For this post, the writers were meant to pick a reserve player that could turn it all around next year and become a pro bowler. Now the guy I've picked was actually a starter last year, but Steve Shoup said it was fine because he played like a reserve anyway. Can you guess who it is?
That's right, Jammal Brown. Now hear me out. We all know Brown has been sub-par during his time with the Redskins, and that's putting it nicely. I concede that. But in his first year, he was coming off a bad hip injury, and this past season he was restricted by his scar tissue. Mike Shanahan has stressed that Brown has finally been able to break up the scar tissue with the help of yoga classes throughout the offseason. And again, I concede that we heard all this last year: "he's fully recovered from the hip injury", "he's back up to 100% now".
However, Brown has been closely watched by Shanahan and the Redskins this entire offseason. His contract was somewhat incentive-laden (at least, that's what Kevin has told us on previous podcast's) to ensure that he worked out under the Redskins supervision to ensure he is as healthy as possible. Brown could have ignored the incentives, but he wanted to put the work in and get back to his former pro bowl talent level. Shanahan has to believe he's healthy enough to be effective, otherwise he would brought in a free agent tackle, or drafted a guy higher than the sixth round (lets face it, a sixth round tackle prospect isn't going to start week one of his rookie season).
Another factor is continuity. When it comes to the offensive line, continuity is arguably as important as talent. One of the two rookie guards, Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis, might take a spot at center over Will Montgomery or at left guard while Kory Lichtensteiger works his way back to 100% after his knee injury. But other than that, to have four of the five previous starters return is going to bring continuity to the line. When offensive lineman know each other's strengths and weaknesses, they know what to expect each other to do on the field and can prepare for it.
Then we have the RGIII factor (I love that phrase). This isn't to say that Robert Griffin III will be able to use his speed to run away from defenders that get past Brown (which he could, and might have to). This is more to point out that he's an intelligent, young quarterback that can extend plays. Something as simple as stepping up in the pocket allows a tackle a chance to recover and run a defender past the quarterback. Defenders are going to beat offensive lineman, that's just a fact of the game, it happens. But last year, with Beck and Grossman, if Brown got beat, they would stand there and take the sack or force a throw. Griffin will be composed enough to step up and give Brown a chance to recover. If Brown can't recover, than Griffin can use his awareness and mobility to keep the play alive and spare Brown the humiliation.
Before I finish this post, I'd like to take this moment to remind Steve Shoup that Ken put us up to this. Please go easy on me in the comments.