery did little to nothing last season, and by the end of the season, Hicks and Dockery had been benched. Montgomery stepping up and playing just average would be a start if Washington can't acquire another offensive guard in the offseason.
With the Albert Haynesworth debacle hopefully over, the nose tackle position is open for grabs. Ma'ake Kemoeatu looked out of shape and untalented last season at the nose, and even though Washington drafted Chris Neild from West Virginia in the Round 7 of the 2011 NFL Draft, Anthony Bryant should be the first choice to take the position.
A huge negative for Bryant is that he has not attended any of the Washington Redskins' player-organized offseason workouts. No reason is known for why he has skipped the workouts, but he should definitely be there. Although Bryant played well at the end of last season, he will need to elevate his game to another level to avoid being replaced.
To my surprise, Washington did not draft a fullback in the 2011 NFL Draft. There were a few high quality fullbacks in this year's draft, but it seems that Mike Shanahan has decided to roll with Mike Sellers, unless he plans on starting Darrel Young, a converted linebacker.
Sellers is 36 in July and coming off two dreadful seasons. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2008, but that was three years ago, and if Sellers can't step it up, he could be gone by mid-season. Even though fullback may not appear to be the most important position on the field, bad play from a fullback can result in bad play from a running back and quarterback.
If anybody asked me this time last year who Anthony Armstrong was, I'd probably give out a puzzled look. But after last season, Anthony Armstrong had made remember his name, for the good and the bad. The former IFL wide receiver earned the No. 2 receiver spot last season with Washington.
Even though Armstrong had a great year for his standards, he was mediocre to normal standards. He constantly dropped open passes, and failed to contribute much in certain games. He was very streaky and looked out of place at times, but he also looked like a solid receiver at times too. If he can be solid all the time, he should be a key asset to whoever ends up starting at quarterback next season.
(P.S., I'm not sure whether Armstrong actually caught this pass or not).
Outside of DeAngelo Hall, the cornerbacks for the Washington Redskins played like group of mediocre high school players. Carlos Rogers spent most of last season dropping potential interceptions, while Phillip Buchanon spent his season getting burned by his man. Safe to say, the cornerback corps needs help.
Insert Kevin Barnes, the third round pick by Washington in the 2009 NFL Draft. When drafted, Barnes was heralded as a hard hitter who could develop into a physical press corner. Even though Barnes saw time at safety last season after the injury of LaRon Landry, he still is unproven and needs to step up with Rogers possibly leaving in free agency.
In his days in Denver, Mike Shanahan was known as a guru of running backs. He found Terrell Davis and Mike Anderson out of nowhere, and also drafted Ryan Torain. When Shanahan was hired as the head coach in Washington, one of his first priorities was to bring Torain to the nation's capital.
Torain had a fairly successful season last year, but missed several games due to injury, and looked one dimensional at times. If Torain wants to keep his job, he needs to stay healthy and show that he can both plow through defensive lines, and speed past cornerbacks.
When the word "unreliable" appears in the dictionary, a picture of Graham Gano should appear next to it. Gano may have had the worst season in the history of the kicker position last season, missing multiple extra points and very short field goals.
In all honesty, I shouldn't even list Gano here, as he needs to be replaced immediately. However, Mike Shanahan seems determined to keep him around. If I was the general manager of Washington, he would have been out the door already, but if he doesn't step up, even Shanahan will be forced to get rid of him.
In the past few seasons, the Washington Redskins have drafted many players who have failed to live up to their potential. Surprisingly enough, I don't think H.B. Blades is one of them. Not much was expected from the Round 6 pick in 2007, but he has made an impact in limited playing time.
Now, it seems as he'll get his chance to shine. Rocky McIntosh, the starter next to London Fletcher at inside linebacker, is a free agent, and will likely leave the team once the NFL lockout is over. Blades is the heir apparent at the position and will hopefully provide a good partner for London Fletcher.
Ryan Kerrigan, Jarvis Jenkins, Leonard Hankerson, Roy Helu, Dejon Gomes, Niles Paul, Evan Royster, Aldrick Robinson, Brandyn Thompson, Maurice Hurt, Markus White, Chris Neild.
Those are all of the rookies that the Washington Redskins drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft. Each and every one can, and should play a role on the roster. The highest expectations are for Ryan Kerrigan, the first pick by Washington. However, Hankerson, Gomes and Helu are expected to play major roles for the team.
By no means, will this team be able to start all 12 rookies they drafted, but at least two of these guys will start next season, while the others will rotate in or play on special teams.
To conclude, I would like to address the people who want Washington to be as horrible as possible so that they can draft Andrew Luck in next year's NFL draft, hoping that he is the next Peyton Manning.
I understand your opinions, and would love to have Luck on the roster next season. But being the embarrassment of the league, and having to suffer through a near-winless season to to it, doesn't seem worth it to me. This team won't make the playoffs, they may not even win six games like last season, but wanting to lose is something that Mike Shanahan will never embrace.
Nevertheless, the players on this list are all on the hot seat this season, and their best efforts and production would be greatly appreciated by all of the other players on the team.