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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 07/11/2011

Redskins rookies: Why they could struggle or succeed

Last week we touched on expectations for the Washington Redskins’ rookie draft class, and how the NFL lockout will decrease their chances of making an immediate impact.

The odds certainly will be against them early on, but some of the rookies definitely should develop into playmakers this season.

But who will have the biggest impact, and who has the most to overcome? Here’s a look at half the Redsksins’draft picks. Later today, we’ll examine the late round selections.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan (First round)

Why he could struggle: Despite being a dominant pass-rusher at Purdue, Kerrigan is now trying to learn how to blitz from a two-point stance after playing with his hand in the dirt all his life.

Why he could succeed: At Purdue, Kerrigan was praised for a strong work ethic and high motor. London Fletcher and Lorenzo Alexander, whom Kerrigan will try to unseat, say he’s like a sponge, and Kerrigan felt like he picked up things during informal workouts organized by players rather quickly. Will he be a starter from Day 1? Taken 16th overall, you would think so – in a normal year – but given that he has met with his coaches just once and will be way behind, it’s hard to say.

DE Jarvis Jenkins (Second round)

Why he could struggle: Jenkins also is learning a new position. After playing almost nothing but defensive tackle in the 4-3 at Clemson, Jenkins will be asked to slide over to end in the 3-4. Jenkins has good athleticism, but needs to get stronger.

Why he could succeed: Jenkins and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney believe Jenkins has been well-prepared to make the transition to the 3-4. The Tigers ran a lot of stunts and Jenkins didn’t just line up in a traditional DT slot every time. Jenkins also has the right attitude and is willing to do whatever he can to help.

WR Leonard Hankerson (Third round)

Why he could struggle: It will take a while to learn all the nuances of the Redskins’ offense and how to read coverages. One of the knocks against Hankerson has been his speed.

Why he could succeed: The Redskins are hurting for a big receiver, and even if it takes Hankerson a while to fully learn Kyle Shanahan’s offense, his size, big hands and leaping ability will come in handy in the red zone.

RB Roy Helu (Fourth round)

Why he could struggle: Helu has good speed, but isn’t great in short yardage situations. He’ll have to show coaches he can do more than just run the ball. He’s not a very physical back, and that could hurt him in the pass protection department.

Why he could succeed: Helu’s running style seems to be a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking running scheme. His one-cut ability reminds Shanahan of a young Portis, and his speed is something the Redskins lacked at running back last season.

S DeJon Gomes (Fifth round)

Why he could struggle: Gomes is a smart, versatile player, but it’ll be difficult to get on the field at a rather deep safety position (The unit also includes LaRon Landry, O.J. Atogwe, Kareem Moore, Reed Doughty, Macho Harris and Chris Horton).

Why he could succeed: Versatility. Gomes’ best bet for playing time early on is special teams, and if he can then prove to coaches that he can contribute with some slot coverage in nickel and dime packages, he could gradually earn more time.

WR Niles Paul (Fifth round)

Why he could struggle: In college, he showed he could be a good receiver, but the knock against him was that he wasn’t a very polished route runner, didn’t always get good separation and had frequent drops.

Why he could succeed: Like Hankerson, Paul could help in the size department. Versatility also should serve Paul well. He likely will push Brandon Banks for time at kick and punt returner.

By  |  11:00 AM ET, 07/11/2011

 
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