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2013 Team Report: Washington Redskins

Quarterbacks

Starter: Robert Griffin III
Backup(s): Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman, Pat White

Starting QB: Robert Griffin III was as good as advertised. In fact, he was even better than his considerable hype. The rookie stepped into the starting role and led Washington to a division title. Griffin's mobility was on display, as he rushed for 815 yards and 7 touchdowns, averaging a league best 6.8 yards per rush. As if that wasn't enough, Griffin also led the NFL in interception rate (1.3%) and yards per passing attempt (8.1). In all, he amassed more than 4,000 yards of offense and 27 touchdowns while throwing only five interceptions. There's absolutely no question coach Mike Shanahan has found the franchise cornerstone for years to come, provided Griffin can avoid another major injury. In spite of tearing several knee ligaments late in his rookie season, Griffin has been medically cleared to start Week One.

Backup QB: Kirk Cousins handled the first team duties throughout training camp and further established himself as one of the better young backups in the league. The team now has an asset in Cousins, either as a fill in for Griffin or more likely as a trade chip in a season or two. Cousins has a quick release and has shown a pocket presence that's rare for a young passer. He's not an otherworldly runner like Griffin but he's athletic enough to avoid the rush. In a surprise move, Washington opted to retain both Rex Grossman and Pat White on the 53-man roster.

Running Backs

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

Starting RB: Mike Shanahan finally has his next bell cow. Sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris was the last man standing in a crowded preseason backfield and by season's end had made the preseason debates about his NFL viability seem ridiculous. The former Florida Atlantic Owl finished 2nd in the NFL in both rushing yards (1,613) and rushing touchdowns (13), cementing himself as the next in a long line of Mike Shanahan's workhorse backs. Morris ran with power, showed patience, and broke tackles consistently. As importantly, he stayed on the field, held onto the ball, and blocked effectively in blitz pickup. Barring injury, Morris will be a centerpiece of the Washington offense for years to come.

Backup RBs: Roy Helu and Evan Royster may have missed their opportunity. As rookies in 2011, each had impressive moments late in the season (100+ yard games for each), and entered the 2012 preseason competing for the starting role. Unfortunately Alfred Morris caught the coaches' eye, and proceeded to emerge as one of the most productive runners in the league. At this point, it's no longer a question of competing for a starting role, but competing for complementary roles. Roy Helu entered camp in a four-way competition with Royster and rookies Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison. He left camp with a firm hold on both the team's 3rd down role and the #2 spot on the overall RB depth chart. Helu is healthy, and has shown vision, power and soft hands from start to finish. Royster didn't have a strong preseason but held onto his roster spot. Chris Thompson is recovering from an ACL injury and profiles more as a third-down back, so his opportunity likely comes in 2014.

Fullback: In three seasons, Darrel Young has just 48 offensive touches, and 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, Josh Morgan
Backups: Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson

Starting WRs: Pierre Garcon signed with Washington last offseason as the new No. 1 option. In Week One, he caught four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately he also tore ligaments in his right foot and that hampered him for the rest of the year. Garcon was a non-factor until Week 12, but played through pain over the final weeks of the season to the tune of (an annualized pace of 88 catches for 1,267 yards and 8 touchdowns). Garcon opted against surgery in the offseason, and believes he may not be 100% in 2013 but expects to play through the pain. Assuming he can approximate last year's late season return, Garcon will provide Washington with its best option in the passing attack. Garcon was once perceived as a pure speed threat, but has evolved into a physical receiver that runs a respectable route tree. Garcon will be sorely missed if his foot ailment lingers, because the rest of the receiving corps is lackluster. Josh Morgan entered camp as the other 'starter', but is a complementary option at best. In 15 starts last year, Morgan caught 48 passes for 510 yards and a meager 2 touchdowns. Morgan looks the part (6'1 and 220 pounds) but isn't elite at any aspect of the game.

Backup WRs: Santana Moss will be 34 years old at the start of the season, and has benefitted from an inability to hit on young receivers in the draft. If Mike Shanahan was being honest, he probably would admit to wanting to cut Moss several years ago, but it's been an unjustifiable decision given Moss' productivity and the lack of production from other receivers on the roster. Last year Moss didn't light up the box score (41 receptions for 573 yards), but he did catch a team-leading eight touchdowns. Moss is ideally suited to the slot receiver role, but he may need to play a larger role depending on how the rest of the depth chart shapes up. Leonard Hankerson started five games in 2012, but didn't do enough to project Hankerson as a productive full-time starter in the future. He was inconsistent, and had difficulty tracking the ball. At just 23 years old, Hankerson will be given more time to mature, but this is a key year as Hankerson is due a modest $645,000 in 2014 and could be a cap casualty. Aldrick Robinson has the most upside of the backups, and could displace Morgan in the starting lineup at some point this season.

Tight Ends

Starters: Fred Davis
Backups: Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul, Jordan Reed [R]

Fred Davis' career is shaping up to be a story of unfulfilled promise. In 2011, in spite of being suspended for four games, Davis elevated his game (59 receptions for 796 yards and 3 touchdowns) and appeared ready to justify the team's investment in the former USC Trojan. Sadly an Achilles tear ended those plans, as Davis hobbled through 7 games last year before being shelved. When healthy, Davis has as much athleticism as anyone at his position - but can he stay healthy? Davis returned to training camp earlier than expected and has looked like a new man. A 3rd round selection was spent on rookie Jordan Reed. Reed may carry a tight end designation, but he's really an oversized receiver (6'2 and 236 pounds) and does not project as an effective blocker at the pro level. Logan Paulsen remains on the roster, and may end up playing a larger role than his talent warrants if Davis suffers a setback.

Place Kicker

Kai Forbath: The team's kicker carousel continued early in 2012 as they gambled (and lost) on Billy Cundiff. But the final eleven games brought hope for long sought stability, as Kai Forbath came in and subsequently hit 17 of 18 (94.4%) on field goals, including 12 from 40+ yards. In March the team re-signed Forbath's two co-specialists - punter/holder Sav Rocca and long snapper Nick Sundberg. Washington has hovered near the top ten in attempted kicking points the past three years, ranking 11th, 9th, & 13th.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Niles Paul, Josh Morgan, Aldrick Robinson

The team's kick returner position was left open after the departure of wide receiver Brandon Banks, who handled over two-thirds of the returns for the team last year. Niles Paul was the backup to Banks, but the job was ultimately won by rookie Chris Thompson at the start of the season. Paul is a tight end which is unusual for a kick returner. Partway through the year, the team benched Thompson and replaced him with receiver Josh Morgan, and then later went back to Niles Paul. None of the players are giving Washington an edge in kick returns, and more changes could happen without notice, making this a situation to not rely upon.

Punt Returners: Santana Moss, Josh Morgan

Richard Crawford had a lock on the punt returner job before being lost for the season. Santana Moss has 112 returns in his career, but none since 2009. He has the benefit of experience, though the job ended up being taken by rookie Chris Thompson at first. Thompson had a solid preseason, but then lost the job to Josh Morgan, who late in the season looks to have surrendered it to Moss. Moss is performing just well enough for now that he may hold onto the job.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Trent Williams, LG Kory Lichtensteiger, C Will Montgomery, RG Chris Chester, RT Jeremy Trueblood
Key Backups: T Maurice Hurt, T Tyler Polumbus, G Josh LeRibeus, G Adam Gettis

The Washington offensive line improves in our rankings as they bring back all five starters from last year, good for a perfect cohesion score. Even more than that, they run a very specific zone blocking system and run it well. Left tackle Trent Williams has matured and made his first Pro Bowl in 2012. Williams is an athletic pass protector and the cornerstone of this unit. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger is a country-strong and versatile player, who sometimes has injury issues. Center Will Montgomery isn't a great fit in other systems but he works well in the team's rushing attack. Montgomery is another versatile but injury prone player with starting experience at the guard positions. Montgomery could have to fend off recent signing Kevin Matthews (son of Hall-of-Famer Bruce). Right guard Chris Chester is an unassuming but effective starter who is actually among the league's better guards. There was harsh criticism for giving Chester a large free agent contract, but he has been worth the cost. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus is a massive but limited starter, who could be seriously challenged by new addition Jeremy Trueblood. Trueblood is the brawling type that coaches can rely upon to start fights in training camp. In terms of depth, there are several interesting developmental names. Maurice Hurt is extremely versatile and can effectively spot start at almost any position in case of emergency. Adam Gettis and Josh LeRibeus are athletic depth options at the interior positions (who also can compete at center). Tony Pashos has signed on in an attempt to revive his career. Overall the Washington line is trending upwards. This unit can continue to improve with more consistency out of the left guard and right tackle positions. The good news is that they have legitimate depth options that could push the starters.

Team Defense

After seeing significant improvements across nearly all defensive categories in 2011, Washington's defense plummeted down the ranks to 28th overall in total yards allowed and 22nd in total points allowed. This decline was mainly driven by the poor play within the secondary as the run defense was in the top 5. The return of Brian Orakpo should help alleviate some of the pressure put on the secondary as the Skins were in the bottom third in sacks generated with only 32. However, Washington's failure to bring in an upper level talent in the secondary is a major reason to believe their defense will be largely unimproved from a year ago.

Defensive Line

Starters: LDE Adam Carriker, NT Barry Cofield, RDE Stephen Bowen
Backups: DE Jarvis Jenkins, DE Kedric Goldston, DE Phillip Merling, DE Dough Worthington, NT Chris Baker, NT Chris Neild, DE Dominique Hamilton, NT Ron Brace, NT Chigbo Anunoby

Starting DL: Like many 3-4 defenses, Washington's defensive line is a fantasy wasteland. Bowen has served as a decent bye-week filler in deep redraft leagues, but the other starters are largely ignorable.

Backup DL: Washington doesn't rotate their linemen as much as other 3-4 teams do which translates to very low production for their backups. 2011 2nd round draft selection Jarvis Jenkins saw a lot of snaps in replacement of Adam Carriker who missed nearly the whole season due to injury; however he failed to do much at all in the box scores. Unless we see a chance in scheme, this is a group we can ignore in the fantasy realm.

Linebackers

Starters: LOLB Ryan Kerrigan, LILB London Fletcher, RILB Perry Riley, ROLB Brian Orakpo
Backups: ILB Bryan Kehl, OLB Rob Jackson, ILB Keenan Robinson [IR], ILB Roddrick Muckelroy, ILB Marvin Burdette, ILB Jeremy Kimbrough, OLB Brandon Jenkins (R), OLB Ricky Elmore, OLB Will Compton

Starting LBs: Amazingly, London Fletcher will return for this 16th NFL season. Although he's noticeably lost a step or two over the past couple years, his football smarts and on-the-field leadership make him a key cog in Washington's defense. His presence has allowed Perry Riley to gradually develop into a starting caliber fantasy linebacker. This could very well be the season in which he passes Fletcher is the #1 fantasy LB on the team's roster. Brian Orakpo will re-join the team after missing nearly the entire 2012 season with a torn pectoral muscle. Third year player Ryan Kerrigan rounds out the starting linebacking crew at LOLB. Both players project to be LB4s in balanced scoring IDP leagues.

Backup LBs: Rob Jackson did an adequate job filling in for the injured Brian Orakpo last year, but won't be a factor again barring injury. Nick Barnett was brought in as veteran depth behind Fletcher and Riley after Keenan Robinson was lost for the year with a torn pectoral injury. He's not a player worth drafting, but could have good value if one of the starting inside linebackers is injured for a significant period of time.

Defensive Backs

Starters: LCB DeAngelo Hall, SS Brandon Meriweather, FS Bacarri Rambo [R], RCB Josh Wilson
Backups: CB E.J. Biggers, S Reed Doughty, S DeJon Gomes, CB David Amerson [R], CB Jerome Murphy, , S Devin Holland, S Phillip Thomas [R], S Jordan Pugh, S Jordan Bernstine, CB Chase Minnifield, CB Richard Crawford

Starting DBs: After failing to secure a top cornerback in the free agent market, Washington elected to re-sign veteran DeAngelo Hall. Say what you what about his chatterbox ways, Hall has consistently produced for fantasy owners over the last several seasons. He's a player you should continue to draft as a high floor DB3+/CB1-. Josh Wilson, on the other hand, hasn't been a big box score producer over his career and can be mainly discarded in fantasy leagues. The safety position in Washington has proven to be worthwhile in fantasy terms since Jim Haslett took over as coordinator in 2010. However, there is currently a severe lack of talent at this position which dampens any potential fantasy value for this season. As of right now it looks like journeyman Brandon Meriweather will start at strong safety with Bacarri Rambo at the other starting safety position.

Backup DBs: 2nd round pick David Amerson has impressed so far in rookie camp and will look to push Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall for starting job. Reed Doughty and Dejon Gomes have been seen spot playing time over the last couple years but won't likely serve as any thing more than bye week fillers at most. E.J. Biggers was a good signing for the secondary in the off-season and could fill in at corner if one of the starters gets injured.

Last modified: 2013-12-03 19:57:22