Preseason Power Rankings No. 24: Washington Redskins

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There’s talk about change in Washington coming from every direction these days and only some of it is coming from talking heads on cable news debating the election.

The rest of it is coming from those excited about Robert Griffin III’s arrival in town. The Redskins have been looking for a franchise quarterback for a long time and just about everyone believes they’ve got one in the 2011 Heisman Trophy Winner.

Griffin brings renewed hope for the franchise with him, something that was needed after several failed experiments with different coaches, different quarterbacks and the same dismal results. That cycle can end thanks to the Griffin addition, but it isn’t going to end overnight. There are still issues in Washington and the excitement over Griffin can only obscure so many of them.


The Redskins are in good shape at outside linebacker with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan on either side of the line. Kerrigan played every defensive snap as a rookie and should be more productive in his second year in the system. That could help Orakpo, who has been just successful enough to make you wish for more from him over the course of his career.

The inside backers aren’t too bad either. London Fletcher is back doing his thing in the middle of the defense and Perry Riley is coming off a good 2011 season. The team also took Keenan Robinson in the draft and signed former Giants starter Jonathan Goff to give them good depth at the position.

Chris Cooley’s knee problems cast some doubt on the depth at tight end, but the position should still be a strong point for the team this season. Griffin’s transition to the NFL should be easier thanks to Fred Davis’ presence in the lineup. If Cooley is healthy and/or Niles Paul makes a successful move from wide receiver, the Redskins will be able to mix and match lineups to keep defenses from feeling totally comfortable.


There’s been a lot of buzz about defensive end Jarvis Jenkins this spring and he’ll need to live up to it for the Redskins to get the play they need on the defensive line. Barry Cofield, Adam Carriker and Stephen Bowen are all coming off subpar years, although it’s hoped that Cofield will be better in his second year in defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s 3-4 look.

Griffin’s mobility should come in handy behind an offensive line that’s still a work in progress. Injuries and ineffectiveness hampered the team at every turn last season and the three rookies they took in April aren’t likely to make for an immediate turnaround. The Redskins need it, though, because they need to get more from the running ground to help the offense succeed.

The Redskins are putting a lot of hope into comeback seasons at safety. Tanard Jackson, Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams are all trying to recapture past glory and the chances aren’t great that it happens for all three of them. Even two might be a stretch given their recent play.


The wide receiver position will look very different this season. Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan arrived as free agents while last year’s leading receiver Jabar Gaffney was released. The Redskins also have high hopes for Leonard Hankerson, who was limited by a hip injury last season, and a new priority in yards after the catch from the whole group.

Safety LaRon Landry is probably the most significant loss, although his Achilles injury limits how much pain the ‘Skins will feel from his departure. Cornerback Cedric Griffin arrived as a free agent and should be one of the top three corners in Washington this season.

The Redskins were quieter than usual – outside the Griffin trade, of course – as a result of the severe cap penalties placed on them for spending too much on players in the uncapped 2010 season. Given how well previous spending sprees worked out, that’s probably not the worst thing in the world although the team has a few more holes than they might have under different cap circumstances.

Camp Battles.

The Redskins return all three of their leading running backs from last season which is good for continuity. How good it is for the running game remains to be seen, but at least Mike Shanahan will be able to choose between Roy Helu, Tim Hightower and Evan Royster. Hightower should get the first shot if he’s healthy, but Shanahan’s history says everyone will get their chance.

Graham Gano and Neil Rackers will battle for the kicking job at training camp. Gano had a decent 2011 on field goals and kickoffs while Rackers has a longer track record of success. The Redskins hope to cut down on their field goal attempts (41 last year), but they will still need someone to make them when they arise.

The top four receivers appear to be Garçon, Morgan, Hankerson and Santana Moss, but there’s still some doubt about exactly how they’ll stack up on the depth chart when the start of the season comes around. Behind them, Brandon Banks will need to show enough as a receiver to stick on the roster and the Redskins will need to find a returner if he winds up on the chopping block.


Defining success for the Redskins this season isn’t easy. They could be better across the board this season and still wind up with a similar record than they had last year because they play in a deep NFC East.

Or Griffin could be the next rookie quarterback to hit the ground running and the restored confidence could cover enough flaws for the team to take advantage of an out-of-division schedule that looks like it is on the softer side. Even that might not be enough to put them in playoff contention, but it could make 8-8 a possibility and that would be a significant step forward for the team.

Really, though, the ultimate stamp of success on this season will be Griffin taking control of the offense while some other players (Orakpo, Hankerson, Jenkins) show that they are also on the upswing of their careers. The Redskins got started on their new identity with Griffin and now they have to build it out around him.

46 responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 24: Washington Redskins

  1. I can accept this spot brother. Just know this, now that DC has a REAL superstar at QB, this will be the last time the Skins are ranked in the double digits heading into a season. A dynasty is about to begin in Washington. Great coaching staff. Check. Top Defense with hungry players at certain spots. Check. An NFL Caliber O-Line. Check. A legit NFL Offense with deadly speed LED by a Phoenom at QB. Check. Watch out NFL, the Redskins are about run wild on youuuuuuuuuuu.

  2. Oh come now whoever wrote this is crazy, if was the front line that helped the linebackers become who they are…and they should be much better with Cofield and Bowen in their 2nd year in the 3-4 plus the addition of Jarvis Jenkins…think you better relook at the D-line film as you are just guessing since you state SUBPAR…


    There’s been a lot of buzz about defensive end Jarvis Jenkins this spring and he’ll need to live up to it for the Redskins to get the play they need on the defensive line. Barry Cofield, Adam Carriker and Stephen Bowen are all coming off subpar years, although it’s hoped that Cofield will be better in his second year in defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s 3-4 look.

  3. If you consider the D line as being subpar last season I would love to see what par looks like.

  4. Listing the Redskins DL as a weakness is laughable. I’m not sure what you watched or read that told you they had down years, but all three of those guys had very good years last season and they were the strength of the defense.

    The secondary and offensive line are weaknesses, the defensive line is a strength of this team.

  5. I have a feeling the Redskins are going to start off slow, and gain momentum about halfway through the season. They have a lot of good pieces in place, and finally there is hope at the QB position.

    Look at Carolina last year: there’s a big difference in losing, and losing with knowledge that it will get better. The Skins will probably start off 0-5, but people will notice they are probably a two seasons away from being a major threat.

  6. How can Skins fans call Robert Griffin the Third a “real superstar” QB when all he has been through so far is OTAs and mini camps in helmets and shorts? The Griffin hype rivals only the Cam hate from last season.

  7. It has to suck being a Redskins or Cowboys fan. Your owners make it difficult to believe they’ll ever be championship teams when they suck at their jobs yet still continue to meddle with the team. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the teams whose owners lay off and are smart (NE, NYG, PIT) are winning a whole lot more.

  8. I also wish more success for Orakpo, however it would be nice if the refs would call holding on the opposing team on Orakpo . I”ve read where he is held more than most and not getting the calls. I realize a good pass rushers gets held, I got it, but sometimes it looks as if the top part of his body is running behind his bottom part, with an arm around his neck.

  9. I can accept this spot brother. Just know this, now that DC has a REAL superstar at QB, this will be the last time the Skins are ranked in the double digits heading into a season. A dynasty is about to begin in Washington. Great coaching staff. Check. Top Defense with hungry players at certain spots. Check. An NFL Caliber O-Line. Check. A legit NFL Offense with deadly speed LED by a Phoenom at QB. Check. Watch out NFL, the Redskins are about run wild on youuuuuuuuuuu.


    Haha Brother?? Whats up Brother!!!??

    Easy Hulk

  10. First time I’ve heard Cofield, Carriker and Bowen described as having subpar years. In fact, usually the opposite has been said with it being considered one of the stronger units on the team and that Jenkins is just going to make it stronger.

  11. Swept the Giants. Went toe to toe with the Patriots…

    Got embarrassed by Bills & Vikings…

    Anything other than last place would be an achievement. Everything this season should build to the Thanksgiving game.

  12. Adam Carriker had a subpar year? Sure, he wasn’t Jason Babin or Jared Allen, but he is also a 3-4 defensive end and they don’t generally rack up the sacks (remember, they eat up the blockers so the OLBs get the sacks).

    He had 34 tackles, which is about as on par as he had in previous years and he registered 5.5 sacks, which is 2 more than his 3 previous seasons COMBINED.

    Is he a top DE in the league? No. But by his own previous measurements I wouldn’t say it was subpar.

    That’s a clown analysis, bro.

  13. This ranking is low but not surprising. Skins historically have made their splashes in the offseason and sinking by the late regular season … the previous model was 25 starters, paid like starters, and if anyone got injured, things fell apart.

    Of the writeup, the part about Shanahan being honest about positions being up for grabs as accurate. What is missing is the idea that Santana Moss will remain the #1 receiver. All the local press has been clear that he is as sharp as he’s ever been and more sharp than recent years. Also, Jarvis Jenkins is for real, so there is a solid rotation on the D-line (it was recently disclosed when it got fixed that Stephen Bowen played with a torn MCL for the last few games). Losing three O-line starters last year (Lichtensteiger, Trent Williams, plus Brown not getting better) cannot be understated. [The Skins’ O-line weak line was Chris Chester otherwise.] Skins drafted THREE offensive lineman (3rd, 5th, and 7th) in forever. The whole idea of having only 25 paid players and no depth is over.

    The only legit question is about the safeties … but all of them have been rising starters at one point. The bar to exceed last year’s performance is very low. Landry did not play effectively at all last season. He is not “injury prone”. He is and remains injury. His heel spurs continue to abrade his Achilles. Same thing with Atogwe, but for different reasons. He never got healthy. Skins safeties last year were more questionable then than the new three (Madieu Williams, Tanard Jackson … OK, those two, Meriweather is a lock as a traditional in the box strong safety … if he stays out of jail for this DUI). Haslett’s scheme is more suited to Meriweather staying more in the box than Chicago’s was. Morris’ tweaks to the secondary play book is more player friendly and provides for more instinctive play … maybe enough to get DeAngelo Hall to shut up and play the kind of game he plays best (i.e., gambling).

    This ranking is too low because Giants are going to slide (a lot, though maybe not first to worst). Griffin grow well because the all but one of the division games are in the second half of the season. It will be good though for the national media to not pay attention to the Skins. The local media obsesses about them way too much.

  14. Disagree with the D-line assessment. I actually think it’s a strength coming into the season. Also, Helu will be our starting running back. A wild card spot is very doable, you never know how the NFCE will look year to year though.

  15. hulkhogansays
    Jul 13, 2012, 6:04 AM PDT
    I can accept this spot brother. Just know this, now that DC has a REAL superstar at QB, this will be the last time the Skins are ranked in the double digits heading into a season. A dynasty is about to begin in Washington. Great coaching staff. Check. Top Defense with hungry players at certain spots. Check. An NFL Caliber O-Line. Check. A legit NFL Offense with deadly speed LED by a Phoenom at QB. Check. Watch out NFL, the Redskins are about run wild on youuuuuuuuuuu.


    Top Defense???
    Great coaching???

    I would just like to thank you for that. I really enjoyed reading your comments because a guy needs a laugh every once in a while.

    It’s more like they put all their eggs in one basket by giving up their next 3 years worth of drafts for a guy who still hasn’t played even 1 snap against a real Defense. Don’t get me wrong, they will be a better team than last year but your talking like there going to walk all over anyone in the league. Just not going to happen. 8-8 at best. The Shanahan duo is horrible. I actually feel bad for skins fans because of their coaching staffs inability to actually work with players and to get the most outta them. RG3 would have better success in almost any other scheme or team in the NFL.
    Unfortunately for skins fans it’s going to be 3rd or 4th in the NFC east until they get rid of Shanahan. No doubt in my mind.

  16. An awful lot, maybe even all of the optimism in Washington seems to be regarding Griffin. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. Griffin could bomb and even if he turns out to be a serviceable starter, they will be crippled over the next few years by having no first round draft picks. I think Griffin has to be a superstar for the franchise just to break even.

  17. “Barry Cofield, Adam Carriker and Stephen Bowen are all coming off subpar years”

    Woh there, drop the bath salts Josh. Let’s examine that statement, shall we?

    Barry Cofield set a Redskins franchise record (for lineman) with 11 passes defended…as a first year NT in the 3-4.

    Both Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker had career years last year in their first year in the Haslett 3-4 system. Carriker had 5.5 sacks and Bowen had 6.5 sacks at the DE spots.

    Adam Carriker also never missed ONE tackle last year. Look it up.

  18. “Barry Cofield, Adam Carriker, and Stephen Bowen are all coming off subpar years…” Have you even watched any Redskins games? How are they coming off subpar years? Bowen had SIX sacks out of the 3-4 DE spot (he only had 5.5 career sacks for his entire career before that). Carriker recovered greatly from injuries and contributed 5.5 sacks. Most people would say that the Redskins front seven is quite solid. They certainly improved immensely from 2010. The holes in the defense lie in the secondary. Any criticism of the DBs and the lack of depth there is well justified.

  19. Fred Davis could be an asset to RGtres as long as he doesnt peer pressure the rookie into doing drugs. SAY NO TO DRUGS

  20. Despite being a loyal Skins fan I agree with everything in this article, including the ranking itself and the reality that we MAY again finish in last place in the East despite a greatly improved team because the division is just that good. But I take exception to one thing: I don’t think the players on the DL had subpar years.

  21. I agree with all of this except for the D-Line. D-Line performed well for us last year and is probably one of the areas we have the least amount of worry about. That’s not coming from just me watching them. That is also coming from nearly every sports radio station, newspaper and television show in town.

    Just a few stats:

    -18 sacks from defensive linemen last year
    -Team Rank 7 in the NFL in Sack totals (41)
    -Team Rank 12 in total Tackles
    -S. Bowen had career highs in sacks, tackles and tackle assists.
    -B. Cofield moved from 4-3 DT in NYG to 3-4 NT in WAS. Job is different and numbers don’t necessarily show up for most NT’s as they are lane creators for the LBs. So his tackles fell off, but he still had 3 sacks (one less then his best sack season).

    This was with a few key pieces transitioning to a different scheme and/or changing jobs. In 3-4 DLinemen success doesn’t necessarily show up in numbers. I would definitely say this is one of our strengths and this time we’ve had an offseason program (with about 96-100% participation).

  22. hulkhogansays wrote:

    An NFL Caliber O-Line. Check. A legit NFL Offense with deadly speed LED by a Phoenom at QB. Check. Watch out NFL, the Redskins are about run wild on youuuuuuuuuuu.

    NFL caliber o-line?? What does that even mean, a line that plays in the NFL? The Skins O-line is garbage, and has not significantly been addressed in the off season.

    Offense with deadly speed? This offensive unit has NEVER played a single snap in the NFL. RG3 has never taken a snap in an NFL game, the new wideouts haven’t taken one in a game with RG3 under center.

    There’s far too much unknown here for anyone to be seriously worried about the Skins. I’m not saying the skins are going to be terrible, or that they wont have success. What I am saying is that they are the team in the division with the most changes to their core units, and as such, it’s going to take time before they are a threat. Skins fans will thumbs down this, and that’s fine. But the rest of the fans know better.

  23. The phins are a better team than the skins. They beat them last year pretty hand-idly.

  24. I’m predicting an 8-8 record, which should put the ‘Skins somewhere in the middle of the pack. Improved QB and WR play, more depth along the O-line, which is not as bad as some think it is, and a solid D should put the team somewhere in the 16-20 range vis-a-vis the other teams, so 24th is a tad low.

  25. RGIII is a great athlete and was a very good college QB. We’ve seen how seldom that translates to the NFL game. He will be scrambling a lot behind a patchwork O-line. Hopefully he stays healthy and even then, 8 wins would be a stretch. The real problem here is with the owner. He’ll get impatient again and next year the coaching search will be on for another big name has-been.

  26. If RGIII helps this offense produce 7+ more point per game than last years QBs, this team will be very dangerous. 7+ more point per game last year would have won the division, and who knows what else. I think RGIII will be producing far more than that though.


  27. How did Carriker, Cofield, and Bowen have subpar years? Carriker and Bowen had career highs in sacks and Bowen was third on the team in sacks with 7, which is pretty good for a d-end in a 3-4 system. It was also Bowen’s first year as a starter in the NFL as he was stuck for some reason behind bums like Igor Olshansky and Marcus Spears in Dallas. Cofield was also 2nd in the league in tipped passes by a d-lineman and played a position he hadn’t played since college and did a good job at the nose tackle position; much better than fat boy Al. The back-up nose tackle Chris Nield was the 2nd to last player drafted last year and was a big part of the rotation. Kedric Golston is also a dependable veteran who’s been on the team since 2006. He’s not flashy but he shows up to work and does his job. Jenkins should only make this group better.

  28. For what its worth, the Skins had ZERO defensive line penalties. Look it up.

    Skins defense is one that can go deep into the postseason. The question is whether the Skins offense can get them there. RG3 doesn’t need to be a +7 QB next year. If Rex Grossman (who also is the son of Rex Grossman, Jr.) was +2.5, Skins would have who have one the division outright.

    This ranking is low because other divisions don’t have the parity of the NFC East.

  29. I for one as a skins fan think that 7-9 record with a rookie qb would be a good year .I think people are getting a little crazy with this making the playoffs talk. With that said i would love it if they did . This team needs a year to gel and see if this qb shows any signs of being a success .By the way to the writer of this story the d line was one of the high lights of this team last year . This team was in way more games then it should have been thanks to the play of the d . and is the only reason i see this team with a chance of winning 8 .

  30. Gano had a decent season as a kicker? HE WAS DEAD LAST IN THE NFL.

    Heres a couple of facts homey:

    Skins lost six games by one possession.
    Skins were -14 in turnovers with Rexy as the most turnover prone player in the NFL (28). Even with a rookie QB, that number will drop.
    65 player-starts missed due to injury.

    Heres the deal on the Skins season: if RGIII has a season in tune with several of recent rookie QBs
    (Newton, Dalton, Ryan, Flacco), AND stay more healthy, the Skins will contend for and possibly win the division. If not, then there record will be similar to last years. Pretty simple really.

  31. You people are silly, posting all that nonsense. The skins are going to win 9 games, because their strengths got stronger this offseason, and the weaknesses got stronger this offseason….in almost every way they are better and the roster is deeper. They have salary cap space DESPITE The bs penalty assessed to them. This team has turned a corner, and as they get to know one another they will become a big time team in the next few years!!!

  32. Turning those FGs into TDs would GREATLY change the outcomes of many of the losses last year. Grossman’s gross incompetence was profoundly exposed inside the redzone. Griffin could probably do better and if so that could be pretty significant. Three games were lost by 2, 3, and 8 which changes the record to 8-8. If BUF tosses a shutout with RGIII at the helm I would be astonished. Beck nor Grossman could get first down to save their lives which left the defense out there all game almost every game. It is no wonder that that the second half the points against went up a good bit.

    The offensive line is not pretty, but should Trent Williams continue to get better he could become the anchor and prove he was a former #4 overall pick which in the NFC East is a pretty big deal. Overall, Shanny’s zone blocking scheme and RGIII’s elusiveness an speed should make the o-line a little better than what it is which results in an about average line, probably.

    Jabar Gaffney leading the team in catches tells you all you need to know about where the bar stands for this year’s crop of WRs. Garcon caught 1,000 from Curtis Painter, his addition to Moss, Morgan, Davis, Cooley, and Hankerson possibly being healthy and experienced should give RGIII the chance to make some big plays and have a few big days through the air. I would not put them anywhere near GB, NE, NO, DET, etc. but an above average ranking could be fair.

    Shanahan is the greatest RB coach of all-time, or at least darn close. This year his stable is full of hungry horses and in the end they could combine for a pretty fierce running game. If so, the load on RGIII and the defense becomes dramatically less and the team as a whole changes completely. Above average ranking here might be a tad overly optimistic but I am sure more than a few analysts out there would agree.

    The defensive line is beast and adding Jenkins only serves to solidify that statement. Undoubtedly, Bowen, Carriker, Coefield, Jenkins, Gholston serve to be an abover average 3-4 line.

    The LBs appear to be the enigma. Fletcher
    s wheels finally fall off and injuries expose the lack of depth and suddenly the team is in for serious trouble. Fletcher makes another Pro Bowl, Kerrigan takes another step forward, and Orakpo flirts with 15 sacks and the team is dangerous. Orakpo and Kerrigan could be harassing QBs relentlessly all year…or they could be trying to fill gaps… I would say subpar is very possible with elite being realistically achievable as well.

    This secondary is a nightmare. Safety is going to be painful to watch on numerous occasions this year as the NFC East is overloaded with QB WR combos that decimate even the best secondaries in football. Hall and Wilson are pretty good, they should be fine, but their ability to take chances and create turnovers will likely be limited again.

    Special teams could be a nice surprise. Sav is a monster punter and the Eagles should probably have kept him. Gano got better and Rackers is solid, those guys battling for kick FGs should make nailing 40 yarders a bit easier than last year. Banks and Armstrong are lighting and at least average is not better returners.

    There is a lot in place for this team to be better than expected. RGIII is in the perfect system for his ability and he will have talent as well as a running game to help share the load. If that pans out then the defense should be able to do AT LEAST what it did last year which is pretty decent. There are going to be some ugly games and probably more nauseating 50+yd bomb TDs than is preferred. That said, I think 8-8 is very feasible and sneaking in a couple more is not far-fetched. The weapons and defense are better than CAR’s last year.

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