With all (Aldrick Robinson signed to roster) of the 12 players drafted in 2011 making the 53 -man roster at some point this season, the Redskins are by far the youngest team in the NFC. Let's take a look at some of those rookies that had a pretty large impact.
Probably the most notable of all the rookies wearing a Redskins jersey is No. 91 Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan has started all of the 15 games so far this season, and has yet to hit that fabled rookie wall. Drafted in the 1st round (16th ovr.) Kerrigan was a huge impact right out of the gate. Kerrigan returned an interception for a 9 yard touchdown in week 1 against Eli Manning and the Giants. Overall this season, he's totaled 61 tackles (39 solo) and 7.5 sacks. He places 3rd amongst rookie LB's in sacks, with Von Miller (DEN) and Aldon Smith (SF) leading the pack at 11.5 and 14.
Kerrigan transitioned to the OLB position after playing very effectively as a Purdue Boilermaker defensive end. In his senior year as a Boilermaker, Kerrigan massed 12.5 sacks and also maintains the Big Ten all time record for forced fumbles. The addition of Kerrigan opposite of Brian Orackpo can be directly correlated to the relative success of the Redskins defense this season. He's been a break out rookie and I look to see him only getting better. With the return of Jarvis Jenkins(2nd round pick), the Redskins defensive front looks to be in pretty good shape come 2012.
A lot of fans nearly forgot about the 3rd round draft pick Leonard Hankerson, No. 85, since he tore his labrum early in the season. I haven't. One area the Redskins are hurting (more than any of us want to admit), is the receiving corp. In the games he played (Weeks 7-10) Hank massed 13 receptions for 163 yards. His best performance coming in week ten with 8 for 106. Although his longest was only a 23-yarder, and he wasn't able to get into the endzone, I really liked what I saw in him. He was boxing out his defenders, he knew where to sit in the zone, and can make a play on the ball with his height and speed. He isn't the fastest guy at 4.43, but a reliable receiver is just as important in my eyes. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Hank can do with a good signal caller behind center.
A rookie out of Nebraska, and contrary to the NFL analysis of him, Roy Helu seems to be a reliable every-down back. Mike Shanahan is known for his dominant run game, having coached Terrell Davis and Clinton Portis (He USED to be pretty damn good) in their primes. But the Redskins run game through week 11 was ranked last in the league. Enter Roy Helu. In his first start, Roy ran for 23 carries and 108 yards (A Redskins rookie record). A 4.7 average. Who can forget this game? His first touchdown came in week 12 on one of THE BEST runs I have seen a Redskins back make. Ever. Just a simple off-tackle hand-off, Roy took advantage of two good crack blocks from Santana Moss and Fred Davis (Fred's was huge), HURDLES Roy Lewis, RUNS THROUGH Kam Chancellor, and scores, all in 28 yards. The kid can run. Questions were raised whether or not he would be a good starting back. Scouts and analysts didn't think he could handle a full-time load. Roy answered in weeks 13 and 14. Massing 226 yards on the ground and another touchdown.
Let's not forget about receptions. Roy caught 14 receptions out of the backfield from a nervous John Beck in week 9 against SF. Although they were all check-downs, Roy broke the single game all-time receiving record for the Redskins. Of all active rookie RB's, Roy places second in yards behind *shudder* Dallas' Demarco Murray. I am absolutely ecstatic about the Redskins newfound run game. Especially with the breakout performance of our next rookie.
Evan Royster, drafted in the 6th round, is Penn State's all-time leading rusher. He wasn't given much thought, though, being that he apparently doesn't have the ability to grab big chunks of yards. I think he may have proven scouts wrong. Averaging at 6.0 yards per carry, Evan ranks second in rookie runningbacks (behind John Clay in PIT who only ran once for 10 yards. So technically 1st...). Roy Helu went down with a few minor injuries keeping him out of play against MIN in week 16. Evan took advantage. He ran just 19 times for 132 yards. That's an average of 6.9 yards per carry. A lot of Redskins Nation were saying things like "Helu Who?" in support of Royster. I gotta say, I have been a fan since his pre-season performance in PIT and TB. I am just happy that the run-game is alive and well, finally.
The Redskins have a tough road ahead. So many questions are raised about where to go in the draft. It's a good thing last year's draft can be considered a relative success.
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