Despite injuries to staring offensive linemen Jammal Brown, and Kory Lichtensteiger , the toughest injury for the team to endure may be the hamstring injury to FB Darrel Young. Young may not be out for as long as some other players, but he figures to play a pretty big role in the Redskins offense (and special teams). Young may not run a lot, but he gets his touches in the passing game, where he can be a very effective. Young figured to play an even more important role with a rookie quarterback who could be looking for a viable safety outlet. The fullback position also has quite a bit of situational value. Though it isn’t even used more than 25-30% of the time the fullback position is on the field for high percent of crucial plays. The fullback will be in on most red zone and short yardage plays, even if it is as just a dump off passing option. Any weakening of the team during those crucial plays could have a far larger impact on their chance to win.
The good news is Young is expected to be back before the season starts, the bad news is that with a hamstring injury it could be something that bothers him all season. Hamstring injuries can typically be an issue that is reinjured throughout a season, and at the very least will slow a player down. If Young is out some combination of back-up TE’s Chris Cooley and Niles Paul, as well as RB Alfred Morris (assuming he makes it) will need to fill in for him. Despite the Skins best efforts in replacing him, there will be a drop-off in production if Young can’t go. Even though he wouldn’t have even come close to playing every snap, the drop in production on those plays, as well as the support for their rookie quarterback could have an effect on both the Skins record and Griffin’s development.
For two years Trent Williams has been somewhat of a disappointment for the Redskins. In addition to his four game suspension last year, and a host of nagging injuries these past two years, his on the field play left a lot to be desired. It wasn’t all bad, as at times Williams flashed dominance and would take control of games, but those occurrences were too few. Even with an improved 2nd season, Williams on the field play still looked to be no better than middle of the pack among left tackles. Which while solid, is hardly the return you are looking for when sinking in the 4th overall pick and over $60 million.
Those fears of a wasted pick may begin to change this year if the early returns from camp hold true. All reports so far have praised Williams for being in the best shape of his career, and being far more advanced in pass protection. He’s been a virtual wall against Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, which is what the Redskins need to see. With both Kory Lichtensteiger and Jammal Brown out for extended periods, and their effectiveness when they return in question, the Redskins need to feel confident about at least one of their offensive line spots. Williams can and should give them that confidence. Even if he’s not an elite top 5 tackle just yet, if he shows that he’s on his way it would be a huge boon for the Skins. If the Redskins can be confident in their LT production, it can allow them to scheme to give their LG and RT spots additional help with blockers. The injuries and off the field activities can disrupt the progress made here, but if he can avoid those areas, this could be a big season for Trent Williams.
One of the best things I have read about training camp thus far is the fact that they are moving Orakpo all over the field. While people like to knock Orakpo for not being elite (and he’s a lot closer than people think) because he’s not getting 15-20 sacks, they ignore part of the reason why that is. Orakpo went up almost solely against LT’s last year (just 40 snaps rushing from the left side) and that is a big part of the reason why his numbers aren’t at the next level. Pass rushers like Demarcus Ware and Tamba Hali rushed at least 3x more from the left side and were rewarded with 8 and 6 sacks apiece. In fact you could make the case that on a per snap basis Orakpo was stronger than either Ware or Hali when going up against LT’s, which is extremely high praise.Now if the Redskins unleash Orakpo against RT’s it will cause major headaches for opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators.
Now the counter- argument is that any added benefit of Orakpo going up against RT’s, is negated by Kerrigan’s loss of value going up against LT’s. I don’t believe that to be fully true for a number of reasons. Kerrigan is a talented pass rusher in his own right, so he should be more than able to hold his own for say the 8-10 snaps per game the Redskins flop them. Also, showing a different look will cause a bit of confusion, and should at times catch an offensive line off guard. Finally, just because the Redskins flipped spots, it doesn’t mean both Kerrigan and Orakpo are rushing on the same play. There will be a good 100+ passing downs that one of them will be in coverage. So on some of those downs Kerrigan can be a decoy, allowing your best pass rusher have his most favorable match-up. The moving around of these backers is a great way for the Redskins to keep increasing their pass rush, without actually going out and adding more talent.