The Washington Redskins have heard many times over the past few seasons if the injuries that have decimated their roster never happened then perhaps they could’ve been a playoff contender.
The Redskins have been one of the hardest-hit teams with injuries over the past two seasons. Those untimely injuries have happened at times when the Burgundy and Gold have started to put things together on the field and were fielding competitive units.
Last season, the Redskins were 6-3 and in sole possession of the top spot in the NFC East before starting quarterback Alex Smith suffered a season-ending and perhaps career-ending leg break. Washington never recovered from Smith’s injury mentally or physically and watched as their promising first-half start to the 2018 campaign spiraled out of control. The Redskins would go on to win once more in their remaining seven contest.
As training camp approaches in three weeks and the start of a new season brings optimism, the Redskins will have to move past the injuries that have defined them. Despite those injuries, the Redskins will need their defense and specifically five core players to play at a pro bowl level if they are going to have any success in 2019.
Who are the five players and why do they need to play at their full capabilities?
Josh Norman, Cornerback
He may be the victim of his own success in Carolina where he was a mainstay who helped the Panthers 2015 team reach the Super Bowl.
Again, Norman hasn’t played poorly but he hasn’t been the lights out, lockdown corner the team has needed him to be. To his defense, he has played with several different teammates in the secondary since his arrival and also has watched the team build up its defensive line over the past few seasons.
Defensively everything is in place for the former Coastal Carolina star to have a big season with the additions of several frontline defenders like pro bowl safety Landon Collins and rookie outside linebacker Montez Sweat to pair with veteran stars, Ryan Kerrigan and Jonathan Allen.
Norman needing to make the Pro Bowl or play at an all-star level is important for everyone involved and that didn’t go unnoticed by coach Jay Gruden after a minicamp session.
“People seem to be disappointed in his play, Gruden said. “I’m not disappointed at all. Josh is a good football player and does some great things for us,” Gruden said. “Now we’re looking for more from Josh and he’s gonna give us more because we’re gonna demand more. We’re looking for superstar status at corner from Josh.”
Norman has six interceptions and seven forced fumbles since he’s been in DC. The Redskins expect those numbers to increase this season and will need them to if they are to be an improved defensive unit.
Landon Collins, Safety
While with the Giants, Collins established himself as a Pro Bowl safety who delivers big hits and has playmaking ability.
Washington will expect leadership and toughness to ooze out of the former Alabama standout.
Collins, 25, has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his past three seasons and was an NFL First-Team All-Pro in 2016. That season he pulled in five interceptions to go along with 125 tackles with nine coming behind the line of scrimmage.
If Collins continues his stellar play and makes a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl, the Redskins should be in a good spot to contend for a postseason birth.
Ryan Kerrigan, Linebacker
To say that Kerrigan needs to make the Pro Bowl again is almost disrespectful because that has become the norm from the nine-year veteran.
The former Purdue standout has made four all-star games and the past three in consecutive seasons since 2016. During his career, Kerrigan has never missed a game proving his importance to the Redskins.
Kerrigan has amassed 84.5 sacks, three interceptions (all returned for touchdowns), and 25 forced fumbles over his career.
If he can continue to add to his potential Hall of Fame resume and make a fifth Pro Bowl, then the Redskins will be in a good position to field one of the NFL’s best defenses and perhaps a playoff team.
Jonathan Allen, Defensive End
When the Redskins selected Allen with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft many wondered if the shoulder issues that surfaced before the draft would derail Allen’s success.
It’s safe to say that those naysayers were wrong and in fact, have fueled Allen’s early career success as a player, leader, and voice for Washington.
The former Alabam star is on the cusp of becoming a Pro Bowl player and this could be the year it happens.
Allen has provided stability alongside a defensive front that has several other young Pro Bowl aspiring players in Matt Ioannidis and Daron Payne. If Allen can continue to develop he has an unlimited upside.
Allen’s rookie campaign was cut short with a lisfranc injury that limited him to only five games. Last season, however, Allen had a breakout campaign with eight sacks and 15 quarterback hits. If he can improve on that production he could be in line for his first Pro Bowl appearance and help the Redskins push for a postseason opportunity.