I’m going to run down a list of the players I think it’s most important to watch for this season. These aren’t guys I am guaranteeing are going to have ultimate success in comparison to the entire league this season, just guys I believe will contribute greatly to the team.
10. Fred Davis – After being suspended the final 4 games of last year and having been the leading receiver on the team, Davis definitely has a chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove. He very likely was headed to the Pro Bowl last year until he was suspended. If this team is going to be a threat passing on the outside, it will be in large part because Davis commands elite attention over the middle.
9. Tyler Polumbus – I was as impressed with Tyler last year as I was anyone on the team. He came in at RT late in the year when injuries and the suspension to Trent Williams decimated our core, and he had some very good games, especially contributing to boost 6 straight weeks of some of the best rushing football we saw throughout the league. If Jammal Brown can’t go, I would expect Polumbus to get the nod and a chance to prove he can play at this level.
8. DeJon Gomes – I’ve seen people knock him, sleeping on his opportunity to finish off what he started last season. In fact, in Gomes’ heaviest playing late last year, I thought he was superb at safety. The problem most people point to is his coverage, but the only time I remember his coverage coming into play was against Rob Gronkowski, who beat him more with height than anything else, and let’s face it, Gronk’s no easy task for ANYONE, let alone a rookie.
7. DeAngelo Hall – Staying with the DB’s, I want to see what Hall is able to do when he’s allowed to blitz from the nickel around the edge that Ryan Kerrigan or Brian Orakpo will be setting. I’ll also be interested to see how many more opportunities he gets to make a play on the ball considering we play a lot of shallow zone from the nickel, which should allow Hall to keep his eye on the play as he wants.
6. Roy Helu, Jr. – I think he ends up taking this job. People talk about his durability, but I wonder what an entire offseason of preparation and the confidence of the Shanahan duo to sub other backs in and out a little more often might do. If there’s anyone on this offense versatile enough to make RGIII’s job a little easier, it’s Helu.
5. Perry Riley – He’s been one of the most refreshing players on the defense, and been one of the most impressive as well. He’ll finally have an opportunity to start every game (barring injury) and with another year and confidence under his belt, as well as Fletcher sticking around to instruct him further, it’ll be interesting to see what plays he leaves on the field now.
4. Leonard Hankerson – He’s quite possibly the most intriguing player to watch this season, for me, but for great reason. Hank struggled to get on the field last year until injuries knocked a few guys out. Hankerson came in, and his first play was disappointing. But the next week, he had a very strong game. And the week after, an even stronger performance before going down to a freak injury. Hankerson has legitimate elite potential, but he has to use it, and he has to stay healthy.
3. Santana Moss – Moss disappointed last season, even considering he was injured and coaches may have been better off not throwing him back into the mix so late in the year. Moss is rejuvenated for camp, having come in lighter but with added muscle. With a legitimate opportunity to chase the deep ball this year, he could see a year similar to Steve Smith’s last season.
2. Pierre Garcon – I’m nearly impatient waiting to see how Pierre fits in here in Washington. His speed is top-notch, and he has better hands than people give him credit for having. To be fair, it is hard to look bad in Peyton Manning’s offense, but Garcon has those flashes of fitting in most places, and he does fit the mold of a lot of successful receivers from this offense.
1. Duh – He’ll be the most scrutinized player on the team this year. Hopefully fans don’t have this expectation that he can do no wrong. It’s on us to be a beam for support when he has a bad game, and it’s on us to not crown him for things he hasn’t done when he has good weeks. If he can establish himself the leader of this offense (of this TEAM), make solid decisions, and show promise, he’ll be successful regardless of the numbers and the record.