Predicting Washington's Two-Deep Depth Chart Pre-2014 NFL Draft
The football world is quickly coming to its usual buzz at this point in the offseason with the draft just around the corner. The Washington Redskins, like many other teams, have been scouting, studying and creating draft plans to build their roster.
Washington, shockingly, doesn’t have a ton of holes to fill and can easily write up a tentative depth chart prior to the draft.
Of course there is a lot left to be decided between now and the draft, but the framework is in place and shouldn’t vary much even after the draft. There is no accounting for any surprises that may occur, between trades or prospects seeing their stocks plummet on draft day, but that’s every year.
Here is how the Redskins depth chart looks heading into the draft.
Call it a long shot, call it a reach, call it what you will, but something tells me Kirk Cousins doesn’t remain a Washington Redskin through the draft.
The ‘Skins were bold in putting a second-round pick price tag on him, which garnered next to no interest this offseason.
Fast forward to the draft, where no less than four teams in the top 10 could be clamoring for a quarterback. A team like Tennessee, sitting at 11 and in need of a quarterback, might deal for Cousins and the 34th overall pick.
The real story, of course, is Griffin, who is the unquestioned starter with a shocking amount of questions surrounding his readiness for the 2014 season.
He stumbled in his first season back from his second major knee surgery, leading to concerns over his ability to recreate his rookie magic.
Something tells me that with Jay Gruden at the helm, Griffin will look better than his rookie self.
Starter: Alfred Morris; Backup: Roy Helu
Alfred Morris has two 1,200-yard seasons under his belt in two seasons in the NFL. Granted, they came under head coach Mike Shanahan and his factory-like zone-blocking scheme that has churned out numerous 1,000-yard rushers.
Morris will have to adjust to life without Shanahan’s genius on the ground, but it isn’t always the scheme that makes the player. A player like Morris can make a scheme.
Behind Morris, for now, is still Roy Helu. He’s an ideal change-of-pace back for the Redskins, providing superior blocking, receiving and speed to Morris’ one-cut, bulldozing style.
Depth aside, the real question is how much will Gruden favor Helu because of his ability to catch out of the backfield?
Sadly, Gruden’s scheme doesn’t favor using a fullback, and Darrel Young may find himself with a decreased role in 2014.
Starter: Jordan Reed; Backup: draft pick
A healthy Jordan Reed gives the Redskins an excellent receiving option at tight end. Despite appearing in just nine games as a rookie, he was second on the team in receptions.
It is both a reflection of his ability as well as the lack of talent Washington had at receiver last season.
After Reed is where things get interesting.
Logan Paulsen would be the de facto second tight end, but Gruden may prefer a more athletic, pass-catching tight end to create some mismatches out of two-tight end sets. The draft has enough talented tight ends to push Paulsen back on the depth chart, since he still has value as a blocker and red-zone target.
Someone like Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins may be out of reach for the Redskins, but Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, troubled though he may be, could be an option.
Pierre Garcon led the league in receptions last season, which is a miracle unto itself considering RGIII's spotty play and the up and down play from Cousins. Still, he established himself as a top receiver with little help from the rest of the receiving corps.
Enter DeSean Jackson, who will give the Redskins a second top receiving option opposite Garcon.
Jackson's presence gives the Redskins a vertical threat to complement their go-to option in Garcon. It is the perfect situation for the Redskins, though Andre Roberts may see his role change from what he might have expected.
Roberts was signed before Jackson, and would have been the second receiver. With Jackson in the fold, Roberts moves to the third receiver spot.
After the starting three, things get interesting.
Aldrick Robinson is likely to make it as the fourth or fifth receiver because he can also stretch the field. Santana Moss has experience on his side, but with Jackson dropping Roberts to the third receiver role, Moss may not make the roster even as a slot receiver.
Leonard Hankerson remains a question mark due to his injury history and overall inconsistency. It wouldn't be a shock to see the Redskins add a receiver in the middle of the draft.
Starters: Trent Williams, draft pick; Backups: Tom Compton, Tyler Polumbus
Trent Williams made his second consecutive Pro Bowl in 2013, proving he is among the best left tackles in the NFL today. Opposite Williams is Tyler Polumbus, who improved on his 2012 impression of a turnstile to become just average at right tackle.
Polumbus has value as a run-blocker, but he is not starter material.
Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio or Virginia’s Morgan Moses would fit perfectly at right tackle and give the Redskins the beef necessary to keep RGIII clean and healthy in the backfield.
Tom Compton is a bit of a mystery and may not make the roster when all is said and done. He’s always been a raw prospect with potential, but we have not seen it and who knows if Gruden will want to keep him around on the off chance he has a breakout season.
Starters: Shawn Lauvao, Chris Chester; Backups: Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis
Signing Shaun Lauvao was supposed to be a sign of the Redskins addressing their problems along their offensive line. Their interior was ruined by opposing defenses, with Chris Chester and former center Will Montgomery getting embarrassed by Minnesota’s Kevin Williams to the tune of 2.5 sacks in a single game.
Instead, Lauvao merely displaces Kory Lichtensteiger at left guard while Lichtensteiger slides into the center position to fill the spot left by Montgomery’s release.
Chester, the only remaining weak link in the interior, is too expensive to relegate to backup duty and it is difficult to see the Redskins casting Gettis or LeRibeus off without good reason.
Both are unproven, Gettis has solid technique while lacking size. LeRibeus isn’t the best athlete despite having better size. They both provide solid depth and are young enough to keep around and maybe develop more.
Starter: Kory Lichtensteiger; Backup: Nick Sundberg
Lichtensteiger is still undersized to be playing center, but he should be an upgrade over Montgomery. Putting on some extra weight without compromising his mobility will be crucial.
Nick Sundberg may not see much, if any, time as the regular center, but he will make his return as the special teams center responsible for long snapping and the like.
Sundberg, however, was at the center of a woeful Redskins special teams unit, one that has proven weak up the middle, and he may see some competition in training camp.
Starters: Jason Hatcher, Jarvis Jenkins; Backups: Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield
The Redskins get an excellent free agent in Jason Hatcher, who recorded a career-high 11 sacks in 2013. He will lessen the impact of Bowen’s absence while he recovers from microfracture surgery.
Jarvis Jenkins is an easy choice for the starter opposite Hatcher because the team has not signed anyone better and Jenkins may be on the verge of a breakout in 2014.
Behind Hatcher and Jenkins are Bowen and Cofield, the former being the 2013 starter and the latter being the 2013 starter at nose tackle making the transition to defensive end.
With the investment in Chris Baker, it makes sense for Cofield to move outside while providing depth as well as versatility.
It allows the Redskins to use more of a rotation along their defensive front, which works for players staying fresh over the course of a game as well as exploiting matchups and working different schemes with different players.
Starter: Chris Baker; Backup: draft pick
Washington signed Baker to a three-year $12 million contract, which isn’t exactly elite starter money, but it isn’t second string money either.
Baker has the ability to be a disruptive force in the middle of their defense and is definitely better suited for the position than Cofield.
Making Baker the starter and moving Cofield outside works best for both of them and their respective skill sets.
Behind Baker is likely to be a late-round pick. Chris Neild is solid when he gets playing time, but he doesn’t get much, nor does he make a serious push for more time.
Starters: Perry Riley, draft pick; Backups: Darryl Sharpton, Keenan Robinson
It will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace London Fletcher in the middle, even if the last two seasons were less than stellar for the future Hall of Famer.
Perry Riley got a $13 million contract to return as one of the starting inside linebackers, so he must be doing something right.
He has the potential to be a run-stuffing inside linebacker who can pitch in on the pass rush if necessary. His companion in the middle, even after a flurry of smaller signings, may still end up being a draft pick.
Maybe not Shayne Skov or even Chris Borland but someone will be drafted to be the starter.
After Riley and the draftee, Sharpton and Robinson bring some talent to the middle. Robinson has battled injuries in his career, but he has all of the tools to be productive in a regular role on defense.
Sharpton is undersized like Fletcher, but he doesn’t have the wealth of experience or incredible instincts that made him a one-of-a-kind player. He is serviceable but should not be a full-time starter.
Starters: Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan; Backups: Brandon Jenkins, Rob Jackson
Orakpo returns to the Redskins after being franchise-tagged early this offseason. He has all the potential in the world to be a force on the field, but he needs to turn that potential into production.
Kerrigan returns as a productive, high-energy pass-rusher with excellent ball skills who struggles when offenses send an extra blocker his way.
The two together can thrive as a pass-rushing tandem but alone they’re easier to handle.
Behind them are Brandon Jenkins and Rob Jackson, the former being a 2013 draft pick and the latter being a cult favorite for his 4.5 sack performance in place of the injured Orakpo in 2012.
Jenkins is another converted defensive end who has yet to make the transition to linebacker, but he is capable of making plays when given the chance.
Starters: DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson; Backups: Tracy Porter, Richard Crawford
DeAngelo Hall had a solid season as Washington’s top cornerback last season, while then-rookie David Amerson slowly but surely overtook Josh Wilson for second cornerback position.
With Wilson gone, signed by the Atlanta Falcons, Amerson is the starter opposite Hall, which could prove interesting given their ability to create turnovers.
As far as depth goes, the Redskins signed Tracy Porter, who will serve as the third/nickel corner, and they will welcome back Richard Crawford, who missed last season with a torn ACL.
Crawford isn’t a lock to be the third or fourth corner, but he will be on the roster because of his value as a punt returner. If the Redskins fill that role with another player, Crawford’s value as a cornerback is still solid but unproven in his young career.
Starters: Ryan Clark, Brandon Meriweather; Backups: Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo
It may not be a long-term solution, but the Clark/Meriweather safety tandem could be the greatest thing for the Redskins defense or the worst thing.
Clark is headed for 35 years of age later this year, making him possibly an over-seasoned veteran, while Meriweather has yet to prove he can be healthy and avoid suspension due to penalties and fines for late hits on defenseless receivers.
If allowed to play the run, Meriweather should be fine, but he needs to make sound football plays as opposed to aiming for highlight reel hits.
Thomas and Rambo, who were 2013 draft picks, provide decent enough depth if used properly. Rambo had a run at free safety as a rookie, but he couldn’t hack it, while Thomas missed the entire season with a Lisfranc tear that landed him on IR during preseason.
Neither one is really proven, but they are young and talented enough to provide the depth the Redskins will need if Meriweather or Clark go out for any reason.
Kicker: Kai Forbath; Punter: Robert Malone
Forbath has yet to lose his job for one reason or another, making him the longest tenured kicker since Graham Gano appeared in 48 games between 2009 and 2011. He’s still accurate and has a decent leg, but he needs to rebound from a poor 2013 campaign where he struggled with injuries.
He made 18 of his 22 field goal attempts, but he didn’t have the same sort of groundswell of support following his 17-of-18 Redskins debut in 2012.
After releasing Sav Rocca this offseason, the Redskins brought in Robert Malone and Blake Clingan, presumably to compete for the open spot.
Clingan is a year younger but lacks significant experience. Malone has bounced around the league during his four-year career, serving as the primary punter for Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010 and the New York Jets in 2012.
Experience will win him the job.