-The Redskins are counting on London Fletcher to give them one more season, but the reality is that could be a lot to ask. Fletcher struggled mightily in the first 9 games of the season and was one of the bigger weak points in most of the Redskins losses last year. He picked his game up during the seven game win streak, but even then it wasn’t on the level typically associated with Fletcher. As we saw last season with Ray Lewis the bottom can fall out for a player rather quickly. With the warning signs already very much there, the Redskins would be fools to not be prepared for the eventuality that Fletcher just can’t get the job done next season. While they have 2012 4th round pick Keenan Robinson, he lost much of his rookie year due to injury, and might not be able to handle the role if Fletcher can’t perform. Though Bryan Kehl will likely make the team, he’s much more of a special teamer, and not a serious option to start week-in-week out.
Larry Grant is a guy who could possibly fill in fairly well if Fletcher were to struggle. He’s gotten some playing time in the past and has been pretty solid (albeit on one of the best defenses in the league). Though he maybe wouldn’t be considered a good starter, he could at least be passable if needed (and of course would be a good back-up). Grant is also known as a pretty good special teamer, so while he might not be on Lorenzo Alexander‘s level, he should help the unit. Grant is suspended for the first four games, which would mean that a guy like Kehl would make the roster to start, but you would still have Grant for the majority of the year. Also, the suspension should help the Redskins because it has bottomed his market out, meaning the Redskins should be able to land him for the league minimum (or $1 million at worst).
-It may seem like the Redskins backfield is pretty crowded, but there are some serious question marks with everyone not named Alfred Morris. Roy Helu Jr. is coming off an injury, that many reports have not healing properly. If there is any concern that he might not be ready the team could get pretty desperate. Behind him is Evan Royster, who is average at best and not what you’d look for in a number two back. Fifth round rookie Chris Thompson is coming off back-to-back injury shortened years, and while he’s on schedule to be healthy enough for Training Camp you really won’t know until you get there. Even if he’s fully healthy he’d be a poor option as the number two back. One he’ll be very much behind with two shortened college years, and missing rookie camp, OTA’s and mini-camp. Also, he’s not built to be a number two back, and fill in if Alfred Morris were to go down. That leaves 7th round rookie Jawan Jamison, and while from a potential and scheme stand point he makes sense, it would still be relying on a 7th round rookie as the primary back-up. That is a lot to ask for of a 7th round rookie and the Redskins should make sure they have some depth. Last year they lost their top three running backs in Training camp and the preseason which paved the way for Morris to get the starting job.
Slaton is a former 1,000 yard rusher in this system while he was with Houston. Though he hasn’t come close to repeating that success, coming back to this system could help him. He’s also got some special teams experience, which could help him make the team. He’d probably be a long shot, but he’s a league minimum pick-up that help assures the Redskins have a little depth for their uncertain backfield (behind Morris that is).
-Though Barry Cofield is the starting nose tackle, he’s far more effective versus the pass then the run. The Redskins have also been forced to overplay him these last two years, given how thin they’ve been along the line. Adding a pure run-stopping specialist, would allow the Redskins to utilize Cofield both less and more effectively. It would also have the added benefit of boosting their run defense, which has been a little below average the last two years. The Redskins finished “5th” in the league in rushing last year, but that was only because teams attempted the fewest runs against them. That was due to the fact that they could throw all day versus the Redskins. When teams did run versus Washington it was hardly a problem as the Redskins finished 17th in the league in yards per attempt allowed. Also the Redskins run defense struggled when it mattered most, inside the red zone. The Redskins finished a very solid 12th in the league in rushing TD’s allowed, which sounds good on paper. But when you consider they had the fewest runs attempted against them that number no longer seems that impressive.
Behind Barry Cofield the Redskins have Chris Baker, who did a solid job versus the run, but they can definitely upgrade in this area. Pouha was one of the best run stoppers in the league from 2009-2011. Last year injuries caught up with him and his play fell off some, but if he’s healthy and in a more limited role, he could have a solid impact for the Redskins run defense. Especially since he’d likely be called upon in a lot of high leverage scenarios (i.e. goalline, 3rd and short), so while his number of snaps may only be 200-300, they for the most part would be very important snaps.