1. Robert Griffin III
It goes without saying how important RG3 is to this team. His knee injury last year put a bad feeling on what was otherwise a very exciting year for the Redskins. The word is RG3 is ahead of schedule in his rehab and the doctors are having to hold him back from wanting to push it and do more, which Griffin has said is a good thing at the end of the day. If we can get Robert back to 100% healthy within the first month of the season, keep him more protected through less run plays and better pass protection, this year could be a very, very special year for the Washington Redskins. The Redskins must think long term first when it comes to Rg3. Having a healthy Griffin for the next decade is far more important than winning any early regular season game this season.
2. Brian Orakpo
Orakpo is entering his 4th year as a Redskin. In that time he’s played 3 different positions and in two different defensive schemes in DC. He’s been over or near double digit sacks in every year he’s been healthy since he was drafted in 2011. He is without a doubt the Skins best pass rusher. The Redskins sack numbers and passing defense took a significant hit in 2012 after Orakpo got hurt in St Louis. The Redskins sacks were down by 9 (the usual number Orakpo provides) and our pass D dropped from 12th in 2011 to 30th in 2012 mainly because of a lack of pass rush on the opposing team’s quarterback without Orakpo.
His problem has been two pectoral tears within 9 months. He says he is 100% healthy right now, and we still have 5 months till the season begins. This is good, Orakpo can continue to rest, rehab and take it slow just to make sure he’s ready to go when the season starts because I feel that he’s the most important player on our defense.
3. Pierre Garcon
Pierre looks to be like a solid signing by the Washington Redskins a year ago but he hurt his foot on his very first big play as a Redskin. Ever since then he hasn’t been quite as good. From reading multiple articles about his injury over the past year, we should question if he will ever be truly 100% again. Still a 90% Garcon is better than the rest of our wide receivers. Let’s hope he can return close to 100% and build upon his year last year and his chemistry he displayed with Griffin. If the team throws more this season, which I suspect they will to keep Rg3 from taking so many hits, expect Garcon’s numbers from last year to near double.
4. Fred Davis
Another player coming off a major injury. Fred Davis has shown flashes of being an elite tight end since 2009 but, he has never quite taken the next step in that development. Last year in week 7 vs the New York Giants Fred tore his Achilles tendon, which we thought was going to be a killer for our offense. It turns out Logan Paulsen is a good football player. Logan isn’t as dynamic but, he’s a better blocker and he’s a reliable receiver.
Anyways, since Fred is back we need him to get healthy, step up and become the elite talent he can be in the passing game. He can definitely add an element to our offense that we were missing the second half of the 2012 season.
5. DeAngelo Hall
Everyone knows how much I like DHall…. Okay, okay, all jokes and hate aside, we do need Hall to step up and be more consistent if our pass defense is going to be better this season. I know Hall has elite talent, I have never denied that fact. Hopefully, he can get close to reaching that elite potential because he wants to get one more long term deal before he retires. DHall has great ball skills and a lot of talent. If he can just stay more focused, not guess and gamble on every play, play the man more rather than playing the ball and reading the QBs eyes too much, he can get back to the pro bowl. I really, really hope it happens, I want him to make our defense great and I want him to be a great player.
6. Josh Wilson
Josh Wilson did not play as well in 2012 as he had in 2011. Still, Wilson has good technique and can be a good number two cornerback. I don’t ever expect Wilson to be our number one CB, but I do expect him to be more consistent next year than he was last year. We need him to play better than he did at times last year.
7. Brandon Meriweather
Brandon Meriweather came to the Redskins as a free agent signing in 2012 after failing as a free agent signing for the Chicago Bears in 2011. He did not fit the Bears cover two defensive system and that was his biggest problem there. Meriweather was expected to be our starting strong safety last year and looked like he was going to be great in the off-season, during training camp and during the preseason until we faced the Bears in Chicago. Meriweather hurt his knee, it looked bad but we were told it was just a sprain. Meriweather was expected to just miss the rest of the preseason and to be ready for the start of the season. That didn’t happen. Every week we kept hearing he was getting closer toward being able to play. Finally, he was supposed to play vs Tampa Bay but in an unfortunate pregame collision with Aldrick Robinson he aggravated his knee injury. Meriweather returned to play vs the Eagles a few games later and started the game well. It was pretty clear how big of an impact he had on the defense from the start. He looked a lot like Laron Landry and in some instances better. Unfortunately, Meriweather tore his ACL in the Eagles game and would be lost for the season.
Much like the other players on this list, health is the key. Meriweather must get and stay healthy. If he can, he can be a good piece to our defense. The Redskins badly need Meriweather to be a difference maker from the safety position.
8. Adam Carriker
Carriker, like Orakpo, was injured vs St Louis and missed the remainder of the season. Carriker is one of the Redskins best defensive lineman and was our best pass rusher as a defensive lineman in 2011. We badly missed his 6 sacks from the left defensive end position. What actually hurt us the most with Carriker’s injury was that without him our depth got weakened. Jarvis Jenkins was his replacement at starter in 2012. Jenkins played well and showed that he could become a long term starter at defensive or nose tackle for the Redskins, but still wasn’t at the level of Carriker. And without Carriker it forced Jenkins into a starting role and our depth was compromised.
We need Adam Carriker back, healthy and performing near his 2011 level for the Redskins defense to get back to where it was in 2011 and hopefully take the next step and be top 10.
9. Roy Helu, Jr.
Roy Helu, Jr. Is a dynamic playmaker that the Redskins desperately missed last year. He’s a fast, elusive and powerful runner who flashed great ability as a rookie in 2011. He is a good 3rd down back and receiver as well as he had 49 receptions his rookie season. Helu has had bad luck with injuries his first two years with the Redskins. He recently had surgery on a bothersome foot which will keep him out for a while but he should be ready to go soon. He has been doing some light jogging already and they believe he will be back to 100% for Training Camp in July. If Helu can return healthy and stay healthy he can greatly improve our offense. He is a great change of pace running back to Alfred Morris and can be a good 3rd down back.
10. Leonard Hankerson
As pointed out before, a fantasy football site named Rotoviz projects third year wide receivers who will have a break out year. They used yards per target and compared that with second year wide receivers who made that jump in the past from year two to year three.
Rotovitz thinks that Hankerson will be one of the wide receivers to break out this year. They say that Hank does pass the eye and stat test. Pro Football Focus said that Hankerson had only four drops while being targeted 59 times. To compare, Santana Moss had six drops on 64 targets. So much for Hank dropping everything right? He only had 4 drops on the year!
When Hank came into the NFL it was reported he didn’t realize the hard work and dedication it to took to make it in the NFL, as most young players don’t. Then, on top of that, his hip injury set him back in his rookie year and in his 2nd off-season, and he didn’t have a rookie off-season in 2011 because of the owner’s locking the players out. If he focuses on the little things and gets truly polished as a WR with better routes and gets more comfortable with Rg3 or Cousins, this could be a special year for Hankerson.
The Skins are poised for a big 2013 season. In order to accomplish their goals and have the successful season they are looking for, they will need consistency, more importantly health, and a heavy dose of contribution from all of the players listed above.