Top 5 Defensive Players that I'll be Watching Thursday:

August 8, 2012 in NFL



Previously I've looked at the offensive and offensive linemen, today I look at what defenders I'll be watching when the Redskins open up their preseason schedule. Like before the focus isn't primarily on the starters since most will only play a few snaps. Here are my top 5 defensive players to watch this week:

1. Jarvis Jenkins:

-Jenkins looked extremely promising as a rookie last year in training camp and preseason, and was thought by some to be the Skins best lineman. Jenkins showcased a good blend of quickness and power, which led him to gain a good amount of penetration. So far in camp he hasn't distinguished himself the same and his explosiveness is lacking. I'll be watching to see how quick he is off the snap, as that ability has always given him a huge advantage in the past. I'll also be watching his awareness at locating the football, and his overall leverage.

2. Keenan Robinson:

-Robinson is thought of as London Fletcher's eventual successor, but for that to become a reality he's going to have to show it on the field. Thursday will be his first test, and it should be very interesting to watch. In addition to his long term role, Robinson's status in the short term received a boost when veteran backer Jonathan Goff was released after re-injuring his knee. That leaves the depth behind Fletcher and Perry Riley to be a bit thinner. Though currently Robinson is listed with the 3rd team, the Redskins may only keep four inside backers making Robinson's development key. Two primary things I'll be looking for is Robinson's awareness in diagnosing plays, and how he looks in coverage. His pass coverage ability is particularly intriguing, given that it is a weakness of Riley's. If Robinson can show it is a strength, he could begin to steal snaps from Riley in passing situations.

3. Richard Crawford:

-Crawford is the 7th round rookie corner from SMU, who is trying to make the squad as a depth corner. Since Chase Minnifield went on IR, Crawford has become the unheralded defensive back fans are excited for. There is some reason to be excited as Crawford has decent ball skills to go along with good speed. He's also had some very promising moments in camp. On the downside though Crawford was never considered a good prospect coming out and has gotten exposed lately in camp.This will be a good test for Crawford as he goes against a number of promising young receivers. I still consider Crawford a bit of a reach to make the team (hopefully he can be stashed on the practice squad), but am interested to see if he can change my mind.

4. Chris Baker:

-Baker was thought to be primarily a camp body when this offseason started, but the early returns are promising for the former undrafted free agent. Baker has apparently gotten himself into shape and has worked at both the NT and DE positions. He's having an impressive camp so far and starting to open some eyes. If he can follow up with a strong preseason he could be a nice depth addition to the Redskins line. Being versatile is a big plus, and could be enough for him to land the 6th or 7th lineman job. I'll be watching to see how much penetration he gets on Thursday, and it should be interesting because even going against the Bills back-up offensive linemen he may be better tested than he's been in practice.

5. Tanard Jackson:

-Jackson was signed from the Buccaneers as a troubled but promising free safety. He was an up-and-down playmaking safety in Tampa who obviously was familiar with the Redskins new secondary coach, Raheem Morris. Jackson though was recovering from injuries, and even missed the first few days of camp this year. Since returning he hasn't looked 100%, and he's currently listed 3rd on the Redskins depth chart at FS. Despite their being a lot of speculation that Jackson would be a quality starter for Washington, his outlook is murky right now. He's going to have to prove that he is healthy fast, because the Skins have little invested in him (outside of hope), and will probably have him on a short leash.