Yesterday I took a look at the 5 players who have shown the most growth so far this year. Today I will look at the other side of the equation at 5 returning players who have struggled so far this preseason.
-Despite being a major issue the past couple seasons, the Redskins opted to make just one starting change to their offensive line this year, replacing Will Montgomery with Shawn Lauvao. The other four incumbent starters remain the same (though Lichtensteiger changes position), meaning the Redskins will need to rely on a unit that is considered among the weakest in the NFL. One of the major question marks along the offensive line is veteran Chris Chester. Chester was signed in 2011 and while he struggled in the early part of the season, he played better down the stretch. In 2012 Chester had a good year as a starter and was the Redskins 2nd best offensive lineman behind Trent Williams. Last year though Chester’s play fell off a cliff and he became a major liability in the middle of their offensive line. The hope with keeping him around was that he would bounce back this season and again play at a starting quality level. So far in the preseason that doesn’t seem to be case. Chester has struggled to maintain his blocks and keep his guy from disrupting the play. The Redskins do have some options if they want to get rid of Chester before the start of the season as they have signed journey-man C/G Mike McGlynn. In addition they have 3rd year guard Josh LeRibeus who has played better and 3rd round rookie Spencer Long as fall back options. Though it would make sense to cut Chester and save some money, right now that still seems to be a long shot move.
-Lichtensteiger has been an undersized LG for the Redskins the past few years, and with the exception of a few games at the start of the 2011 season, he’s been more of a liability than a positive for the Redskins line. With the Redskins parting ways with Will Montgomery this offseason, they decided that the best course of action was to move Lichtensteiger back to his college position of center and have him put on additional weight. Lichtensteiger has been an emergency/back-up center in his NFL career, but this is the first chance he’s had to be a starter in the middle at this level. Despite adding weight, Lichtensteiger is still on the lighter side and probably not the long term option for the Redskins. Against the Browns strong front line, Lichtensteiger had his share of struggles and it looks like the position change and extra weight aren’t going to make him a better starting caliber offensive lineman. This week versus the Ravens will tell just how much the Redskins should be concerned. Though his job on the team isn’t in jeopardy this season, his starting role could be if he doesn’t play better.
-Though Alfred Morris is the workhorse running back on the team, Helu plays a valuable role as the number two running back on this team. Compared to other top running backs Morris’s snap count is among the lowest in the league, as he sees just over 50% of the snaps. The reason being is that Morris has not shown himself to be a viable receiver out of the back-field or a quality pass protector. That is where Helu comes in as he is better in both of those areas than Morris. Given how much the Redskins were forced to pass last season, Helu saw quite a bit of action. While the Redskins are probably hoping they don’t need to pass nearly as much this season, they will still need to rely on Helu a fair amount. So far in the preseason Helu has shown some struggles, in all phases of his game. He hasn’t run particularly well, while also dropping a pass and missing a key block in pass protection. If Helu struggles in his assignments this season, it’s going to make Robert Griffin III’s job that much harder this year, which could mean some struggles on offense. Now it’s still early overall, but Helu’s struggles leave the Redskins with few viable options. Playing Morris more probably isn’t going to be the answer. Rookies Silas Redd and Lache Seastrunk, probably aren’t the guys you want as the last line of defense to your franchise QB. That would leave the Redskins with either keeping Evan Royster or utilizing Darrel Young as the 3rd down back.
-Richard Crawford was the Redskins 7th round pick back in 2012. Despite his late round start to his NFL career, Crawford made a name for himself that preseason, mainly on special teams units. Crawford showed really nice promise as a punt returner and a cover guy on special teams. Though not as refined he displayed some nice coverage ability on defense as well and looked to be a long term sleeper. During the season Crawford saw some time on defense and initially struggled, but he did play a little better down the stretch. Where Crawford really impressed was on special teams where he looked to be the Redskins punt returner of the future. The highlight of his season was his punt return versus Baltimore that set up the game winning field goal. Last season the expectations were high for Crawford to at least continue as the Redskins top punt returner and possibly add value on defense as well as a 4th corner. During the preseason last year, Crawford tore his ACL and was lost for the entire season. He’s come back this year, but the spark doesn’t seem to be there. He’s not even being given an opportunity to compete for the punt returner job and he’s struggled in coverage despite facing 3rd and 4th teamers. Crawford could be the beneficiary of the new practice squad rule allowing the Redskins to hang on to him in the hopes that he just needs more time removed from his surgery, but it would be a major surprise to see the Redskins try and keep him on their roster.
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-Tom Compton was the Redskins 6th round pick back in 2012. While he didn’t make the team initially, the Redskins signed him off the practice squad late in the season to ensure he wasn’t poached by another team. Last year the Redskins kept Compton as their lone back-up tackle and he got a handful of snaps in jumbo packages and replacing Trent Williams for a couple of snaps. Despite the question marks surrounding starting RT Tyler Polumbus, Compton wasn’t given a chance a unseat him as the starting RT, and the Redskins drafted tackle Morgan Moses in the 3rd round to be the right tackle of the future. Moses not only appears to have a leg up on Compton for a future role with the team, but he also could take over the swing tackle/jumbo package role that Compton held last season. Through two preseason games, Compton has struggled in pass blocking giving up a number of pressures or sacks while lining up at right tackle (meaning he’s facing the weaker competition). Making matters even worse is that Compton has faced mainly 2nd and 3rd teamers from the Browns and Patriots, and still struggled. Though Compton’s run blocking has been better, he faces a tough numbers crunch along the offensive line. Barring a surprise cut, his only chance of making the team could be if the Redskins decide to keep 10 offensive linemen.