Playing for a Job: Offense
Yesterday we looked at some offensive players, playing for a contract, but there are others who are just going to be playing for a job. Now obviously most back-ups fit this category, so this will only look at projected starters or significant contributors:
WR Leonard Hankerson:
-Hankerson was the Redskins 3rd round pick in 2011, but unfortunately he was drafted in a year with no offseason activities due to the lockout. That meant he was behind by the time training camp started, and it is a good reason why he wasn’t game ready to start the season. As if that setback wasn’t bad enough, Hankerson suffered a mid-season hip injury that had him miss not just the rest of the season, but all the offseason work until training camp rolled around. Despite the significant missed development time, Hankerson had a solid year as a back-up for the Redskins last season. Though he wasn’t as clutch as Pierre Garcon, his numbers on a per catch and per target basis were essentially equal to the Redskins top receiver. Hankerson now faces a tough battle with Josh Morgan to see time as a starter and not just a fill in for the Redskins.
What he needs to do:
-Yesterday two of the players highlighted for contracts were receivers Josh Morgan and Santana Moss, Hankerson has an opportunity here to ensure he’s viewed as a longterm option for the Redskins if he can prove his value over those two. In addition to competing with Morgan for the Z receiver position, Hankerson should try to prove his value as a slot receiver as well. Currently Moss is the only receiver on the team viewed as a true slot option, but his contract is up and he’s nearing the end of his career. If Hankerson proves himself worthy it would give him another shot to be a key component of the Redskins passing attack. Hankerson has to not worry about the future and just ensure further development from last season. If he does that the Redskins will find him a job. If he regresses he will see his playing time drop and probably won’t be re-signed when his contract is up after 2014.
RB Roy Helu Jr.:
-Roy Helu Jr. burst onto the scene as a rookie in preseason making some impressive runs. The team didn’t think he was ready for a fulltime role and gave the job to Tim Hightower. Helu Jr. was used as a 3rd down/change of pace back, and made some big plays. Sometimes that playmaking doesn’t translate to an every down role, but when Tim Hightower went down, he was given an expanded role. At first it was a time-share role, but after three weeks Helu finally got the chance to get 20+ carries. In his four games of 20 or more carries, Helu had three 100 yard performances. Unfortunately nagging injuries prevented him from starting the final two games of the season. Injuries again became an issue in 2012, when he was hampered throughout training camp. Helu started the season, but was woefully ineffective and after a couple of weeks was placed on Injured reserve. His rehab suffered setbacks and he needed an offseason surgery to correct the issue. Helu missed most of the offseason activities, but was ready by mini-camp and is expected to be 100% in training camp. He faces a lot different situation then last year when he was the favorite by some to lead the team in rushing. Now Alfred Morris has fully established himself as the featured runner, and the team drafted a pair of rookies this offseason.
What he needs to do:
-Helu is definitely the front runner for the back-up RB role as well as the 3rd down back/change of pace role, but he’s not without competition. Rookie 7th rounder Jawan Jamison has a good bit of zone experience and could be a good fit as the back-up. Fifth rounder Chris Thompson is coming back from an injury, but if healthy has explosive speed and could be viewed as a better 3rd down/change of pace back. Helu has to stay healthy first and foremost, but he also has to really prove his value on passing downs. In 2011 he was highly effective out of the backfield, and showed himself as a good blocker. The blocking part could be key, because rookies typically don’t fare well in that area. If Helu can prove his value then he can earn himself a fair number of snaps (which will lead to targets and carries).
OT Tyler Polumbus:
-Polumbus was a former undrafted free agent for Mike Shanahan in Denver. When the Redskins line started getting decimated by injuries in 2011, Shanahan brought Polumbus in for a reunion. After playing him at guard in a game, Shanahan then moved Polumbus back to his more natural tackle position to close out the year when Jammal Brown was injured. After Brown got injured again at the start of Training Camp last year, Polumbus became the top RT option. The Redskins brought in a couple veteran stopgap types, but they weren’t able to unseat him. Polumbus went on to start 15 games this past season, but other than being relatively healthy, Polumbus didn’t bring much value to the team. He was the team’s weakest link along the offensive line last year, and the team brought in veterans Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood to compete for a starting job. Polumbus was given a two year contract and is still running with the first team, but he is fighting for a job.
What he needs to do:
-Simply put play better. Polumbus didn’t commit many penalties, but other than that his game was a mess last year. He had some solid blocking performances, but most weeks he was below average to down right bad. He gave up a ton of pressures and sacks, while also struggling some with his run blocking. His competition to beat out isn’t particularly strong, but it is better than it was last year. Even if he “wins” the job, he still needs to play at a higher level or will be targeted for replacement next year.