A look at the Redskins' rookies

July, 11, 2011
7/11/11
2:14
PM ET
Mike Jones of the Washington Post has been doing some roster breakdown stuff on the Redskins over the past several days, and today he took a look at the rookies from the top half of the Redskins' draft class. Specifically, he gives a reason why each one could succeed and why each one could struggle.

[+] EnlargeRyan Kerrigan
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireRyan Kerrigan will transition to outside linebacker in Washington's 3-4 defense.
First-rounder Ryan Kerrigan, for example, needs to transition from the three-point stance in which he's played his whole life as a defensive lineman to the two-point stance of the outside linebacker in the 3-4. I've read in a few places that some players struggle with this transition, but it makes no real sense to me why they would. If Washington has good, space-eating defensive ends in place, the outside linebackers in Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme are poised to become freewheeling sack machines. I remember talking to Brian Orakpo last year in training camp about the transition to the 3-4, and he couldn't wait. Less dirty work, more glory for the outside linebackers. My guess is that Orakpo has been schooling Kerrigan on all of the awesome aspects of the transition and the rookie is fired up and smart enough to make it smoothly.

Second-rounder Jarvis Jenkins, Mike writes, must transition from defensive tackle to 3-4 defensive end. But it sounds as if he had more than just normal defensive tackle responsibilities in college and should be able to do what's expected of him in Haslett's defense. He's got a shot to be a starter at the end position right away, and he was known in college as a big-time run-stopper.

Of third-rounder Leonard Hankerson, Mike says the concern is the speed but that Hankerson's size has a shot to make him useful right away as a red-zone target. There's speed in the receiving corps with Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong. I have no idea if Hankerson can add speed at the NFL level (I would think not), but as he learns the routes and improves technically, it'll be nice to be able to have a guy who can out-muscle defenders for the ball in the end zone. I imagine Hankerson is a big part of the offense right away.

Fourth-rounder Roy Helu supposedly reminds Mike Shanahan of a young Clinton Portis, which is to say a guy who never took hilarious shots at his head coach in the media because his head coach was Mike Shanahan and not Jim Zorn. The scouting report on Helu here is of a guy who's "not great in short-yardage situations" and "not a very physical back," which makes you think Ryan Torain is still the man in Washington and Helu might be a guy who gets worked in over time. It also lends credence to the idea that the Redskins will still look to add a veteran back.

And finally, fifth-rounders DeJon Gomes and Niles Paul look as if their rookie contributions are most likely to come on special teams.

The Redskins' roster offers plenty of opportunity for rookies (with the possible exception of Gomes, who plays safety, a position at which the Redskins appear very deep and strong), so these are names worth remembering whenever training camp gets going.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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