In keeping up with our NFL Preview, today we will take a look at the last team in the NFC East, the Washington Redskins. If you missed any of our other NFC East Previews, they can be found here: Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, and Dallas Cowboys.
Free Agency: Aside from the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins may have been the second most active team in free agency; The only problem is they were far less successful, didn’t feel some of their most pressing needs, and overspent on a lot of players. Their first priority should have been finding a free agent QB, like Kevin Kolb, or drafting a QB, once they traded Donovan McNabb to the Minnesota Vikings. Anytime a team heads into the season with John Beck as your starting QB, chances are you’ll be drafting very highly next season. Once they committed to Beck, their first objective was to surround him with weapons. They re-signed Santana Moss to a 3-year deal, they traded for Jabar Gaffney, and also signed free agent WR Donte’ Stallworth. The ‘Skins had over 10 of their own players who either started or contributed headed to free agency, so they made it a priority to lock up their own guys first. They locked up OT Jamaal Brown, Rocky McIntosh, Phillip Buchanon, HB Blades, and Reed Doughty. They turned their attention to the remaining free agent market and were able to lure Barry Cofield, perhaps their best signing, away from the Giants with a huge 6-year deal. They were able to land Cofield because they traded Albert Haynesworth and his enormous contract to the New England Patriots for a 5th Round pick. They also added up to 7 potential starters with the signings of former Rams safety O.J. Atogwe, K Shayne Graham, CB Josh Wilson (who will replace the departed Carlos Rogers, a 49ers signee), DE/DT Stephen Bowen, OT Sean Locklear, P Sav Rocca, and G Chris Chester. Perhaps one of their best moves other than the Cofield signing was trading for Tim Hightower, from the Arizona Cardinals, for Vonnie Holliday.
Draft: Many expected the Redskins to draft Blaine Gabbert with the #10 overall pick, but they shocked everyone when they traded the pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars and moved down to #16, especially due to the lack of NFL ready QBs in the lower end of the 1st round. With their first pick they took Ryan Kerrigan, a DE/OLB from Purdue, who they hope can man the OLB post opposite Brian Orakpo; overall I wasn’t impressed with this pick. With the extra selection they picked up in the trade with Jacksonville, they took Clemson’s Jarvis Jenkins, a DE/DT. He should compete for playing time or be part of the rotation at the very least. Their next pick may have been their best of the draft when they selected Miami WR Leonard Hankerson who should start as a rookie. After Hankerson they had 9 selections remaining, many of which were headscratchers including selecting Nebraska RB Roy Helu with better running backs on the board and greater needs to fill. Of the final 8 selections, the highlights were Nebraska WR Niles Paul, Penn State RB Evan Royster, who holds most of the school’s rushing records, and DE/OLB Markus White from Florida State who was a highly touted recruit who never quite lived up to the hype. Don’t be surprised if he makes a name for himself as he could develop into a fine pass rusher.
Quarterback will be the reason this team likely has the #1 overall pick next year, which isn’t all that bad considering Andrew Luck will the grand prize. John Beck has been named the starter, but with a minor injury, Rex Grossman will challenge him for playing time. Newly acquired Tim Hightower will be the man at running back and will be joined by returning starters Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams, while Mike Sellers returns at FB. The team returns Santana Moss at one WR spot while Anthony Armstrong, Jabar Gaffney, and Donte’ Stallworth will try and hold off Leonard Hankerson at the other slot. The tight end position is in good hands with Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. The offensive line has the potential to be strong with LT Trent Williams, LG Kory Lichtensteiger, C Will Montgomery, RG Chris Chester, and RT Jamaal Brown. The line will need to play exceptional because of the deficiencies at QB and the skill positions.
This will be year 2 of the Redskins’ transition to the 3-4 defense, and while they were far from dominant last year, they definitely showed signs of improvement. OLB Brian Orakpo is one of the best in the league at his position as is ILB Rocky McIntosh. The 3 down lineman will be LE Adam Carriker, last year’s first round pick who has made huge strides, NT Barry Cofield, their big offseason signing, and RE Stephen Bowen, their other big offseason pick up. The 4 linebackers will be rookie Ryan Kerrigan at LOLB, London Fletcher and McIntosh at MLB, and Orakpo at ROLB. The secondary should be improved with capable corners DeAngelo Hall, who has boom or bust potential, Josh Wilson, and Phillip Buchanon. The safety position is clearly upgraded with the addition of O.J. Atogwe, who will be flanked by LaRon Landry.
Graham Gano was spectacular as a rookie, but the team brought in Shayne Graham for competition. Free agent signing Sav Rocca will handle the punting duties. The electrifying 5’7” Brandon Banks will handle be the KR/PR, while DeAngelo Hall could also be a factor at KR.