By Brian Kalchik @BrianKalchik on May 27, 2014
After making the playoffs in 2012, Washington suffered through a disastrous 2013 season that was filled with injuries and in-fighting between the Shanahans and Robert Griffin III.
After a solid draft and some key free-agent signings, the Redskins are ready to contend once again for the NFC East title. There is much to decide before the Redskins start the 2014 season, but here is my early projection for the Redskins' starters in 2014.
Robert Griffin III is not going anywhere anytime soon. As rough as the 2013 season was for him, he's still the future and face of the franchise. Backing him up once again will be Kirk Cousins, who will be the subject of trade rumors all season long.
Alfred Morris is a top-10 running back in the NFL and the unquestioned starter for the Redskins. Players like Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Lache Seastrunk, a sixth-round pick, will compete to be Morris' backup. Darrel Young will be the fullback when the Redskins use more traditional formations.
Pierre Garcon is the clear No. 1 receiver in Washington, but two newcomers will round out the Redskins' three-receiver set. After being released by Philadelphia, DeSean Jackson will be the No. 2 receiver, and former Arizona Cardinal Andre Roberts will start in the slot. Providing depth for Washington will be veteran Santana Moss and youngster Aldrick Robinson.
Jordan Reed is a no-brainer as the team's starting tight end after playing great in just nine games last year. Logan Paulsen will be Reed's primary backup with Niles Paul as the third tight end.
Left tackle Trent Williams is one of the best in the business, and he won't be challenged as Robert Griffin III's blindside protector after having a Pro Bowl season in 2013. On the right side, rookie third-round pick Morgan Moses will beat out veteran Tyler Polumbus, but Polumbus will be a great backup if Moses struggles early on.
Despite having a poor 2013 season, I expect Chris Chester to start on the left side with rookie third-round pick Spencer Long starting on the right side. Chester's leash, however, will be short, especially with free agent Shawn Lauvao and youngster Josh LeRibeus breathing down his neck.
The Redskins will start veteran Kory Lichtensteiger this season after releasing Will Montgomery in the offseason. Behind Lichtensteiger will be Tevita Stevens, an undrafted free agent in 2013.
Former Dallas Cowboy Jason Hatcher was one of Washington's biggest free agent signings this offseason, and he will immediately replace Adam Carriker on the right side. Jarvis Jenkins, who started last season, will start once again on the left side. Backing them up will be veteran players like Stephen Bowen, Kedric Golston and Clifton Geathers.
Veteran Barry Cofield will return once again as the starter at nose tackle, but backup Chris Baker has the potential to replace Cofield sooner rather than later. Chris Neild is on the outside looking in as the third-string nose tackle.
The outside linebacker position is Washington's biggest strength, especially with Brian Orakpo back on the right side. Orakpo was given the franchise tag this season and will team once again with starter Ryan Kerrigan to give the Redskins a great pass rushing tandem. Rookie Trent Murphy and veteran Brandon Jenkins will be their primary backups.
Perry Riley was re-signed by the Redskins this offseason after being a free agent, and Riley is one of Washington's best defensive players. He will team with former Houston Texan Daryl Sharpton on the inside, who will replace the now-retired London Fletcher. Akeem Jordan and Keenan Robinson will be the main backups.
Veteran DeAngelo Hall returns as Washington's top corner with second-year player David Amerson replacing Josh Wilson, who's now in Atlanta, as the starter. Former New Orleans Saint and Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter will be the nickel corner, with players like Richard Crawford and E.J. Biggers competing to be the dime back.
After starting his career with the Redskins, former Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Clark is now back with the Redskins and will be the starter at free safety. Backup Bacarri Rambo struggled last year, but with Clark's veteran presence, the former Georgia Bulldog will be ready to replace Clark in the next few seasons.
Known mostly as a head-hunter last season, veteran Brandon Meriweather was re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason, and he will be the starter at strong safety. Meriweather shouldn't get too comfortable, however, as Tanard Jackson comes back from suspension and Phillip Thomas, coming off a good rookie season, will push to dethrone Meriweather.
Kai Forbath had an inconsistent season last year, but I expect Forbath to beat out seventh-round pick Zach Hocker and be Washington's starting kicker. With the release of Sav Rocca, the punting duties will now be handled by Robert Malone, and the long snapper this season will be Nick Sundberg. Niles Paul will be the kick returner with Jackson returning punts.
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