Each and every week, Dan Graziano puts together his list of the top players at each of the 27 positions in the NFC East. In this week’s edition of his list, the Redskins were given six selections, the Cowboys eight, the Giants seven, and the Eagles six.
For the Redskins, it’s technically five, but it’s six honors. Given that the Redskins are in last place in the division, that’s probably accurate, but here’s the rundown:
Fullback: Darrel Young, Redskins (Young)
Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)
Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys; Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins (Ware, Brian Orakpo)
Inside linebacker: London Fletcher, Redskins; Sean Lee, Cowboys (Fletcher, Lee)
Kick returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)
Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)
As you may notice, rookie outside linebacker has replaced teammate Brian Orakpo in the weekly carousel at the position, and if that’s a problem, then it’s a great problem for the Redskins to have. The Redskins were shut out of sacks last week for the first time all season, and still remain tied for third in the NFC.
Here’s what Graziano had to say about the switch:
Kerrigan moves back in front of Orakpo in the race for that second outside linebacker spot. It’s a neck-and-neck race kind of like quarterback is, and I thought Kerrigan was a bit better Sunday. They’re both studs, and if Washington is building a defense around its pass-rushing linebackers, it’s doing a good job.
Even though London Fletcher has been a mainstay at the inside linebacker position all season, Graziano was sure to give him his due credit after he took over the league lead in tackles this week:
London Fletcher is special. He’s on here every week, almost automatically, and therefore never gets mentioned. All he’s doing is racking up tackles, playing his guts out on every down and setting the tone for that Redskins defense and all of the young players around him. Someday, if Perry Riley turns out to be great, he’s going to look back and be very grateful for the opportunity to learn next to someone like Fletcher.
That’s pretty high praise for the entirety of the starting linebacker corps, which is part of a pretty good front seven in Washington.
For the most part, I agree with the list. But as with most weeks, the most obvious name is the one that’s not listed, and that would be Redskins punter Sav Rocca.
Rocca was replaced this week by Giants punter Steve Weatherford, who has had similar success this year, but not in the statistical categories that really matter. After last week’s game, Rocca is again tied for the league lead in punts downed inside the 20, and has only one touchback on the season. He also has two-thirds the number of return yards as Weatherford, which means that Rocca is doing a better job of not out-kicking his coverage.
Weatherford may average almost two yards better per punt, but the numbers support the fact that Rocca is putting his team in a better position on a consistent basis. The job of a punter is not based on the average distance of the kick, it’s based on winning the battle of field position, and all signs point to Rocca’s superior ability to do that.