(photo by Brian Murphy)
With the first week of training camp in the books for the Washington Redskins, I figured I’d try something new. With that in mind, I present to you my first stab at the top 10 Redskins players through Week 1. These are the players who have risen to the challenge and managed to make a strong impression through the first seven days of camp.
One quick note before we dive in – these rankings are completely subjective, biased and, ultimately, meaningless. They simply represent one person’s take on the first week of training camp. If you see things differently and/or feel like I’m forgetting someone, that’s okay. Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts on the subject.
1. Kareem Moore, safety – No player has done more to turn heads in the last week than Moore. Don’t believe me? Consider this: in the last two days, Moore has three interceptions. He’s rapidly turning into a ball hawk and appears to be developing more and more confidence every day he takes the field. In fact, he’s looking so comfortable that I’d go as far as to say it’s officially his position to lose.
2. Fred Davis, tight end – Chris Cooley is the man. I’ve got no problem saying it and neither does Davis. But the offensive star throughout this entire offseason has easily been Freddie Delight. The days of oversleeping practice and/or looking lost on the football field are long gone. These days, the third-year pro is automatic – especially when running a seam route. If a quarterback can get the ball near him, Davis has had no problem catching the ball in stride and blowing by defenders. If he can improve his blocking, Davis is going to be a force in this league.
3. Carlos Rogers, cornerback – Before training camp began, I boldly predicted Rogers would set a new career high for interceptions in 2010. After seven days, I’m feeling even more confident in the Auburn product. I’ve heard from a player or two that the cornerbacks under Jerry Gray spent too much time goofing off and cracking jokes. Although Gray was very good at his job, some wonder if he made a mistake trying to be buddy buddy with guys like Rogers and Fred Smoot. With those distractions gone and hopes of a long-term contract in front of him, Rogers has more than enough incentive to come out strong this season.
4. Larry Johnson, running back – There’s no way this is the same guy who half of Kansas City despises. He’s been an absolute model citizen on and off the field for Washington and has managed to stand out in a very crowded backfield. Clinton Portis will likely be the primary ball carrier, but Johnson brings a physical presence this offense needs. At this point, I’m genuinely excited at the prospect of him being the goal-line back this season.
5. Trent Williams, left tackle – Before training camp began and before the highly-touted rookie even signed his contract, I suggested that at some point this season Williams might be swapped with right tackle Jammal Brown. Well, if he continues to play like this, that’s not going to be an option. Williams is exactly the athletic offensive lineman that thrives in a Mike Shanahan-led attack and he’s already managing to hold his own against linebacker Brian Orakpo when the two square off. I can’t help but think he’s still playing mostly on pure instincts which means he’ll likely improve once he fully grasps everything the coaches are throwing at him. If that’s the case, Williams is going to be protecting the blind side for the foreseeable future.
6. Adam Carriker, defensive end – Don’t take it from me. Listen to Phillip Daniels, who is competing with Carriker for playing time at defensive end. After calling Carriker the real deal, Daniels went on to say that 26-year-old complements his game and that simply having him around is likely to extend Daniels’ career. Remember, this guy was basically thrown away by the St. Louis Rams even though he was the 13th pick in the 2007 NFL draft. If he’s able to lock down a spot in the starting lineup, he’s got to be considered an absolute steal for the Redskins front office.
7. Santana Moss, receiver – When the Redskins use Moss in the slot, good things happen. He’s able to get a clean break off the line, sneak his way into open territory and give his quarterbacks a go-to target. If the Redskins offense can find two dependable options for the other two receiver slots, this could be another memorable year for the 10th-year pro.
8. Lorenzo Alexander, linebacker – Let’s not forget that Alexander came into our lives as a back-up offensive lineman. And then he was converted to the defensive line. Now he’s a linebacker. And yet, regardless of what the coaches throw at him, Alexander always manages to exceed expectations. At this point, it’s downright foolish to bet against Alexander.
9. Terrence Austin, receiver – When the Redskins used a seventh-round draft pick on UCLA product, it was assumed he was brought in the handle kick/punt return duties. Generously listed at 5-11 and 175 lbs., I’m not sure too many folks were eager to pencil him in the receiver rotation though. But Austin has made the most out of his opportunities on offense and has enough speed to create separation from defenders. With someone as creative as Kyle Shanahan calling the shots, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a play or two drawn up for Austin once the regular season rolls around.
10. Kevin Barnes, cornerback – Barnes is a hitter, pure and simple. He’s still hit or miss in pass coverage, but the guy has no issue laying into anyone lining up against him. If defensive coordinator Jim Haslett can play to his strengths and limit his weaknesses, Barnes could be a guy who helps create the turnovers this defense has been lacking.
Honorable mention: Graham Gano, kicker – On principal, I refuse to put a kicker with just four career field goal attempts on the top 10 list. But as my buddy John Pappas points out, Gano has been stellar thus far, connecting on damn-near every attempt he’s been given. Special teams is definitely a concern for me, with so many unproven players in the mix. But this kind of performance from Gano would definitely help prevent special teams coach Danny Smith from having an aneurism.
On the flip side, here are a few guys who would most likely prefer to step up their game sooner rather than later:
5. Ma’ake Kemoeatu, nose tackle – I’ve got nothing personal against the big guy, who is working his way back into playing shape after missing the 2009 season and most of the team’s offseason program while recovering from an achilles injury. If he can shed his excess weight and seize the opportunity by earning a spot in the starting lineup, it’ll go a long way towards ensuring the Redskins defense has another dominant season. For now though, he’s playing catch-up with most of the other defensive linemen on the roster.
4. Justin Tryon, cornerback – No matter how many times Darrell Green tells me the guy has a monster offseason, I refuse to change my stance on him until I see it translate onto the field. Since he arrived in Washington, Tryon has yet to look comfortable covering a slot receiver and his size gives bigger wide outs an advantage as well. I can live with him as the fourth cornerback in the rotation, but anything more than that scares me.
3. Malcolm Kelly, receiver – Dude just cannot stay healthy. Like I’ve said before, the biggest difference between Kelly and Thomas is opportunity and injury. You can guess which youngster falls in which category.
2. Colt Brennan, quarterback – I won’t be overly negative here, since Brennan was released this week. But suffice to say he never really lived up to his strong start during the preseason his rookie year. He was a long shot to land a spot on the 53-man roster to begin with, and a sluggish first week all but sealed his fate. Like Steve Spurrier will always remember Osaka, Colt can always look back fondly on his memorable 2008 Hall of Fame game performance.
1. Albert Haynesworth, diva – Yeah. This one was a gimme.