Monday, April 21, 2014
Redskins' thirtysomethings must produce
By John Keim
They’re hardly a new Over the Hill Gang, but they do have a lot of thirtysomethings on their roster. Which can be viewed in multiple ways: A) They didn’t get younger after a season in which they went 3-13 and needed to rebuild, at least defensively; B) A lot of teams ahead of them in this ranking are quite successful; with age comes experience and savvy.
September will be when we’ll start to see which way the Redskins go. But, for now, we’ll just take a look at their players who are at least 30 years old. Washington is tied for eighth in the NFL with nine such players, according to ESPN's Field Yates. Oakland leads the way with 13, and you never want to be in Oakland’s company, but among the other teams ahead of Washington: San Francisco (12), New Orleans (11) and San Diego (10). All made the postseason. Arizona (10) went 10-6; Chicago (12) and Pittsburgh (10) both went 8-8.
But at the other end: Super Bowl champion Seattle has three such players while AFC champion Denver has six.
So what does it mean? Your players over 30 had better produce. Seven of their nine thirtysomethings play defense; four play along the line. Is it good that a defense coming off a tough season has that many older players? The Redskins appear to have taken a win-now approach with the hope of finding young guys in the draft to groom. That’s fine, but it had better work, otherwise they’ll just be old and slow.
Another note: The Redskins have four players who are 29 (three on offense, all linemen). Their offensive nucleus is young and can help now and in the future. But elsewhere the roster will be in transition for a couple years.
Anyway, here’s the Redskins' thirtysomethings:
WR Santana Moss (34): He’s not a lock to make the roster and if he does it’ll be as a backup, barring injuries. If Leonard Hankerson is healthy Moss would have to be sixth on the list at receiver (also behind Aldrick Robinson). At this point Moss is insurance.
S Ryan Clark (34): Pittsburgh felt he had lost a step and opted for a younger player in Mike Mitchell. The Redskins did not want to overpay at this position and valued Clark's experience. He’ll be the defensive leader, or should be. And if the younger players pay attention, they’ll improve.
DL Jason Hatcher (31): Coming off his best season and expected to help the pass rush. He did not look like a player slowing down last season. The Redskins worked his contract so that he could be cut after two years and they’d gain cap relief. A wise move. But he should help.
G Chris Chester (31): Not coming off his best season, but in 2012 he was steady and viewed as a smart player. The Redskins wanted to upgrade their interior and he’s still around, at a higher cap figure, too, so they still value him. But he must play better this season. They have young backup guards; are any ready to challenge him? After three years, one of them should be ready. If not ...
S Brandon Meriweather (30): Signed back on a one-year deal. With Clark here, he’ll be able to play more in the box, where he’s best suited. But he needs to improve his consistency with tackling and positioning. Maybe a year further removed from knee surgery will help, too. But his troubles didn't all stem from being slow or late. Had Phillip Thomas not been hurt last summer, Meriweather might not have returned. But he was hurt, so the alternative was to re-sign Meriweather or find another player in free agency. They did not view the non-expensive options as better. As for Thomas, Lisfranc injuries can be tricky, so it’s tough to know how he'll look this summer.
CB DeAngelo Hall (30): Did play well last season, earning a new contract, and has matured. Played better in press coverage. When corners start to go downhill, it can happen fast. It’s hard to see that happening this year.
DL Kedric Golston (30): Valuable and inexpensive backup; prepares and works hard. Good special-teamer, too. Tough to let guys like that go. At some point you need young legs coming off the bench, especially with an experienced (aging) group of starters. But Golston can still help.
DL Barry Cofield (30): Still agile, quick and capable of being a quality starter. Hatcher’s presence in nickel situations should result in more one-on-one matchups. He’s taken a pounding the last couple years, but it’s reasonable to expect him to play at a solid level this season and even next.
DL Stephen Bowen (30): It’s tough for players when they hit this age and are coming off microfracture surgery. Heck, it’s tough for any player coming off that surgery. He’s still in their plans, but his cap number ($7.02 million) makes him a candidate for some sort of restructuring – or a release and re-sign. I have not heard they’re going to do so, but it’s logical to wonder. Just like it’s logical to wonder what he’ll be able to do. When healthy he can still help against the run, but he has not provided the needed pass rush since 2011.