The 2014 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of the first veteran minicamp on April 29, Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will examine 20 questions Washington faces as Jay Gruden pieces together the roster, finalizes his playbook and preps for his first season as a head coach in the NFL.
Who from the 2011 draft class is ready to step up?
The Redskins drafted 12 players in 2011 and nine of them—LB Ryan Kerrigan, DE Jarvis Jenkins, WR Leonard Hankerson, RB Roy Helu, TE Niles Paul, RB Evan Royster, WR Aldrick Robinson, OL Maurice Hurt, and NT Chris Neild—remain on the roster. Only one of those picks, first-round pick Kerrigan, has established himself as a solid, long-term starter. Of the other eight, all but Neild have started at least one game, yet none appear at the top of the depth chart at their respective positions. Will this become a lost draft class with loads of potential but limited returns? Or can one or more of them step up and become a regular contributor?
Tandler: Barring injury, the way the depth chart shakes out looks daunting for the class of ’11. They added Jason Hatcher at Jenkins’ position and DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts at Hankerson’s position. Royster, Hurt, and Neild are on the bubble for making the 53-man roster. Helu isn’t going to pass Alfred Morris on the depth chart and Paul is the third tight end. It looks like the best this group can hope for is someone stepping up big as a contributor. I’ll put my money on Aldrick Robinson even though the wide receiver position is crowded. At the end of the year he seemed to be starting to turn the corner from being a fast guy to be a fast NFL wide receiver with 12 catches for 213 yards in the last four games. Speed will give him opportunities and Jay Gruden could find a way to take advantage of it.
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El-Bashir: Not so sure about Robinson, Rich. With Pierre Garçon, Jackson, Roberts and Jordan Reed in front of him (as well as a deep draft class from which to chose), I’m not sure how many opportunities he’s going to get. In years past, Robinson’s ability to race past defensive backs set him apart from the group. Well, the group is gaining on him after the addition of Jackson and Roberts, both of whom have speed to burn. Anyway, my pick is Helu. Gruden has made it clear that he wants a pass catching threat out of the backfield, someone like a Giovani Bernard who hauled in 56 passes for 514 yards last season in Cincinnati. Helu had 49 receptions as a rookie and, after sitting out most of 2012 with injuries, caught 31 passes for 251 yards last season. Helu will likely face some competition from Chris Thompson, but I’d be midly surprised if Helu didn’t get the first crack at filling that role.