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2012 Team Report: Washington Redskins

Quarterbacks

Starter: Robert Griffin III [R]
Backup(s): Rex Grossman, Kirk Cousins [R]

Starting QB: The Redskins have been a revolving carousel for quarterbacks during Daniel Snyder's ownership tenure. Since buying the team in 1999, the following luminaries have led the Redskins in passing: Brad Johnson, Tony Banks, Patrick Ramsey, Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, Donovan McNabb, and Rex Grossman. The team has ranked in the bottom half of the league in points scored in all but two of those seasons, and that's to say nothing of the revolving door in the head coaching ranks. But there is once again reason for hope, and many believe that this time the Redskins have finally gotten it right; by trading up to the 2nd overall pick in this year's NFL draft to select Robert Griffin III, the dynamic playmaker who put Baylor on the BCS map this year. Although it's never a sure thing to bet on a rookie signal caller, there's a lot to like about Griffin. Athletically, Griffin has few peers as he's among the fastest players to ever play the position, and he has excellent instincts in the pocket. While he made plays as a runner at Baylor, it didn't come at the expense of making his reads and looking to throw first. Any worry that Baylor's offense won't translate well into the rigors of Mike Shanahan's West Coast offense should be assuaged by the fact Griffin has proven to be a smart, intuitive learner. There's no question Griffin can grasp the nuances of even the most complex system. Griffin's best assets are undoubtedly his character and demeanor. He seems mature beyond his years in handling the media and the scrutiny that comes with being pinned a franchise's savior. Expect Griffin to start from day one, and to learn quickly. That doesn't mean his rookie year will be without bumps - it certainly will - but he'll progress with each snap, and should be explosive enough to help fantasy owners win games long before the Redskins start winning them.

Backup QB: Rex Grossman was in a dog fight with John Beck in the preseason last year and handled the difficult situation as well as could be expected. The 31-year old veteran ended up starting 13 games and putting up a modest stat line of 3,151 yards and 16 touchdowns to go along with 20 interceptions. With Robert Griffin III in town, Grossman understands his role is now that of mentor and safety valve. That's a far better fit for his skill set than expecting him to be a full-time starter. Rounding out the quarterback corps is another rookie, Kirk Cousins. A lot of NFL draft pundits were shocked when the rebuilding Redskins used a fourth-round choice on the former Michigan State Spartan considering the selection of Griffin three rounds prior. But Mike Shanahan understands the value of the quarterback position and believed that Cousins was clearly the best player at any position left on the board. If things go according to plan, Cousins will progress as a backup and in a few years be a valuable trade commodity as he looks to get his own chance at starting.

Running Backs

Starter: Evan Royster
Backup(s): Roy Helu, Alfred Morris [R], Tristan Davis
Fullback(s): Darrel Young

Starting RB: The Redskins backfield situation was a mess in 2011, with veterans Ryan Torain and Tim Hightower struggling to make an impact, and eventually giving way to a pair of rookies: Evan Royster and Roy Helu. It was Helu that got the first crack at the job, and performed fairly well until injuries sidelined him at the end of the season. Entering this year's camp, most assumed Helu would be the odds on favorite to win the job. But it looks like Royster has as good a shot at the prominent role, and rookie Alfred Morris is also in the hunt. Royster started the final two games of 2011, and made the most of his opportunity. He rushed for 132 and 113 yards, respectively against the Vikings and Eagles. Royster is a forceful runner and is the best blocker -- which could be the difference now that Robert Griffin III will need his teammates to keep him upright.

Backup RBs: Just because Roy Helu isn't starting the preseason atop the depth chart, doesn't mean we should discount his opportunity. Although Helu's 2011 totals (640 yards rushing and two rush touchdowns) may not appear impressive at first glance, it's important to consider those numbers in context. Helu never got more than 10 carries in a game until Week 11, when he was given the unenviable task of starting against the stout Seahawks run defense. Contrary to expectations, Helu rambled for 108 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, and he didn't stop there. He delivered three consecutive 100-yard games and then earned tough yards against the Giants in Week 14 before getting hurt in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. Helu was an asset in the receiving game, too, grabbing 49 receptions for 379 yards. In contrast, Helu struggled mightily with pass protection and blitz pickups as a rookie, and the coaches won't risk the future of Robert Griffin III on a tailback that can't make a block. Mike Shanahan is bound and determined to confound fantasy owners, which explains why he re-signed Tim Hightower after it seemed the Redskins were ready to move on, only to cut him right before the season. Rookie Alfred Morris can't be forgotten either, he starred in the Redskins preseason warm up game, and was inactive (along with most of the presumptive starters) in the final preseason game.

Fullback: The Redskins didn't use a traditional fullback with great frequency in 2011, and Darrel Young played in just 32% of the team's offensive snaps. In two seasons, Young has just 25 offensive touches, and he is as traditional a blocking back as you'll find these days. At 5'11" and 248 pounds, Young has the bowling ball physique that's tailor made to blow open holes for the tailbacks getting all the glory.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson
Backups: Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks

Starting WRs: The Redskins have undergone a complete overhaul of the wide receiver corps this offseason. Last year's leading receiver - Jabar Gaffney - was released, and long-time star Santana Moss has been given no guarantee of a starting role. The team went out and signed Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan in free agency. Garcon was the big prize, landing a 5-year, $43 million contract with $20 million in guarantees. Garcon started 43 games for the Indianapolis Colts, and although he's yet to log a 1,000-yard season, Garcon improved his stat line in each season. Last year's 70 receptions for 947 yards and six TDs was a far more impressive feat when you consider Garcon had to catch passes from the likes of Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. Mike Shanahan is putting a lot of faith in Garcon's ability to be a true WR1, as he was never the primary focal point of opposing defenses as a Colt. At 6'0" and 210 pounds, Garcon has good size and isn't easily pushed off his routes. He's become a much better route runner than he was in his early playing days, but he has one major question mark - his hands. Garcon has a career 54.7% catch rate, which is well below what's expected of an elite, NFL No. 1 receiver. It's possible that low rate was a byproduct of the Colts using him primarily for long and intermediate routes, but the Redskins will expect him to produce in all downs and distances. The starter opposite Garcon isn't set in stone, with Santana Moss battling Josh Morgan and second-year Leonard Hankerson for the job. Many believe the Redskins want Hankerson to earn the job, but he has to bounce back from hip surgery after tearing his labrum in the second start of his career. At 6'2" and 209 pounds, Hankerson would provide Griffin with a big, physical target that could move the chains and come up with jump balls in space.

Backup WRs: Some wondered whether Santana Moss had a place on this roster after the Redskins offseason moves to add to the WR corps, but the savvy veteran was a model of consistency during the preseason. He's clearly going to be a factor -- the only question is whether it will be as the primary slot receiver, or in his familiar position as a starter. Moss may not have the vertical speed he once did, but he's fearless over the middle, has good hands, and remains a precise route runner. Josh Morgan lulls fantasy owners into his web each and every season, and then he summarily disappoints. In four seasons in San Francisco, Morgan started 32 games yet had just one 100-yard effort and only nine career receiving TDs. Morgan is a physically imposing player (6'0" and 218 pounds), but he has never been able to shake the inconsistencies that he came into the league with. At times he'll look like a potential world beater, and then at other times he'll cut a route short or fail to come up with an uncontested grab. In spite of his inconsistencies, Morgan landed a 2-year, $11.5 million contract with nearly $8 million in guarantees. It's quite clear the Redskins expect him to contribute significantly, either as a starter or more likely the third receiver in spread formations.

Tight Ends

Starters: Fred Davis
Backups: Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul

If the NFL were simply about physical ability, Fred Davis would be guaranteed superstardom. Davis was the Redskins best playmaker last year, setting career highs with 59 receptions for 796 yards in spite of playing just 12 games. He's one of the new breed of NFL tight ends, who bring the size and strength the TE position has long been known for and combine it with wide receiver caliber hands and route discipline. The Redskins couldn't come to terms on a long-term contract with Davis, so they placed their franchise tag on him as GM Bruce Allen called him the team's most important free agent. It's clear Davis will be one of the main cogs in the offensive machine for years to come, provided that he can keep his head on straight. Davis didn't miss four games a year ago because of injury; he missed them because of a substance abuse policy violation. Niles Paul, a converted wide receiver, will contend with Logan Paulsen for backup snaps. Michael Hoomanawanui was a favorite of Sam Bradford's as a short-range receiver. Already a good blocker, Hoomanawanui could endear himself to the Shanahan regime as a situational player. Hoomanawanui was recently signed to the practice squad. He's worth remembering in case injury strikes the Redskins corps.

Place Kicker

Billy Cundiff : Incumbent kicker Graham Gano won the preseason competiton over veteran competition Neil Rackers, who kicked for Houston last year. But then the redskins signed Billy Cundiff the following day and dumped Gano. After a Pro Bowl season in 2010, Cundiff had a comparatively disappointing 2011. He hit only 75.7% (28 of 37) on field goals, although five of the misses came from 50+ yards. Many Ravens fans are still complaining about his miss late in the playoff loss to the Patriots. The other two specialists are back from last year: punter/holder Sav Rocca and long snapper Nick Sundberg. The Redskins ninth place ranking in attempted kicking points last year was their first Top 10 appearance in over a decade.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Brandon Banks, Terrence Austin, Aldrick Robinson

Though his performance dropped off slightly in 2011 after recovering from an off-season knee surgery, the special teams return roles should be wide receiver Brandon Banks' to lose. If he doesn't snag the job, he'll likely lose his roster spot with it, as Banks may be competing with wide receivers Terrence Austin and Aldrick Robinson not only for the return jobs, but also for the final receiver spot.

Punt Returners: Brandon Banks, Terrence Austin, Aldrick Robinson

Again, Banks will look to hold off challenges from Austin and Robinson for the the punt return job. Robinson is a burner who the Redskins signed to the active roster late last season to keep the Jaguars from signing him off their practice squad.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Trent Williams, LG Kory Lichtensteiger, C Will Montgomery, RG Chris Chester, RT Tyler Polumbus
Key Backups: G Maurice Hurt, G Josh LeRibeus [R], G Adam Gettis [R], C Erik Cook, T Jammal Brown (PUP),

UPDATE: Jammal Brown is out with a bad hip, which he injured last year. Brown has been placed on the active PUP list. Brown didn't contribute much last season, but the ideal lineup for the Redskins likely includes the former Pro Bowler. Should he miss considerable time, it would be a setback for the unit. Tyler Polumbus should be serviceable in his place. In other news, Kory Lichtensteiger had another surgery on his knee and Maurice Hurt will start in his place. These backups aren't bad, but the two moves together hurt the depth of the Redskins offensive line. Should further injuries occur, the Redskins will be forced to rely on rookies. It's not all bad news, as left tackle Trent Williams has showed up in the best shape in his career. Still, the Redskins offensive line ranks 29th as the season opens. PRESEASON OUTLOOK: Left tackle Trent Williams is a tremendously talented player who has had several issues keep him from fulfilling his talent. At various points in his two-year career, Williams has suffered an ankle injury, a knee injury, and a multi-game drug suspension. If the light switches on, Williams could be a great player, but there are a lot of questions he needs to answer to get to that level. On the other side, right tackle Jammal Brown is a former All-Pro performer who has been hampered recently by hip and groin issues. Pursuing a new yoga regimen this offseason, Brown looks to recapture that dominant form. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger is a country-strong interior bruiser who is recovering from an ACL tear. He will be in competition with Maurice Hurt for the left guard spot. Hurt is a former practice squad player whose performance was acceptable in Lichtensteiger's absence. Center Will Montgomery is a journeyman type who does an okay job. Montgomery is durable and versatile; he filled in at left guard earlier in the 2011 season. Right guard Chris Chester was a free agent addition who does a good job in the run game and should be granted a starting position based on contract alone. All three of the interior linemen will likely be challenged by third-round draft pick Josh LeRibeus out of Southern Methodist and fourth-round selection Adam Gettis from Iowa. It's early in the process, but LeRibeus could be groomed as a center while Gettis could be in the mix for guard snaps. Gettis actually ran one of the fastest linemen 40-yard dashes at the Indianapolis combine. These players are likely a season or more away from contributing. In other depth, Tyler Polumbus and James Lee are possible swing tackles. Overall the Redskins line shapes up decent on paper, but there are a lot of variables that need to be settled on the field before they can climb the rankings.

Team Defense

The Redskins played well on defense last year, which is good, because they traded away a lot of early picks to get quarterback Robert Griffin III and for the most spent what they had on the offensive side of the ball in the NFL Draft. London Fletcher continues to be the rock upon which defense is built, with Ryan Kerrigan and Bryan Orakpo forming a very good linebacker trio. The secondary is serviceable but not great. They can be beat but do a decent job of hanging with wide receivers. The defensive line is also a good group, though they struggle to generate much pass rush or get a hand on the quarterback. Their role is to support the linebackers in many cases, so they never really make a significant fantasy impact the way the linebackers do. The Redskins defense is a very good group, but they won't get you too many turnovers. Usually, however, they more than make up for it in sacks.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Stephen Bowen, DE Adam Carriker, NT Barry Cofield
Backups: DE Jarvis Jenkins [R], DE Kedric Golston, DE Darrion Scott, DE Doug Worthington, NT Chris Baker, NT Kentwan Balmer [inj], NT Chris Neild [IR]

Starting DL: The Redskins defensive line generated a surprising amount of pressure last season considering they are a three-man front. Most of that pressure was applied by defensive ends Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker with Barry Cofield acting as the 2-gap plug in the middle. Washington's lack of depth at the position forces their starters to play more snaps than they probably should play. This is good for their fantasy numbers, but even with the added snaps, no one along this defensive line is worth rostering in fantasy leagues.

Backup DL: Second-round pick Jarvis Jenkins is apparently recovering well from ACL surgery and will be looked upon to be a key part of the Redskins defensive line rotation. Kedric Golston was re-signed even after suffering partial tears of two knee ligaments. He will be a depth player for the Redskins.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB London Fletcher, ILB Perry Riley, OLB Brian Orakpo, OLB Ryan Kerrigan
Backups: ILB Lorenzo Alexander, ILB Keenan Robinson [R], ILB Jonathan Goff, OLB Rob Jackson, OLB Chris Wilson, OLB Markus White

Starting LBs: Fifteen-year veteran London Fletcher continues to be a dominating presence in the middle of the Redskins defense compiling a ridiculous 166 total tackles last season (76 since more than any other Redskins defender). Although he's expectedly lost a step over the last couple of seasons, he's still one of the most reliable fantasy options available and should be counted on for low-end LB1 production. Perry Riley was finally able to overtake Rocky McIntosh for the starting SILB linebacker position. He's a solid three-down linebacker who should provide owners with some really nice value as a late round sleeper pick. The outside linebacker tandem of Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan combined for roughly 40% of the team's sacks (16.5). Orakpo gets more press (perhaps in due to his Geico commercial appearances), but Kerrigan is a very solid player in his own right and should produce at relatively the same rate. Look for them both to be LB4+ options in balanced/tackle-heavy leagues and LB3/LB3- options in big-play leagues.

Backup LBs: Keenan Robinson was taken in the fourth round to be the possible heir apparent to London Fletcher. He has the size and speed to be cover tight ends and consequently be a three-down linebacker sometime down the road. He's worthy of a fifth-round selection in rookie drafts this season. The Redskins brought in former Giants linebacker Jonathan Goff as a reserve player behind Fletcher and Riley. Bryan Kehl was signed this offseason as added depth at inside linebacker and, more specifically, as a special teams player.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB DeAngelo Hall, CB Josh Wilson, SS Brandon Meriweather, FS Madieu Williams
Backups: CB Cedric Griffin, S Tanard Jackson, S Dejon Gomes, S Reed Doughty, CB Richard Crawford, CB Leigh Torrence, CB Kevin Barnes, CB Jordan Bernstine [R]

Starting DBs: The Redskins secondary underwent a major overhaul this offseason, especially at the safety position. The team brought in free agents Brandon Meriweather, Tanard Jackson, and Madieu Williams to help fill the void left by LaRon Landry's departure to the Jets. Meriweather and Williams will enter the season as the starters at strong safety and free safety respectively with Jackson and holdovers Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes working as high level backups. Meriweather could hold some sneaky value in deeper leagues as the strong safety position in Washington has been a fruitful one from a fantasy perspective the last couple of seasons. DeAngelo Hall continues to be an underrated fantasy player. He had 90+ total tackles last year to go along with three interceptions. Continue to use him as a DB3-/CB2+.

Backup DBs: When healthy, Cedric Griffin had been one of the better tackle producing corners in the league playing within the Vikings Cover 2 style defense. He will now serve as a nickel cornerback in Washington, so he doesn't hold much value in fantasy leagues unless he bumps up to a starting role due to an injury to Wilson or Hall. Jackson, Gomes, and Doughty have all flashed fantasy potential at one point or another during their careers and one of them is likely to have an outside chance to emerge as a potential fantasy sleeper this season. Draft prospect Jordan Bernstine offers the Redskins some nice versatility in the secondary as he played both safety and corner at Iowa. He's a rare combination of size, speed, and big hitting ability. He's going to have a tough road to making the final roster, but he could surprise if he does.

Last modified: 2012-09-04 15:43:35

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