A new series is about to start here at Breaking Burgundy, where we rank the position units in order from weakest to strongest. But before we do that, we have to project the roster. Here are Peter Hailey’s projections for the team’s 2015 Week 1 53-man roster – or as he likes to call it, “Year 1 of the Scot McCloughan Dynasty.”
Unfortunately, everyone’s least favorite reality show “Who’s Going to Start This Week?” appears to be returning for another season. Griffin is under a lot of pressure this year; has anyone made that point before? But it’s his second year in Gruden’s offense, they bolstered the offensive line a bit, and he has some weapons. If he can’t get it done now, he’ll never be able to. Cousins, meanwhile – for all of his faults – is a better backup than most.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding Jones, and he could form a powerful tandem with Morris that’ll force opposing defenses to stay in the ice baths a little longer every week. Williams is the surprise here, but the team needs a shifty pass-catching back, and he’s my pick over the oft-injured Chris Thompson. Young returns for another year of underrated play.
Jackson didn’t disappoint in his first year in D.C., but Garçon’s production fell off, preventing a true two-headed monster at wide receiver from developing. Gruden would be wise to make that a top priority. Crowder lands ahead of Roberts at receiver -- which may raise some eyebrows -- but if he isn’t taking snaps away from last year’s free-agent acquisition in Week 1, it’ll be soon thereafter. And Spencer, with his ability to produce on special teams, takes the last spot.
No shockers here. Reed’s health will always be a worry, but in Paul, the team has a decent insurance plan. Paulsen has the reputation of being a blocking tight end -- which sometimes doesn’t seem deserved – but for lack of a better option, he comes back too round out the trio.
Williams is arguably the team’s best overall player, so hopefully he can make it through the year without getting dinged up like he did last season. Lauvao needs to be better to make good on the pricey contract he signed last year. Long and Scherff will be the keys: can the two young guys solidify the right side, which would be the best thing for Griffin, or will they be leaky? And the backups are fine but unproven.
This unit could be dominant. New general manager Scot McCloughan spent the beginning of his first free agency investing heavily on the heavy guys, and he got some good ones in Paea, Knighton, and Jean-Francois. Their additions could free up last offseason’s signee Hatcher to do some more damage as well. Offensive lines could end up fearing these seven names when the season rolls around.
We already know what Kerrigan can do, so Robinson is the group’s X-factor. He was a force all over the field in 2014, but had trouble staying on it; a 16-game year out of him would be huge for the Redskins. Riley is limited, but you could do worse for a starting inside linebacker. Everyone’s predicting Murphy to be the breakout player for the defense, and him and the rookie Smith need to make good on their potential. If so, this group will be a lot better. If not, then they’ll be pretty average.
The big surprise here is no DeAngelo Hall, but Achilles injuries are unbelievably tough to come back from, and the team can cut him without much penalty if they don’t like where he’s at physically. Still, the secondary should be better (but after the way they performed last year, that’s not saying much). Breeland needs to avoid an Amerson-ian sophomore slump, and Amerson needs to rebound big time. Goldson, meanwhile, needs to be solid, and not Brandon Meriweather 2.0. Mitchel and Jarrett sneak on because of special teams capabilities.
Take this one to the bank. Barring injuries, these three return as the team’s specialists. Way was a true find last year, and looks to establish himself as a franchise punter (if there is such a thing).