Though you can make quite a case for some rookies and free agents, who improved from the start of the season to the end, this list is exclusively made up of players who were on the team in 2011.
1. Trent Williams:
The first two years of Trent Williams’ career were rocky to say the least. In addition to being suspended for four games last year, he dealt with nagging injuries in both seasons, as well as under-performed his draft status. There was a real question as to whether or not he could stay as a left tackle, but he answered the call in 2012. Trent Williams played all but one half of football this past year, despite being banged up for most of the year. His play also drastically improved, on his way to a Pro Bowl season that was instrumental in the Redskins being one of the league’s best offenses.
2. Barry Cofield:
In his first year in Washington Cofield had a solid season, but overall it was unspectacular and there were questions as to if he was worth the money paid to him and if he could handle the NT position. In year two he answered both of those questions with his play, as he was one of the few Redskins defenders to have a good year. He was strong against both the rush and the pass, and proved that he can handle the NT spot. He may not be elite at the position, but there is now little doubt that he can get the job done.
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3. Chris Chester:
Chester like Cofield was part of the Washington Redskins 2011 free agency class, also like Cofield he underwhelmed last season. His play was inconsistent and he missed too many key blocks to be considered effective. Chester really stepped up his game in 2012, as he showed the consistency he lacked the year before. He rarely missed a block, and while he fell short of dominant, his play was very important to the Redskins success down the stretch.
4. Perry Riley:
Riley debuted in 2011 and by most descriptions had a good half a year, as he took over as the starter mid-way through the season. While it was a very solid year, in 2011 it was pretty one dimensional, as he showed himself to be a good tackler, but really nothing in the pass coverage or pass rush department. In 2012 in the first half of the year those concerns remained, that he was basically just a run defender. That changed in the 2nd half of the season, as he became one of the Redskins best blitzers, and played much better in coverage. He displayed a lot of growth, giving the Redskins some nice promise for 2013.
5. Rob Jackson:
Jackson had the unenviable job of replacing the Washington Redskins best defensive player, Brian Orakpo. While he struggled early on, and was never the pass rusher Orakpo is, he really was a big part of the Redskins defensive turnaround this season. Jackson got better as a pass rusher as the season wore on, and he showed himself to be a sound run defender as well. Where he really had an impact was in coverage where he had four interceptions, and really limited backs and TE’s. Jackson also didn’t commit a single penalty all season, and was only one of two players (Kedric Golston) on either side of the ball to play 300 plus snaps and not make a penalty. Given how much penalties killed the Redskins this season, his error free play was a big advantage.