At the beginning of the season, I made a list of the ten players (click here to check out original post as well as any comments you or others may have made) I named the Most Irreplaceable Redskins. I attempted to take into account depth at each position, and identify those players who were most central to the success of this year's team. I thought that with the season on ice, it would be a good time to break out the list and see what we (I) thought, and how it worked out. I asked the question, "Who can we least afford to lose to injury?" The list goes from #10 to #1 (as ranked in the preseason):
Ten Yard Fight - 10 Chances To Make One Good Point
10) Hunter Smith - Well, I think I nailed this one. Not only has he been a decent punter for us, he has chipped in on offense, accounting for two touchdowns this season. We might have lost the opener against the Giants, but when Hunter scored his touchdown, we were very much alive. And when he threw the touchdown pass to Mike Sellers against the Broncos a few weeks ago, it was the turning point in the game. Yes, I think his performance this season has been very much worthy of a spot on this list. Coincidentally, when he was out, we did not score any touchdowns from the punter position.
9) Derrick Dockery- Hmmmm...has he been spectacular? No. But he has been in the lineup every week. In fact, you rarely hear his name called, for good or bad. I struggle with what that should mean. You can say he has been our best lineman, but on this offensive line, that is hardly a compliment. And that is only true due to injuries. Coming into the season, here is what I said about Dockery: "Let's not mix words here--we brought in Dockery to be an upgrade, not to hold down the position until someone better comes along. He has to perform well and he has to perform well right away." Given the relative nightmare our line has been all season long, it is just too hard to consider anyone currently in uniform on that line to be irreplaceable. That said, Dockery has probably been our most solid player there.
8) Fred Davis- This preseason, all I envisioned was a stretch of games where Fred Davis took defenses by surprise and single-handedly saved our red zone offense. I always thought it would be in conjunction with Cooley, Portis and Moss though. I think Davis has turned out to be irreplaceable. His talent is undeniable and there is nobody else on the roster who could have stepped in to Cooley's shoes and done as well (Yoder included.) If he continues to progress the rest of this season and into next season, we should have two pretty solid receiving targets working the field from the tight end spot.
7) Brian Orakpo- I took some heat for putting the rookie in here. I mentioned that if he failed to dominate, we would get a steady diet of Michael Oher chants. Well, he leads all rookies in sacks and he has played hard all season. It is very refreshing to see a draft pick of ours come in and contribute at such a high level actually. Certainly irreplaceable for us.
6) Santana Moss- Well...not so irreplaceable this year, eh? We seem to lose him every year don't we? Either to injury or to invisibility. JC can't seem to get the ball to him over the course of a game in ways that change the outcome of the game. HE is by far our best receiver, but at this point in the season, we are finding ourselves all of a sudden capable of moving the ball through the air with any of our receiving options (to the extent we are at all capable on any given week.) The good news is that it would seem we are past the years when our passing game was a one-trick pony with Santana Moss dominating opposing secondaries. The bad news is that we may have wasted some of Santana's abilities by being unable to stretch the field with him successfully this year.
5) Jason Campbell - I said at the time that I felt he was easily our #1 most irreplaceable guy. But with both Todd Collins and Colt Brennan healthy at that point, I moved him down the list a little bit. JC has been a fighter for us this year. He has hung tough week in and week out. You could argue that we have gotten every scrap of ability and effort out of this player. While it is true that an upgrade at this position might have netted us an extra win or two, I doubt it is fair to say it would have meant playoffs. Our offense has too many other problems. Regardless of what happens next season, JC was irreplaceable for us this season.
4) Mike Sellers - I goofed on this one it would seem. On the strength of his lead blocking, I had him as an indispensable member of this offense. Then came the safety in Detroit, and the inability to punch in a few goal line carries early in the season when he just did not seem to get any kind of push into the end zone. Sellers has been a fan favorite in D.C. for a number of years so I am ready to chalk up this season as just a down year for Big Mike. But he has been far from irreplaceable this season.
3) Clinton Portis- We have had the chance to see this one put to the test. Ladell Betts proved to be up to the tack of replacing CP as it turns out. Maybe Ladell should have been the more irreplaceable guy? I think Portis was hurt right away this season and tried to work his way through it even though our rushing attack suffered. It is possible he will never be 100% healthy again in this league. But at that 100% level, I do think he is irreplaceable. Now, I find it hard to fathom we can get through this next draft without using a mid-round selection on a running back.
2) Chris Samuels- This was the most accurate pick on my list. Even when he was playing with a few nagging injuries, he was by far the best we had. Without him, we have shuffled old guys and new guys all over the place trying to find a mix that would somehow get us through the rest of the season. Levi Jones has played admirably well, but to say we have a replacement for Samuels is laughable. The only way we can replace #60 is at the top of the 1st round in an upcoming draft. And then it will still be a battle for the blue-chipper to fill those shoes.
1) Albert Haynesworth- At the end of last season, teams decided to run against us all day long. Remember that? It was awful. Enter Albert Haynesworth. His presence on our defensive line has made a huge impact. Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo are getting sacks. Linebackers are getting to the ball-carrier with more freedom. Our #1 ranked pass defense has a LOT to do with the push Haynesworth gets up front. The added pressure on the quarterback has been noticeable from day one. Without him on the field against the Cowgirls, our pass rush faded big-time in the 4th quarter. The debate about Haynesworth will always include his salary, but on the field, he is priceless and certainly irreplaceable.
I'll say I was right on with Hunter Smith, Brian Orakpo, Jason Campbell (only kill me on this one if you think Todd Collins could have done better), Chris Samuels and Albert Haynesworth. That is 50% and is not so good. Fred Davis and Derrick Dockery are close but because the offense has been so bad this year, it is too difficult to say that they are in fact irreplaceable.