While rules and guidelines help shape the debate, a topic that is as highly subjective as this one can result in many different answers. On this list though, age doesn't matter. Salary doesn't matter. A player's relationship with the owner also carries very little weight here. In short, these are the top ten players that the Washington Redskins can simply not afford to lose, because they can't be replaced quickly or perhaps even at all. If I'm being honest, this list has gotten progressively harder to complete each year I have done it (I believe this is the fourth straight year for this list). That is really saying something, as Sav Rocca made the cut at least once. I look forward to stats-based arguments below, but for the most part, this is a "feel" exercise. Numbers are important, but you don't need Football Outsiders to tell you that your Pro Bowl left tackle is irreplaceable! Finally, every football player is technically replaceable, but inside of a season, the ability to adequately plug holes created by the absence of top talent is a Herculean task.
1. Trent Williams -- Pro Bowl left tackles don't grow on trees. Thankfully, the Redskins have locked up one of the top left tackles in the league for the long haul. This one is easy, so let's not spend a ton of time on it. If the Redskins lose Trent Williams, they are screwed.
2. Ryan Kerrigan -- Putting pressure on the quarterback is the name of the game for NFL defenses. Kerrigan's 13.5 sack total last season was good for seventh-best in the league. That alone would make him invaluable to a Redskins defense that needs every little bit of help it can get. I think one of Kerrigan's best stats might be this one though: 64 games in his career and he has started every single one of them. He is the leader of our defense and maybe our entire team.
3. DeSean Jackson -- You all know that I am not the president of the DeSean Jackson Fan Club. I disliked him so much as an Eagle...it has been especially difficult to turn that around. That said, there is no denying his talent and ability. Few players in the game can defend him. He plays at an elite level, displaying an amazing ability to beat the defense to open spaces and then bring down the ball once he gets there. His size works against him sometimes, but there isn't enough Haterade on the planet to keep him off this list.
4. Chris Culliver -- When McLovin' signed this 26-year old cornerback to the squad, we all got our first taste of how the rebuilding of our defense was going to look like. Culliver can lock up a receiver in coverage with the best of them (certainly the best on our team), and he can tackle. I don't want to make it sound like I think Culliver is Richard Sherman at this point, but Chris is definitely the class of our cornerback corps. If you lose your top corner, you ain't replacing him overnight. The goal this season is for Culliver to lead the way in terms of reshaping the young guys behind him--the more you surround young talent with pros who stick their nose in to tackle and take pride in working hard during practice, the better off you will be when those young players have to see the field.
5. Terrance Knighton -- Beef in the middle of a defensive line is what every defensive coordinator craves, so you have to believe that Joe Barry and his defensive coaching staff are salivating to what it will mean to have "Pot Roast" on the field for us this season. The Redskins have a great defensive line unit, but the anchor in the middle will be Knighton, who many league experts consider one of the top three or four interior defensive linemen in the game. His ability to keep offensive linemen from getting to the linebackers behind him will likely be the difference in winning and losing a game or two this year.
6 Keenan Robinson -- Speaking of linebackers being able to run free, Robinson has a real chance to break out (I have said that before, I know) for the Redskins this season thanks to our improved defensive line. He combines speed and power to get to the ball and end plays. I think there is an argument to be made that we are seeing more and more of this kind of athlete at the middle linebacker spot and so maybe he isn't as irreplaceable as I make him out to be. I disagree with that argument because anyone that employs Keenan's skill set is not sitting by the phone waiting to get hired. It might have taken a year or two longer for Keenan to develop here than it would have taken on another roster, but--at least in my opinion--that is not all on him.
7. Pierre Garcon -- We're getting to the part of the list that starts to draw serious dissension and raised eyebrows. It feels like a decade has passed since Garcon led the league in receptions during the 2013 season. The addition of DeSean Jackson has helped us all to discern the difference between "the best guy on our team" vs. "one of the best guys in the league." Garcon is a very good receiver that seemed to take a step back last year. In his defense, he sure seemed to be open an awful lot last year when the quarterback just wasn't looking. I honestly doubt we will see the same kind of production out of Garcon that we saw back in 2012, both because of DeSean's presence as well as our expected reliance on the ground game. Still...nobody behind him on our depth chart can put together a complete game the way he is capable of doing. I don't think he gets enough credit for his blocking abilities, but that should change this year because if we are successful on the ground, Garcon will be a big contributor.
8. Alfred Morris -- I can already hear the chorus of, "Hello??? Matt Jones!?!?!?" Alfred's 1,300 yards per season average over the first three years of his career is great, but people are quick to point out that his totals have only gone down since his rookie season. His carries per game have decreased since then (we've been forced to pass heavily in games we trailed in), and I would also point out that he has maintained a yards per carry stat north of four, which put simply: gets the job done. I understand that few positions in the league are as replaceable as running back, because you have to replace them constantly. Alf is a proven commodity though, and on a team starved for young talent, I would be hard-pressed to exclude a guy who has been durable and effective in our offense. It is true that you can always find players to hand the ball off to, but teams in this league are in a constant search for players like Morris who have proven themselves.
9. Kirk Cousins -- The self-loathe starts to set in quickly as I work to the end of this list. It is not about who my favorite players are or who I think we should be dedicating our future to in Washington. I have always been a strong supporter of Cousins, but by league standards, he is rather replaceable. On our team, he is NOT that replaceable. Captain Kirk has spent his career desperately waiting for the opportunity to prove he is as irreplaceable as they come. In that time, he has won over our offensive coaching staff and is now the starting quarterback for YOUR Washington Redskins. As we have learned repeatedly, replacing a starting quarterback during the season is a long putt indeed.
10. Brandon Scherff/Matt Jones -- I know there are some worthy players that I could have tabbed to round out this list, but I decided to use this spot as a place to house two young rookies on which our season may very well depend. It is not that either of these two players couldn't be replaced by seasoned veterans that would likely perform at or above the rookie level, but we can all agree that if we have to replace either of these guys, our season will quickly be put in peril. Sure, Scherff is going to look bad against Ndamukong Suh, but he will improve each week. These two players are huge in terms of the success of our rushing attack in 2015, and if we lose either one, pressure will mount on other facets of our offense. Setting aside for a moment how important these players are to our future, they will both be expected to contribute mightily to any success we can expect to have right now.
Just missed: Jason Hatcher. Stephen Paea, Perry Riley