Entering the preseason opener, here’s my analysis on the rookies and how they project for this season. Just know that the coaches love to keep rookies, but with 21 drafted players combined in the past two years it gets harder and harder to keep them all – as it should.
1. QB Robert Griffin III: Sort of written about him a lot, as you probably already know. He’s a work in progress, which is exactly what the Redskins thought he would be at this stage. He’s learning to go through his progressions, which he didn’t have to do at Baylor. As talented as he is, and as hard-working as everyone says he is, there remains an adjustment.
Projection: Starter. What else? While we see inconsistencies and growing pains, there are some constants: his work ethic, his intelligence, his ability. Put those three together and that typically takes a guy far.
2. G/C Josh LeRibeus: He doesn’t look ready to start, but third-round picks typically aren’t. LeRibeus plays low and seems to understand leverage. He’s still adapting to the speed, so at times he’s a little late or beaten inside. The coaches say he looked better of late. They’re also asking him to learn center and guard, so that will naturally lead to a little indecision at times. No other rookie lineman is working at another spot as of yet.
Projection: Backup, but could see him starting by next year. At what spot? Not sure yet.
3. LB Keenan Robinson: You can see the speed at times and he’s made at least one interception. He was known for his coverage skills in college and you can see some of that in practice, though, like all of them, he’s been beaten a couple times by slower players. Speed alone doesn’t equate to good coverage. He needs to improve coming up vs. the run and taking on blockers.
Projection: Backup and special teamer. Big guys who can run are always favored on special teams.
4. QB Kirk Cousins: He’s shown good arm strength and makes quick decisions, but he played in an offense more suited to a smooth transition. He’s also thrown a number of interceptions. In college Cousins would play well one game and make ugly mistakes the next. Like Griffin, he’s smart and works hard. Big plus.
5. G Adam Gettis: Really like his fundamentals. He stays low and plays with an excellent base. He’ll scrap, too. But he does get bent back on occasion, especially when facing experienced defensive linemen. Keep in mind that the Redskins have bigger linemen, playing the 3-4. But he’ll have to face similar types during the season too. He’s only worked at right guard.
6. RB Alfred Morris: In the first day of camp, his body lean on runs jumped out. That bodes well for him and I liked his shiftiness on other runs. Looks decisive. However, you can’t go overboard on a guy we haven’t seen in a game. Practice is very deceiving for running backs. Backs squeeze through the line all the time because they’re not getting tackled. Would he have broken tackles? Don’t know. Most backs should look good once they hit the second level. One of his strengths in college was pass protection, but the times I’ve watched him he’s been inconsistent. That is a major focus of the coaches with every running back.
Projection: Practice squad/fourth running back. Tristan Davis has flashed because of his speed so Morris has competition. It’s hard to see them keeping more than three running backs right now, but if Morris has a great preseason then … And if they do keep an extra back, they must cut from elsewhere and that means three tight ends (they kept four last year).
7. OT Tom Compton: Early on Compton looked like he had a long way to go. But in watching him the last few days of practice you could see some improvement. Granted, this came vs. backups, but when you’re a sixth-round pick you must show you can at least handle your own vs. these players before moving up. He’s worked exclusively at left tackle. The book on him before the draft was that he lacked athleticism.
Projection: Practice squad/backup. Last year the Redskins kept only three backup linemen. Because of injuries they might need to keep four. It’s tough to see Compton being part of an eight-man group. If Jammal Brown returns, then Tyler Polumbus is the backup OT and the interior backups would be LeRibeus and Gettis and/or Maurice Hurt.
8. CB Richard Crawford: I really liked him early in camp; he flashed quite a bit and had a knack for making plays. Good reactions. He’s also versatile and has covered in the slot. Lately I’ve seen more up and down play from him.
Projection: Practice squad/fifth corner. Brandyn Thompson has flashed a little more of late and Morgan Trent has as well. So the competition is good here for the last couple spots. I do want to see more of Crawford.
9. S Jordan Bernstine: As with running backs, it’s tough to tell how a safety truly looks. In the game their run fits and angles to the ball occur at a much faster speed. There was one play Tuesday in which Bernstine reacted as if, ‘Yeah, I would have had you,’ as he attempted to “tag” receiver Aldrick Robinson. In reality, Robinson caught him flat-footed and would have blown past him on a cut. But Bernstine has flashed some speed and made a couple plays.
Projection: Practice squad. He’ll need to unseat a veteran if he wants a roster spot. It’s not impossible – it’s always good to have a fast young guy to develop. But it will be difficult. And a lot will depend on the health of some players, like Tanard Jackson.