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Developing Depth a Priority, Shanahan Says

Posted Mar 8, 2012

Head coach Mike Shanahan has suggested that developing depth is key to roster-building. Redskins.com's Gary Fitzgerald looks at what posititions could use more talent this offseason.


The Redskins could have as many as seven new starters heading into the 2012 season.

A roster is more than the starting lineup, though. What about depth?

Head coach Mike Shanahan suggested at the NFL Scouting Combine last month that developing depth is as important as crafting a solid corps of starters.

He pointed to last season as evidence.

In Weeks 6-7, the Redskins’ offense was beset with injuries.

They lost running back Tim Hightower, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger and tight end Chris Cooley to what would be season-ending injuries. They also lost left tackle Trent Williams for two games due to a high ankle sprain and wide receiver Santana Moss for four games due to a fractured hand.

“It’s just part of football,” Shanahan told Redskins Broadcast Network’s Larry Michael. “There are no excuses. What you have to do is build your football team where you can lose three or four guys on offense, you can lose three or four guys on defense, but you’re deep enough to still win football games. That's what great organizations do.”

In evaluating the Redskins’ roster, it appears the Redskins need to add more depth at quarterback, on the offensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary. (Wide receiver is regarded as a need, but the team does have some young depth at the position.)

QUARTERBACK

With Rex Grossman set to be an unrestricted free agent, the Redskins are in the market for a starting quarterback. The team is expected to explore options in free agency and the NFL Draft.

John Beck – who started three games last year – and second-year player Jonathan Crompton are the only quarterbacks on the roster. Beck provides a measure of depth given his experience.

Still, the Redskins may look to acquire two quarterbacks this offseason to shore up the position.

The most likely scenario has the team signing a veteran in free agency and then targeting a prospect in the NFL Draft.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Redskins could target an offensive tackle high in the draft to supplant oft-injured Jammal Brown at right tackle.

With Brown under contract in 2012 and undrafted rookie Willie Smith earning starting experience last year, another starting-caliber right tackle would certainly improve depth on the perimeter of the line. Remember, Brown can play both left and right tackle.

On the inside, the Redskins could look to add competition at left guard and center.

Lichtensteiger is coming off a knee ligament injury and Maurice Hurt, a 2011 seventh-round draft pick, had his share of ups and downs as Lichtensteiger’s primary replacement.

The Redskins just re-signed Will Montgomery to a contract extension.

His backup last year was second-year lineman Erik Cook, who struggled at times in a two-game stint at starter.

INSIDE LINEBACKER

With London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh and Keyaron Fox scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, the Redskins could need to add at least two more inside linebackers.

If all three depart the team, that would leave Perry Riley as the only inside linebacker on the roster. (Lorenzo Alexander has experience at both inside and outside, so he obviously helps with depth.)

As March 13 draws near, the likelihood that Fletcher will test the free agent market increases. Resigning him was termed an off-season priority by Shanahan.

If he departs, then the Redskins would need to add a starter in addition to some quality reserves in free agency or the NFL Draft.

CORNERBACK

A lot of mock drafts have the Redskins selecting a cornerback in the first round of the draft. Makes sense: after starters DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson, there are question marks at the position.

Kevin Barnes, who served as the nickel cornerback most of last season, is entering a pivotal year in his career. The Maryland product needs to emerge as more of a playmaker in his fourth NFL season.

Adding an elite cornerback in the draft would certainly solidify the position and give the defense a young cornerback to groom.

Phillip Buchanon is an unrestricted free agent and Byron Westbrook is a restricted free agent, so the Redskins may also need to add another young cornerback to improve depth.

SAFETY

If the Redskins re-sign unrestricted free agent LaRon Landry and retain Oshiomogho Atogwe, then the team’s depth at safety is likely set.

Those are two big if's, though. Landry is far from a certainty to return and Atogwe lost his starting job late last season.

DeJon Gomes could be in line to start at one safety spot next season. Reed Doughty remains a valued reserve who can start in a pinch.

Beyond those two, the Redskins may need to add another young safety prospect to groom for the future, even if Landry and Atogwe both return.