ESPN’s player rankings haven’t been kind to the Washington Redskins, but coming off a 3-13 season, that is to be expected. The key now isn’t where they’re ranked this fall, it’s where they are on the list a year from now -- that will be determined by their on-field success.
The Redskins haven’t been represented by many players defensively and I don’t expect that to change. Ryan Kerrigan, at No. 67, is thus far the only Redskins’ defender on the list (ahead of linebackers such as San Francisco’s Ahmad Brooks). It represents a six-spot improvement for Kerrigan, coming off a season in which he started strong but finished slow (in part, perhaps, because of a knee injury that he refuses to say hurt his play).
I think Kerrigan will have a strong year in this system, with more players able to collapse the pocket and force quarterbacks his way. He also will be helped by having two other linebackers around him in their fast nickel package who have similar versatility in Brian Orakpo and Trent Murphy.
Meanwhile, offensively, they have more players on the list starting with running back Alfred Morris at No. 83 (a drop from No. 75 a year ago). I don’t think Morris played worse, but his numbers weren’t as strong because the offense had to throw more to try and erase bigger deficits. Morris remains an effective runner and a powerful weapon in this offense.
Left tackle Trent Williams fell two spots to No. 69 -- and four behind Seattle tackle Russell Okung. Should Williams be higher? Maybe. He did play well last season, but he also was not immune from some of the breakdowns and even had some poor games. But he can do things some tackles just can’t, and if the Redskins’ offense excels it’s easy to see Williams moving up next year. The Redskins' 3-13 record hurt Williams.
Receiver Pierre Garcon went from unranked to debuting at No. 57 after his record-setting season. The question for him will be how much does the additional help at receiver take away from his numbers? Garcon can be more effective after the catch with more space around him -- as he was two years ago. He’s a tough, solid receiver. But with receivers such as DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts and tight end Jordan Reed, it will be tough for any one wideout to dominate the ball. And if there is a big jump on this list next year it will be Reed, provided he stays healthy.
Not sure yet where Jackson is on this list, but there’s no doubt he will be on here. It’s also noteworthy that Robert Griffin III wasn’t among the top 100, barring a shocking turn and him being ranked in the top 50. But it’s not surprising after last year’s events. Again: the key is where he is next August.