Since 2009, we have been putting this list together and I both love and loathe the aftermath each year. One thing that should help me a little is that two players that I took a ridiculous amount of heat about in the past did not make the cut this time around: Sav Rocca and Rex Grossman. What can I say? When you are pretty sure you are going to be doing a fair amount of punting, and you have a monster-sized dude named Sav back there, I am going to fit him onto the list. As for Rexy, any further defense of his previous inclusion only adds fuel to the hate-fire, so let's all just take a step back and put down the pitchforks.
The rules are simple--and please take a glance at them before you rip me in the comments below. Age does not matter. This list applies to the 2013 season ONLY. I am making my decisions based on a player's stats from previous seasons, their potential this season, leadership, versatility, who their backups are and a little something I like to call the "Wolowitz Coeffiecient." Basically, in return for taking the heat, I get to list ten guys that I think are the most irreplaceable players if they were to suffer a season-ending injury or perform scandalous acts of indecency on video at a country music concert. (And no, Pat White will not be #1 on this list, although he is the most irreplaceable guy on my flag football team.)
Finally, the words irreplaceable, irreplaceability and irreplaceableness will lose all meaning by the end of this article. I have loosely ordered this list from ten to one, with numbers ten, two and one being very much linked, but let's not get too carried away by order here.
10) Kirk Cousins -- I believe that a Super Bowl contender in August is only as legit as its backup quarterback. Please pay attention to the wording there--plenty of backup quarterbacks on Super Bowl championship teams never see the field. In August, however, the odds suggest the backup will see the field, and if your backup is nothing more than a caddy for the franchise signal-caller, your team's chances of going all the way are significantly hampered. Captain Kirk has played well when given the opportunity, and is getting gads of first-team reps this summer. It is fair to say that our season hinges on the guy in front of Cousins, but if we were to lose Cousins, our chances to contend for a championship would dip in a substantial way.
9) David Amerson/Top Draft Pick -- Our rookie corner is not even listed as one of our top two defensive backs at the moment, so why in God's name do I have him here? For starters (no pun intended), I fully expect him to be a meaningful contributor by the time the cold weather gets here late in the season. Our passing defense was pretty terrible last season, saved statistically by a great run at the end, as well as a very respectable 31 total takeaways (21 interceptions). Amerson was brought here to, among other things, demonstrate his ability to get the ball. Assuming he can accomplish that at this level, those skills are extremely irreplaceable, and will be integral to our ability to compete against the top offenses on our schedule. I almost always consider the top draft pick to be irreplaceable from a different angle--you can't replace a year of experience for a guy you hope will anchor your team for a decade.
8) Ryan Kerrigan -- "Care Again...With Kerrigan!" Wherever you are Sebastian Salazar, my hat tips in your general direction. Ryan has started all 32 games of his Redskins career. He added an extra sack in 2012 from his 2011 tally, which is impressive given he did it without Brian Orakpo for the majority of the season. I couldn't be more impressed by what Kerrigan has come in and done for our defense. He clearly has the respect and trust of his teammates and coaches, and he doesn't leave anything in the tank on Sunday. In this day and age of pass-happy NFL offenses, you can't survive without pass rushers like Kerrigan, and they don't grow on trees.
7) Brian Orakpo -- Here is a guy who belongs at the top of lists like this. As irreplaceable as he is, the Redskins did manage to cobble together some form of replacement en route to winning the division. That said, it was multiple players performing multiple functions to replace what Orakpo can do by himself. Brian's athleticsim, strength and increasing comfort in our defensive scheme is likely to be the biggest reason our defense turns the page from last season's horrific start (if you can call ten weeks a "start").
6) Alfred Morris -- What can I say? Alfred Morris exceeded sixth round draft pick expectations so much that he has become rather irreplaceable not only on the field, but in our hearts. Falling in love with a running back in Shanahan's system is like falling in love with a snowflake that landed on a D.C. street in the middle of July. Still, there is a strong marriage of style and scheme here with this player. He fits what we do, and he has proven to be extremely effective. In my heart, I know that Shanahan has properly stocked the depth chart with guys that could step up and perform if needed, but it would be foolish to suggest we have a guy on the bench that could be called on to drop 1,600 yards on the league the way #46 did last year.
5) Pierre Garcon -- My guess is that this player will be the one guy everyone screams should be higher on the list. When he was on the field, we were simply WAY better than when he wasn't. From the long touchdown catch he made against the Saints in the opener, to the way he connected with Captain Kirk on that crucial score against Baltimore, Garcon has shown what makes him irreplaceable. Put simply, his presence on the field increases our chances of winning by...a LOT. Feel free to debate whether he is a true #1 or not...I no longer care, and Redskins fans should free themselves of that discussion going forward as well. He seems to be #1 in Griffin's heart, and isn't that one of--if not THE--most important characteristic of a "true #1" receiver?
4) Barry Cofield -- On a recent episode of The Fun Bunch podcast, which I know you all dutifully listened to, John Keim told us that Barry Cofield looks to be in the best shape of his life. Let's just say I had to put a pillow over my lap to mask my...enthusiastic...reaction to this news. Just as the offense goes as the offensive line goes, there is no chance of defensive success if your guys up front aren't winning their battles. We lost Adam Carriker already, and Jarvis Jenkins is taking time off to continue his fight against breast cancer (at least based on the supplements he was caught taking), so our defensive line is going to largely hinge on how effective Cofield can be for us. I love Bowen too, but Cofield is the guy who can swing us from good to great if he has a Pro Bowl season.
3) London Fletcher -- I am not sure what more can be written or said about this man's importance to our success. How would you ever begin to replace a man who has started 240 regular season games since 1998? How would you ever begin to replace a man who is the heart and soul of everything you do on defense? I don't want to think about it today. We all know what #59 is all about. 'Nuff said.
2) Robert Griffin III -- How many lists has anyone made around here that had this guy at #2? My guess is zero. In case it wasn't already crystal clear to the world, there is NO replacement for RG3. The stat that jumps off the page for me for this guy is his interception total. When a rookie quarterback protects the ball as well as Griffin did in 2012, throwing only FIVE pickles, you know you have struck gold. There is not an NFL defense on the planet that wouldn't celebrate not having to face RG3 on Sunday.
1) Trent Williams -- I said it above and it bears repeating. An offense is only going to go as far as its offensive line takes it. Last season, our offensive line would not have won many beauty pageants, but they helped us win a bunch of games. Anchoring that unit was a guy that we have all been waiting to have a breakout season. Seeing #71 work last year was just amazing. In addition to earning a Pro Bowl spot, he earned the respect of his peers and got into the Top 100 Players list. No matter who our quarterback is, without a left tackle that can handle anyone that lines up opposite him, you are going to lose more games than you win. He is the one true elite member of our cobbled together line. I give our guys credit for the year they turned in. Morris and Griffin could not have accomplished what they were able to accomplish without the line's solid play. That said, I struggle to think of what would happen if our offensive line found itself without the services of Trent Williams for an extended period. Given Cousins' presence behind Griffin, I simply had to move Silverback to the top spot on this list.