[caption id="attachment_1562" align="aligncenter" width="395" caption="Portis is the Redskins' bell cow"][/caption]
Here's my annual ranking of the front-line Redskins. There are 29 players in the rankings—the 22 regular position starters, a third wide receiver, a third-down back, punter, place kicker, long snapper, kickoff returner, and nickel back. Last week: #29 through #20 Yesterday, #20 through #11 Today, #1-#10
10. London Fletcher, MLB—He's Greg Blache's extension on the field, the unquestioned leader of the defense. Fletcher has lost a step or two but he makes up for it with smarts.
9. Chris Samuels, LT—There is a lot of nervousness surrounding Samuels. It's not so much for his ability on the field but for his ability to stay on the field. Jim Zorn has acknowledged that Samuels has a knee injury that will have to be "managed" all year. Still, when he's in there, he is rock solid.
8. Santana Moss, WR—Moss is right up there with any NFL receiver when it comes to having sticky hands and for his ability to make a jaw-dropping move after he catches the ball. The hope is that an improved receiving corps will take some attention off of him and allow him to be a bit more consistent.
7. DeAngelo Hall, CB—Both Hall and Blache have said that MeAngelo is dead and that Hall is determined to show that he has matured. For now, I'm going to buy that because there have been no indications to the contrary since he came to the Redskins at midseason last year. If Hall can get seven interceptions that will be the most of any Redskin since Martin Mayhew got that many in 1990.
6. Carlos Rogers, CB—Rogers reminds me of the old maxim that says that if most defensive backs had good hands they'd be wide receivers. Yes, the guy needs to hold on to the ball but at least he's consistently in position to get his hands on passes. He takes a lot of flak here but I can name a bunch of other NFL teams that would love to have him dropping passes in their secondaries.
5. Brian Orakpo, SLB—This is very high to rank a rookie but the expectations here are sky high. Orakpo could well be the defensive difference maker that the Redskins have been missing for, oh, about two decades.
4. LaRon Landry, FS—If the rest of the defense works the way it should work, this will be Landry's breakout season. A fierce pass rush can push a free safety from good to great.
3. Chris Cooley, TE—Like Moss, Cooley will benefit if the trio of 2008 second-round receivers can start to live up to expectations. If he can get some space in the middle of the field he can turn a medium-length pass into a huge play with his ability to run right through tackle attempts. There are some saying that the additions of Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow to the NFC will keep Cooley from making another Pro Bowl appearance. It says here that Cooley makes it easily.
2. Albert Haynesworth, DT—As with Hall, I'm going to buy his words about not being satisfied with the huge payday because his actions have indicated that he wants to play hard. If so, he'll be a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators.
1. Clinton Portis, RB—Clinton Portis is the bell cow of the Washington Redskins. When he's going well the Redskisn are controlling the game. When he's not, they're struggling.