30 Questions: Who will be the Redskins' breakout player on defense?

30 Questions: Who will be the Redskins' breakout player on defense?
June 27, 2014, 10:30 am
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Tandler - Tarik

With a new head coach, some intriguing free agents and a quarterback on the comeback trail, the 2014 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of training camp, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir examine the top 30 questions the Redskins face as they get ready for the season.

26—Who will be the big breakout player on defense?

We know most of the star players on the defensive side of the ball—Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, DeAngelo Hall. But every year someone emerges and surprises everyone by being a key contributor. Who has the best chance of breaking out on defense for the Redskins?

Tandler: Keenan Robinson has been a forgotten man and for good reason. He missed most of the Redskins 2012 run to the playoffs when a torn pectoral muscle ended his rookie year five games early. Last year ended even earlier for him as another torn pec landed him on IR during training camp. But even though he has been kept off of the field he has been preparing to take over for the retired London Fletcher at Mike linebacker in the meeting room and in the film room. With the caveat that OTAs and minicamps are conducted in helmets and shorts, he looks ready. With a full training camp and full slate of preseason games ahead of him, Robinson has an opportunity to improve before the games count. I don’t see him being a standout right out of the box but as the season goes on Robinson will get better. By the time midseason rolls around he should be performing well and making some important plays.

El-Bashir: I’m expecting big things from Phillip Thomas in 2014. The second-year safety missed his rookie season after suffering a Lisfranc injury in an exhibition game. Prior to getting hurt, though, Thomas had been progressing toward a starting role. He recently referred to the season off as “a redshirt year,” adding that he used the downtime to become a student of the game, watching “what other people are doing right” and “what they’re doing wrong to make sure I keep it out of my game.” Thomas (6-1, 223) is now healthy and he proved that by making a handful of impressive plays during OTAs and minicamp. And although he worked almost exclusively with the second team unit this offseason behind starters Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark, it wouldn’t be a completely surprise if he replaces one of them--and sooner rather than later.