How the Redskins 2014 Opponents Helped themselves in the Draft: Part 2
Week 8: Dallas Cowboys
Notable additions: G/T Zack Martin, DE Demarcus Lawrence
Most of the Cowboys picks ended up as more of depth options (which Dallas desperately needed), but they did grab two guys who can make an impact this year. Though Dallas had more pressing defensive needs, adding a top offensive lineman like Zack Martin is a really good pick for them. Dallas has the skill positions pretty well set, but they have had issues getting the most out of them given just how bad their offensive line has been. That is why the Cowboys have spent 3 of their past 4 first round picks on the offensive line. What was one of the worst offensive lines in the league just 2 years ago, could now be one of the better units in the league if Martin can play up to his potential. It sounds like he'll start off inside at guard and will likely be looked at as an option to neutralize guys like Jason Hatcher and Barry Cofield for the Redskins. Hatcher and Cofield may still be able to get the better of the match-up, but with Martin's potential, the Cowboys now have a chance to win inside. Dallas's other pick that could make an impact year one is the guy Dallas traded up with the Redskins to select, defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence is a bit more of a project pick and may only be used as a situational rusher as a rookie (will probably be a liability in the run game), but he offers a lot of good tools coming off the edge. Long term he projects as a right side rusher, but don't be surprised if on passing downs the Cowboys shift him to the left side so he doesn't have to face off with Trent Williams. Tyler Polumbus and possibly Morgan Moses will be tested by Lawrence. These aren't the biggest impact players in the draft, but Dallas did get two pretty good talents that the Redskins will need to counter.
Week 9: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings used their top 10 pick to bring in OLB Anthony Barr from UCLA. Barr has been one of the top pass rushers in college football these past two seasons and is a terror off the edge. He's still pretty raw at the position, and the Vikings will use him in a 4-3 set as opposed to the 3-4 set he played at UCLA. Ideally he'll be used in a similar way to Von Miller in Denver, though given how raw he is, he might not be an everydown player as a rookie. The one thing he will bring to the table is that edge rushing ability. With the Vikings already having a strong front 4 Barr could have a lot of freedom to work with and could be a very good pass rusher early on. Minnesota grabbed defensive end Scott Crichton in the 3rd round adding another pass rusher to the mix. Though he won't start, don't be surprised if he sees some decent playing time this year. Mike Zimmer loves to rotate his defensive linemen to keep them fresh, and Crichton helps ensures that when he does that he can still bring pressure on the quarterback. Corner Antone Exum was probably a top 50 corner two years ago, but an ACL injury after the 2012 had him slide to the 6th round. If he bounces back this year he could push for nickel duties. On offense the Vikings grabbed QB Teddy Bridgewater in the first round, though they may let him sit for a year. At the mid-way point in the season, there is a chance Bridgewater's starting, which would probably be a good thing for the Redskins, but that is up in the air. A really interesting under the radar pick for the Vikings is RB Jerick McKinnon, he was an option QB in college, but he's an incredible athlete and a natural runner, he could give the Vikings a nice weapon to spell Adrian Peterson with and keep that running game flowing. The biggest threat to the Redskins overall is Barr and Crichton, their ability to get after the quarterback, in addition to the rest of this defense is going to give the Redskins problems.
Week 10: Bye
Week 11: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Now rookie wide receivers don't typically make much of an impact, but Mike Evans could have a solid year given the situation he's in. Top wide receiver Vincent Jackson is going to draw the top coverage and likely his fair share of double teams as well. Veteran QB Josh McCown is coming off a great year when he replaced Jay Cutler and took advantage of the Bears' big physical receivers. He should do a nice job putting the ball where Evans can use his size and leaping ability to make play. The real beneficiary here though could be 3rd rounder TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. With much of the defensive focus on Jackson and Evans at WR and RB Doug Martin coming out of the backfield, Seferian-Jenkins will likely only have to worry about single coverage versus a linebacker. That's a huge mismatch versus any of the Redskins linebackers and one that Tampa could take full advantage of. The final guy who could make an impact is runningback Charles Sims. Doug Martin is the Bucs number one back, but Sims could help spell him and has really good receiving ability and could be a weapon out of the backfield.
Week 12: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers had a great draft, but what will be interesting is to see how much early impact they end up needing from these guys. It could be that 5 or 6 of these guys see the field a bit as rookies, or it could end up just being 1 or 2. The two players most likely to make an impact are their top two picks. Jimmie Ward is a very talented safety and he should pair with 2013 first rounder Eric Reid to form one of the better safety tandems in the league. Ward is versatile and can play centerfield, come down cover the slot, or help in run support. He definitely improves this defense. Running back Carlos Hyde, probably won't start, but he should be getting his fair share of caries this season. Where he could really help the 49ers is in short yardage situations where he's extremely tough to bring down before he picks up that 1st or TD. Others that could make an impact: Marcus Martin would be the 49ers starting center if Daniel Kilgore struggles as the starter. Chris Borland could be a starter if Navarro Bowman struggles coming back from his injury (though likely he's back by this point). Ellington probably won't play much receiver, but he could be the 49ers primary return man. Johnson and Lynch could be rotational players at their positions as well. Likely the Redskins will only need to worry about Ward and Hyde when they play, but what a strong deep draft like this means is that the 49ers can cover possible injuries at a number of positions that are bound to happen during the course of the season.
Week 13: Indianapolis Colts
Notable additions: G Jack Mewhort, WR Donte Moncrief
The Colts got perhaps the least amount of impact from this draft, due to missing multiple picks, including their first rounder. The two guys who could make an impact this year G Jack Mewhort and WR Donte Moncrief, both don't figure to start this year so neither player may be a guy the Redskins need to worry about. Mewhort could possibly push for a starting job, but he figures to be behind 2013 free agent addition Donald Thomas and 2013 3rd round Hugh Thornton who had a good year down the stretch for the Colts. What he does is offer nice insurance for Indianapolis. Last year Thomas was injured for most of the season, and the Colts offensive line depth was tested. Mewhort could also back-up the tackle positions as well, given that is what he played his final two years in college. Moncrief will be no better than a 4th WR on the Colts (and even that is not a lock), but with Reggie Wayne coming off a major injury and Hakeem Nicks always banged up, he could be called upon at some point this season.
Week 14: St. Louis Rams
Notable additions: G/T Greg Robinson, DT Aaron Donald, CB/S LaMarcus Joyner, RB Tre Mason, DE Michael Sam
The Rams had a tremendous draft class and brought in a number of players who can make an early impact. The number two overall pick, Greg Robinson, gives the Rams all sorts of options this year. If Jake Long struggles to come back from his knee injury, Robinson could play LT, he could start out at RT, or given the success of Joe Barksdale down the stretch last year, Robinson could kick inside to guard, giving the Rams a ridiculously talented offensive line. Wherever he ends up he could be neutralizing a top defensive player for the Redskins, particularly later in the year when he's gotten a chance to get his feet wet. The Rams other 1st rounder could make even a bigger impact year one. Aaron Donald was the best defensive player in college football last year, and is an incredible penetrator, who despite being undersized commands a double team. The problem is how can a team double-team Donald when they have to worry about edge rushers Robert Quinn and Chris Long, not to mention former 1st round pick Micheal Brockers on the inside. Donald will get a lot of favorable match-ups and will likely be 1-on-1 versus the Redskins guards, which is a major advantage for Donald. Defensive back LaMarcus Joyner figures to play a hybrid slot corner/safety role, and he could be a very good playmaker back there for the Rams. He was instrumental in the Seminoles National Championship victory and he should fit into this defense nicely. Running back Tre Mason should team up with Zac Stacy to form a nice 1-2 punch at running back for the Rams. Now 7th rounders don't typically make an impact, but don't be surprised if Michael Sam isn't your typical 7th rounder. He's undersized and a limited athlete, but he's one of those smart high motor guys, who find a way to get after the quarterback. The Rams don't have great pass rushing depth behind their starting ends, so if Sam works at it, he could carve out a niche for himself in a back-up role. While there are a lot of questions if Sam can succeed without ideal athletic ability, he had a great year in the SEC and succeeded at the Senior Bowl in getting after the QB. The Redskins are really going to have a tough time countering this group of talented draft picks and they could all be a thorn in the Redskins side when they play late in the year.