Eric J. Russell, special to WTOP
WASHINGTON – Many Washington fans are excited to see what the 2012 edition of the Redskins will bring to the table. And while first-round draft pick Robert Griffin III is sure to be in the spotlight as training camp opens Thursday, here are five other players to watch.
The Redskins’ third-round pick in the 2011 draft was sidelined for most of his rookie campaign with a torn labrum. However, the wideout did some impressive things in his limited playing time. Hankerson put up big numbers during the game in which he suffered his injury, hauling in eight receptions for 106 yards against the Miami Dolphins.
The Redskins brought in free agents Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan in the offseason. But the 6-foot-2 Hankerson is one of the tallest receivers on the roster, giving Griffin a big, speedy target. Head coach Mike Shanahan has said Hankerson will play a big part in the team’s offensive strategy, and it will be interesting to see if the receiver can have a breakout year coming off of hip surgery.
Orakpo declared himself to be 100 percent for training camp recently, after undergoing shoulder surgery at the end of last season. The fourth-year linebacker has been the key to the Redskins’ pass rush, leading the team in sacks in each of the last three seasons (he and Andre Carter each had 11 in 2009) and posting nine last year.
The Redskins’ schedule includes five of the top 10 passing offenses in the NFL last season. In addition, the team will go against young quarterback threats like Andy Dalton and Cam Newton. The team’s pass rush will be vital to their defensive success this season.
Brandon Meriweather, Madieu Williams, Tanard Jackson
The aforementioned schedule poses another issue for the Redskins, who lack a solid secondary. Laron Landry is no longer with the team and the talent pool is a little dry at the safety position, where these three likely will see a majority of the playing time.
Meriweather, who played with Chicago last season, posted 32 tackles, two pass deflections and no interceptions. Jackson had 35 tackles, two interceptions and three pass deflections for the Buccaneers last season before being cut by the team in the offseason due to a failed physical. Williams saw action in 15 games for the 49ers, starting three of them and recording nine tackles with no pass deflections or interceptions.
The Redskins were ranked 12th in the league in pass defense last season, allowing 222 yards per game.
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