Depending on the school of thought – and this is probably the more popular – the Washington Redskins aren’t going to develop into a legitimate winning franchise until they learn to develop young talent rather than rely on free agency.
The Redskins certainly have some young, talented players. Now, can they take the next step in their development and become consistent contributors and even standouts? We should find out this year.
Here’s a look at some of the younger Redskins that could be poised for breakout seasons:
Kevin Barnes – Buried on the depth chart at the start of last season, Barnes was called upon after injuries decimated the Redskins’ safety corps. He’s a natural cornerback, however, and says coaches have told him that’s where he’ll be used this year. Now, will it be as a starter or the third corner? That depends on what the Redskins do in free agency. Either way, Barnes should be on the field for a significant amount of defensive snaps. He has good size, coverage skills and hands. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the former Terp blossom this year.
Keiland Williams – The undrafted LSU product got his opportunity last year when Clinton Portis was injured, and as the season progressed he showed improvement as a third-down back (both in pass protection and pass catching). Williams ended up tallying five touchdowns (three rushing and two receiving). The Redskins drafted two running backs (Evan Royster and Roy Helu), but Helu didn’t do much pass catching at Nebraska, and although Royster has more experience in that department, he’ll likely take a while to learn NFL defenses. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan praised Williams late in the season, even describing some of his blitz pickup contributions as “crucial.” It’s likely that Williams’ role will expand this year.
Graham Gano – He has a lot to prove, but there’s no question that the second-year Florida State product has a strong leg. Gano can consistently drill field goals from beyond 50 yards in practice. It’s a matter of improving mental toughness, and consistency. The kicker thinks the two-step approach will serve him better than the three-step approach. If he’s right, and can improve his accuracy, then the Redskins could have their kicker situation taken care of for years to come.
Perry Riley – As a rookie out of LSU, Riley appeared in only eight games for Washington, but late in the year – particularly at Jacksonville and at Dallas – he showed signs that he could be a playmaker. Because Rocky McIntosh is a free agent – and really better suited for the 4-3 than the 3-4 defense – the Redskins have a hole at the inside linebacker spot next to London Fletcher. Could Riley be the answer? Even if he doesn’t end up getting that job, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a key contributor on special teams.
Anthony Armstrong – The only bright spot in the receiving corps other than Santana Moss, Armstrong recorded 44 catches, 871 yards and three touchdowns last season. The second-year player has been working hard this offseason to take the next step in his development. If last season was any indication, he is on his way to establishing himself as a legitimate threat.
LaRon Landry – Landry has been a starter since his rookie season, so this isn’t as drastic a breakout. But last season he was on his way to a career year, having posted 85 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in only nine games. If Landry can return completely healthy and pick up where he left off, then he should make his first Pro Bowl.