Five Players the Washington Redskins Absolutely Need

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Five Players the Washington Redskins Need to Win

Geoff Burke-USA Today

It's been a long time since we've been able to say this.

Sure, optimistic Redskins fans have entered recent seasons hoping the team could make a playoff run. However, after a seven-game winning streak to end the 2012 regular season, a 10-6 record and the team's first division championship since 1999, the Washington Redskins enter the 2013 season as legitimate contenders to make a deep run in the NFC playoffs. Now, I'm not telling anyone to go ahead and book their reservations for Super Bowl XLVIII in New York this coming February. I do rank teams such as the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, and Seattle Seahawks ahead of the Redskins.

But not by much.

Last year's division championship team returns largely intact under the guidance of fourth-year head coach Mike Shanahan. Shanahan, in conjunction with general manager Bruce Allen, has overhauled the Redskins roster since arriving in 2010 and clearly upgraded the personnel.

Also, a team that was plagued by turnover and constant change for so many years suddenly enjoys stability, as both offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett enter their fourth season with the team as well.

Arguably, the biggest change for the team is new special teams coach Keith Burns, who replaced Danny Smith, who was with the team for nine years. Smith, a western Pennsylvania native, left to become special teams coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, I can wax poetic about stability and continuity all day long. What I cannot predict is health.

And while all NFL teams suffer injuries, some are more crippling than others when it comes to a team's hopes at making a run deep in the playoffs. Here, we will discuss the five players the Washington Redskins cannot do without.

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#5: Left Tackle Trent-Williams

Hail to the Redskins
Rafael Suanes-USA Today

Williams has endured something of a troubled tenure in Washington. In 2011, he was suspended for the final four games after testing positive for marijuana. While he made the Pro Bowl last season, he was unable to play in the game due to an injury suffered in a Honolulu night club. Still, Williams is the team's best lineman, and the Redskins need him to stay healthy and/or out of trouble.

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#4: Inside Linebacker London Fletcher

Howard Smith-USA Today

The good thing about London Fletcher is the Redskins probably won't lose him. The 38-year-old middle linebacker has played in 240 consecutive games since entering the league in 1998, starting the last 199. Fletcher also arguably played his best football late last season, as he was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month in December.

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#3: Outside Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan

Brad Mills-USA Today

Kerrigan has emerged as the team's best defensive player since being taken in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has played every snap during his first two seasons, and the Redskins need that to continue in 2013.

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#2: Wide Receiver Pierre Garcon

Geoff Burke-USA Today

This is very simple. The Redskins were 9-1 last season in games Garcon played, 1-5 in games he didn't. The speedy, oft-injured receiver is a favorite target of quarterback Robert Griffin III and the team's most dynamic threat on the outside. A healthy Gracon is an absolute must.

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#1: Quarterback Robert Griffin III

Geoff Burke-USA TOday

Griffin's dynamic run/pass combination is the engine that makes the Redskins go. It is imperative that he properly recovers from last season's knee injury and just as imperative that he is healthy late in the season.

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