Throughout the season and especially now that the Washington Redskins clinched the NFC East title, we've talked plenty about the obvous stars. Kirk and Kerrigan. Reed and DeSean. Trent, Hatch and Pot Roast.
How about those players that didn't receive much hype, yet did their job with production and passion. Maybe they jumped in to fill a void or stepped up when needed. Maybe they just played through pain because others could not. Yes, we're talking unsung heroes and there are quite a few. Read Peter Hailey top 10 countdown and watch Ben Standig discuss on #ScoutNow i the above video.
The 2015 Redskins have gotten contributions from everywhere — a key fumble recovery by a late free agent signing here, a clutch interception by an undrafted rookie there, and tons of other important plays have been made by guys whose jerseys aren’t the ones featured on the team website and who don’t get the glory in weekly highlights.
But which unsung heroes have been the most vital to the Burgundy and Gold’s success so far? There are admittedly a ton of names to choose from, but here is my personal ranking of the top ten lesser-known Redskins players that I think have been the most crucial to Washington’s memorable year.
10) Rashad Ross
Ross has been a boost for the return game (24.4 yards per kickoff return), has helped out a bit at receiver (six catches for 113 yards and four first downs) and has scored twice (once on a kickoff return and once on a fumble recovery off of a blocked punt). He’d be higher up on the list if those scores came in meaningful situations (both were late in losses vs. the Giants and Jets) but, for a guy who most didn’t think would make it out of training camp, he’s been a nice addition.
9) Quinton Dunbar
The receiver-turned-corner who was originally most notable for wearing Chris Cooley’s number has done a heck of a job on defense when given the chance. His biggest play, of course, was the interception of Eli Manning in the end zone when New York was visiting FedEx Field a few weeks ago. Besides that play, he’s had a couple of nice pass breakups, too, but that’s the one that’ll be remembered for a long, long time. Even if he’s just a one-hit wonder, that one hit was a chart-topper.
8) Ricky Jean-Francois
His stats won’t have you doing the Peanut Butter & Jelly Dance (his signature move) but #99 is another guy on a reliable defensive line you can trust. Where I think he’s really helped, though, is with assisting the team in developing a winning mindset. This year will mark his fifth straight postseason trip, and the fact that he’s used to going there has without a doubt rubbed off on the guys around him. That may sound like typical and cliched NFL-speak, and most of the times I’d agree with you that it is, but with guys such as RJF, Dashon Goldson and Jason Hatcher, I think they’ve truly made this team smarter and more prepared.
7 and 6) Mason Foster and Will Compton
The two linebackers have a bromance that makes your heart melt, so we’ll keep them next to each other on this list. But they show up a lot together on the field, too. Both play with sharp instincts and are rarely out of position or missing tackles. This would’ve been impossible to predict in the preseason, but the Foster/Compton combo looks to be far better than the Riley Jr./Robinson duo.
5) Kyshoen Jarrett
The rookie defensive back has lined up everywhere this campaign — from corner to safety and even sometimes as a linebacker — and he’s been good in every role. It’s not everyday a sixth-round pick can do as much as Jarrett has, but credit him for maturing and Scot McCloughan for finding him.
4) Dustin Hopkins
Remember when the Redskins couldn’t even think about attempting a 50-yard field goal, and every kickoff was a nightmare because they rarely reached the end zone? Well, Hopkins has fixed both of those problems in a sterling first-year. Many were skeptical about signing an untested rookie to handle the job all on his own instead of keeping Kai Forbath, but Hopkins — or as I prefer to stylize it, Hopkin$ — has been money.
3) Will Blackmon
I’m borderline shocked at how little credit Blackmon has received this year. Is he a total shutdown corner? Absolutely not. But the guy came from about 32 different organizations before the ‘Skins (number is a rough estimate) and has since helped shore up Joe Barry’s secondary. I looked at his signing early in the schedule as a temporary rental. Now, I hope he stays in town for a while.
2 and 1) Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff
This whole year has been surprising, but I think the most amazing thing has been Washington’s steady offensive line. The impenetrable wall otherwise known as Trent Williams has a lot to do with that, but he’s only on one side. Moses and Scherff work opposite of Trent, but have done a fantastic job of keeping Kirk Cousins clean. No one thought Moses would be ready this early, and people freaked out when Scherff was kicked inside to guard. Does anyone have any complaints now, however? Surely not.
Follow Peter Hailey on Twitter at @barelyin.
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