Injuries happen in football. How a team responds to those injuries defines the good from the bad. Unfortunately for the Redskins, our lack of depth over the past few years has really hurt this team.
This has been a problem in the Shanahan era, although the problems were carried over from poor team management throughout the "Vinny Years". Mike inherited a team that had some talent, but little else to back that up. The first thing the new staff set out to do was fill in the missing pieces, and put a decent product on the field. Well, as is normally the case, injury derailed those plans, and it hit almost every spot on the team.
In 2011 we had more problems than just injury. A glaring hole existed at the most important position on the football field; quarterback. Had it not been for such poor quarterback play, this team may have fought its way to respectability. Alas, the interception machine that was Rex Grossman doomed this team, and eventhough the defense kept us in may tight matchups, the offense couldn't muster up the points come crunch time.
The outlook for 2012 looks much brighter. We now have a dangerous weapon at quarterback in Robert Griffin III. His talent alone represents hope for this struggling franchise, but that is not the only improvement this team has undergone this offseason.
Mike Shanahan has used the draft and free agency well over the last two years. The 2011 draft saw 12 players selected. All 12, plus undrafted free agent Willie Smith are still with the team. Most importantly, 10 of those players saw significant game action last year, with eight seeing starting time. Now this was not a good thing when it came to being competitive last season, but it means that these players should be willing and ready to step up this season, either in a starting roll, or a reserve spot.
The 2012 offseason saw us bring in a bevy of talent, and should allow us just as much depth. Two new starting wide receivers, possibly two new safeties, and most importantly our franchise quarterback will help aid in the transition. Add in a player like Jarvis Jenkins, who has returned from season ending knee surgery, and this group looks as promising as any gruop of players that the Redskins have ever brought in during an offseason.
Our depth at quarterback is pretty solid, but even more importantly, we are set up at the position for the future. The addition of RG3 is arguably the most important addition in the history of the franchise. Adding Cousins later in the draft secures the position for years to come. Rex Grossman also returns for another year to mentor the two rookies.
At running back, the Skins bring back last years leading rusher Roy Helu. The rookie was more than advertised in his first year as a Redskin, showing explosion, vision, balance and speed. He is a perfect back for this one-cut system. Also fighting for playing time will be fellow sophomore Evan Royster, veteran Tim Hightower, and rookie sixth round pick Alfred Morris. To say the least, if one back goes down with injury, the Redskins shouldn't miss a beat.
Wide receiver is a position that needed a desperate upgrade, and the Redskins took care of that during free agency, bringing in Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. They will join Moss, Hankerson and sophomore Aldrick Robinson to form a pretty deep and talented unit. Undrafted free agent Lance Lewis, and veterans Anthony Armstrong and Terrance Austin will provide good training camp competition. Included in the receiving corp is a beavy of talent at the tight end position. The top three to watch are veterans Fred Davis, who has emmerged as a legit receiving threat, Chris Cooley and sophomore Niles Paul. Cooley is coming off injury, and will have to be closely monitored this summer. Paul was moved over from receiver, and his 6'1" 235 pound frame, and 4.5 speed should help create pleanty of mismatches for rookie Robert Griffin to take advantage of.
Injury hit the offensive line hard last season. Rookies Willie Smith, and Maurice Hurt were both forced into starting spots, and veteran Tyler Polumbus and Erik Cook both saw action as well. The 2012 draft saw the additions of Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis. The two swing interior linemen should provide much needed depth, with future starting potential. Aside from Smith and Polumbus, the Redskins will bring newly signed rookie Tom Compton in to compete for playing time at backup tackle. James Lee, who was signed during the offseason should be in the mix as well. With starting tackles Williams and Brown set to hold down the edges, and returning starters Montgomery and Chester inside, the staff should be able to breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to having capable backups should any starter go down. The question mark on the line is at left guard, where Kory Lichtensteiger will attempt to return to his early 2011 form after season ending knee surgery.
On defense, the Redskins have pleanty of talent and depth alike on the front seven. Returning starters Adam Carriker, Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen, join a talented linebacking corp of Orakpo, Kerrigan, Fletcher and Riley. Depth on the front seven should be bolstered by the return of Jarvis Jenkins, who missed the entire 2011 season with a knee injury. Jenkins, along with sophmore nose tackle Chris Neild, and re-signed veteran Kedrick Golston, should pair up with Darrion Scott, Kentwan Balmer, Chris Baker and Doug Worthington to give the Skins pleanty of options up front. The linebacking corps should be backed up by veteran Rob Jackson, sophomore Markus White, rookie middle linebacker Keenan Robinson, and free agents Bryan Kehl,and Jonathan Goff. "Mister do it all" Lorenzo Alexander could also find himself in the mix as well.
The secondary is an area that will see significant changes. The loss of LaRon Landry to free agency, opens the door for veterans Brandon Meriweather, Madieu Williams, Tanard Jackson, Reed Doughty, sophomore DeJon Gomes and rookie Jordan Bernstine. Let the competition begin, and may the best man win. Cornerback may be a bit less cloudy, but it will not be without competition. Hall and Wilson should have the corner spots locked down, but there will be pleanty of competition for backup spots between veterans Kevin Barnes, Cedric Griffin, Travon Bellamy, Brandyn Thompson, and rookies Chase Minnifield and Richard Crawford.
Redskins fans have a lot to be excited for. Overall I see a lot of depth surrounding young talent on this team. This could set up a recipe for success for years to come.