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Need to Know: Five Redskins who could have breakout seasons

Jul 23, 2015, 5:14 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, July 21, 7 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

With the start of training camp a week away, much of the focus is on the newcomers to the Redskins’ roster. But let’s take a look at some players who were around last year but have a chance to break out and perform at a high level in 2015.

DE Chris Baker—This could be a rare case of a player getting moved out of the starting lineup but having his impact grow. The acquisitions of Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea will have Baker starting most games on the bench after he started 12 games last year. But he should still play something close to the 500 snaps he played last year. Joe Barry’s defensive scheme features linemen attacking gaps rather than containing them much of the time. This suits Baker’s style of play much better than a two-gap system.

LG Shawn Lauvao—Just like the one gap will help Baker, power blocking will help Lauvao. That’s the scheme he played for four years in Cleveland before coming to the Redskins. He also needs to upgrade his pass protection skills, something that Bill Callahan should be able to help him with. This is probably a make or break year for Lauvao, who is slated to see a salary increase to $4 million next year. If he doesn’t break out this year the Redskins could well go younger and cheaper at right guard in 2016.

CB David Amerson—Was last year a look at the real Amerson or was it just a sophomore slump? I think it’s the latter. The word is that he is taking preparation much more seriously this year and he has the physical tools to be a good cornerback. He will have to battle DeAngelo Hall for playing time but if he spends enough time in the film room he will find his way onto the field.

RB Chris Thompson—There is no doubt that the coaches are intrigued by his speed. They are also wary of his history of problems with staying on the field, stretching back to his days at Florida State. If he stays healthy he will get plenty of chances to show he can be a home run threat. For all the talk of Matt Jones serving as the third-down back Thompson is much more the prototype for that role. He could be all or nothing. If he stays healthy, he should have an impact. If not, the team will gladly keep Silas Redd and Thompson’s future would be in doubt.

TE Jordan Reed—He already broke out once, with 45 receptions for 499 yards in nine games as a rookie. Than the injuries hit and he has been struggling to stay on the field and be productive when he is in the lineup. If he learns how to stay healthy—and that is something that can be learned—he become a go-to weapon in the Redskins offense. As with Thompson, it’s all about staying on the field.


—It’s been 207 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 52 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 7; Preseason opener @ Browns 21; final cuts 44

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In case you missed it

  1. colorofmyskinz - Jul 23, 2015 at 6:32 AM

    I agree that these are the ones that NEED a breakout year, but the likelyhood of COULD have a breakout year is flimsy for most listed here.

    Baker – 25% chance
    Lauvao – 65% chance
    Amerson – 80% chance
    Thompson – 20% chance due to injuries
    Reed – 20% chance due to injuries

    Amerson is the best shot. Baker will look like a true second or third string surrounded by the talent in front of him. Lauvao will be tested now that the right side is stronger and Teams may come at him and whoever might be at LT if Williams is plagued with that ankle. Thompson has been a hopeful dream just like Reed. Very little chance of those 2 showing us hardy seasons.

    My money is on Amerson. If Williams ankle ok, then Lauvao has a better shot. The rest I have little confidence in and it is my belief we will see their last year in Washington this year.

    • ET - Jul 23, 2015 at 9:04 AM

      I agree with much of your reasoning—especially regarding the ever-fragile Thompson and Reed, who’ve been perpetually frustrating. But I think Baker and Hatcher will benefit enormously from the influx of DL talent. Colfield and Bowen were expensive non-entities last year. The entire DL will benefit from the ability to rotate in and out more frequently. And Baker won’t always be stuck at NT.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 23, 2015 at 11:40 AM

      I have serious doubts with Lauvao at 65%. It wasn’t like he was thriving in Cleveland under the power blocking scheme. I still recall many questioning why we signed this guy for so much because he wasn’t well regarded under his past role in Cleveland.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 23, 2015 at 11:45 AM

        Baker – 50% chance (Baker is athletic and has explosion off the line that will work well in a one gap 3-4)
        Lauvao – 15% chance (I don’t think he ever had the ability to be a true starter in this game. He came form a poor team that wasn’t exception on Oline with the exception of one guy and he wasn’t that guy.)
        Amerson – 70% chance (He gets a fresh start with new coaches and has all the talent to be a good DB in this league)
        Thompson – 30% chance due to injuries (A crowded backfield leaves him few opportunities and a severe injury history leaves him with even less.) I love his style though (Tiki Barber like ability).
        Reed – 70% chance due to injuries (Most of his injuries haven’t been severe so we just need consistent health and he can be a star.

  2. sidepull - Jul 23, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    Lauvao was nothing special in Cleveland. Callahan will get the most out of him if there is anything to get.
    Bake is going to have a good year.
    Amerson has to be better. He was horrible last year. He cannot be that bad again. Can he?
    Agree w comment above. Neither Thompson nor Reed stays on the field due to injuries.

    I think Slias Redd and Ryan Grant are on the map this year.

    • hk2000 - Jul 23, 2015 at 2:19 PM

      Lauvao does not know zone blocking, never played it. and we just threw him in there w/o any coaching (teaching). We can blame the O line players all we want and mostly rightfully so, but the line coach had something to do with it as well. Most of the fans here don’t understand what coaching is supposed to be and just look to the players for all the blame, but to coach is to teach, and even though those players may not be geniuses, they are all teachable if you got the right person in charge of teaching them whatever concept he wants to run, unfortunately all of our coaches up until now (including Foerster)have been average at best as far as scheming and play calling but horrible as teachers.

  3. mr.moneylover - Jul 23, 2015 at 7:50 AM

    Two of these guys had major health problems and they both cant get on the field to show what they can do I think both deserve to be cut why not replace chris Thompson and jordan reeed with players who got talent and that can actually get on the field…they didn’t switch and put jordan reed at QB for no reason in college he couldn’t stay healthy then and he cant stay healthy now he was suppose to have a breakout season last year but instead he was keeping the bench warm on the sideline…I want guys on this team that can contribute not rehab nagging injuries every year that keep them out a whole year

    • shermanp79 - Jul 23, 2015 at 11:38 AM

      If he can’t stay healthy as TE/WR, how would he ever at QB? When they get nailed that many times a game. He wasn’t a blocker in College either so his contact was less than a true TE. I believe he was a QB out of HS. Not likely you take a HS TE and make him a College QB.

  4. mr.moneylover - Jul 23, 2015 at 7:53 AM

    Ill say cut chris Thompson and jordan reed and replace them them players who can play

    • colorofmyskinz - Jul 23, 2015 at 8:11 AM

      Totally agree.

    • sidepull - Jul 23, 2015 at 8:21 AM

      Preach. Cut em and move on.

    • kenlinkins - Jul 23, 2015 at 10:43 AM

      That’s is what Training Camp is for, trying to figure out if many of the guys listed here are more than “One Trick Ponies” (which IMO the Redskins roster has been full of over the pass few years).

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 23, 2015 at 12:05 PM

      Cut both what like now? I’m not sure how that is sound advice. This is most likely Chris Thompson’s last attempt anyway. So what happens is both have very good camps and preseasons with no setbacks? Are you willing to stick with this suggestion then?

    • ceetown22 - Jul 23, 2015 at 12:06 PM

      I disagree about Jordan Reed – he is an intriguing talent and I think sticking with him another year or two is not a terrible idea.

      • ET - Jul 23, 2015 at 12:18 PM

        Reed has fantastic talent, but fans and coaches alike are frustrated by his fragility. If he can manage to stay injury free or even mostly injury free, he can light up opposing defenses. Unfortunately, but Reed and Thompson fall into “believe it when you see it” category.

    • jonevans511 - Jul 23, 2015 at 2:19 PM

      I like where your head’s at money, but it just doesn’t make sense right now when you factor in what the Skins are paying those two…. If we cut them now or any time when the other options in FA are slim, are we really helping ourselves? Sure it would free up roster spots for 2 guys, but would the 2 guys we bring in make an impact? Or do we cross our fingers and hope for the best with Thompson and Reed, and if they continue to get hurt then cut bait after next year? I’m leaning towards the latter, but I will say this- Reed can be a game changer if he stays healthy, and Thompson could provide us with the speed we need in the backfield. You can’t run the risk of missing out on that kind of talent, even if they get hurt. It’s a gamble I feel like we have to take.

    • mr.moneylover - Jul 23, 2015 at 5:15 PM

      The third RB wont play that much anyway…jordan reed is basically a backup now to niles paul and they like this other undrafted TE out of BYU name Devin M so jordan reed can actually be on the hot seat if he cant stay healthy during training camp and after training camp….and trey Williams is more then capable of taking chris Thompson spot so its not a big deal if we cut bait with these two dead weight players who cant help the squad…jay gruden trust jordan reed last year gave him a big part of the offense then what happen Jordan reed goes down on the first play sad part is he didnt get gang tackle he got tackle by a single player what look like a simple wrap up tackle thats how soft jordan reed is the Texans sideline look down at jordan reed like damn he got hurt off that tackle from a guy who look smaller then you…those guys must go we will be ok without them trust me

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 24, 2015 at 8:32 AM

        I wish could agree with you that we have competent replacements but I don’t see that being the case. Niles Paul is not close to the same level as Jordan Reed as a passing threat when both are on the field. No running back we have can match the speed of Thompson. Obviously Thompson has shown enough to impress both coaching staffs since he was drafted. If Trey was all that then I think Thompson would have been gone by now. Also considering both players are still young and neither are costing the team much in salary or cap space, there is little incentive not to see if both can work out of their injuries woes and become big threat additions to the offense.

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 24, 2015 at 1:42 AM

      With what players? You have to have replacements who are just as good or better in order to do that. These guys show enough upside that it’s worth holding on to them to see if they can shake the injury bug. It is possible, as Rich said in the article, for a player who has had multiple injury problems to learn how to stay healthy. Sometimes it’s changing the way they train/exercise or play; sometimes they needed a little more time to grow/for their bodies to mature; and sometimes guys just have awful random bad luck that eventually goes away. But they’re worth holding on to in order to find out if they can figure out how to stay healthy. Unless you truly have another option that is just as good or better waiting, and we don’t. Maybe we do as far as RBs are concerned, and I’m sure the staff will take that into consideration when they’re making the cuts. However, when healthy, Reed has the potential to be one of the top receiving TEs in the league. There aren’t too many teams that have TEs like that, it’s a premium position at the moment. You don’t just let that walk out the door without making sure it’s the right choice first. Especially when the guy is still under a rookie contract. So please, relax with this nonsense.

  5. babyteal1 - Jul 23, 2015 at 7:54 AM

    Spencer Long and Ryan Grant…enough said!!

  6. weneedlinemen42 - Jul 23, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    Every young, healthy player stands a chance of improving but I don’t have much hope for Shawn Lauvao.

    Sure, maybe it was just coaching, and maybe he just needed to be taught by Bill Callahan, but his time with Browns wasn’t good.

    As far as I could tell, he had a moderately promising rookie season, but never progressed leaving the majority of Cleveland observers identifying him as the weakest link in their line.

    For me, this is what made signing him to the free agent contract that Allen gave him made absolutely no sense. It took just a cursory review of Cleveland fan sites to find an avalanche of criticism for Lauvao. Much of it documented in exquisite detail by a fan base that knows football.

    • sidepull - Jul 23, 2015 at 8:24 AM

      Yup that was a bad move and Allen was the culprit. Nobody in Cleveland wanted that guy. They were relieved he left. It was a real head scratcher that is for sure.

    • ET - Jul 23, 2015 at 9:10 AM

      While I’m not excited about Lauvao by any means, I do believe he’ll improve under Callahan’s watch.

      Was he a puzzling, overpriced signing? Yes.

      But we need him for at least this season while the younger prospects get some seasoning.

    • kenlinkins - Jul 23, 2015 at 10:09 AM

      Cleveland Browns fans were shocked to see the Redskins deal with Lauvao. They still point to this deal as proof that the Browns management is not the worst in the NFL.

  7. gonavybeatarmy - Jul 23, 2015 at 8:25 AM

    If the Skins could get a full productive season from 2 or 3 of these players they may exceed very low expectations.

    I’d also add Trent Murphy as a candidate that could have a breakout season in 2015. Kerrigan will continue to perform at a high level and OCs will game plan even more around him, which will open opportunities on the opposite side. The offseason additions on the DL will also create matchup challenges, and the CB upgrade will even have a trickle down effect.

    Murphy often played like a rookie last season, but he’s very strong, intelligent and played for an excellent coach in David Shaw at Stanford. He also suffered an injury in December. Despite not having a great first step, Murphy is a text book tackler. Turnover at DC will create some issues initially but the defense will still play the 3-4. And although Preston Smith shoukd ultimately be a strong contributor, there will be a learning process for him.

  8. troylok - Jul 23, 2015 at 8:54 AM

    I think the middle linebackers will have some larger numbers this year. With Barry’s attacking defensive line, teams will try to take advantage of that aggressiveness by running the ball up the middle. The middle linebackers will have to make the play in this case. I think they will and their numbers will stand out.

    I have seen nothing to make me think that the players that have been injury prone aren’t going to continue to be injury prone, so Reed and Thompson are voted off breakout island.

    Lauvao might really improve in the run blocking category, but I am not so sure about pass blocking. It’s kind of hard to compensate for “concrete feet”.

    I agree about Amerson and Baker. Both could win back starting jobs, and even if they don’t, they will be a big part of the defense.

    Like some of the other readers, I am a fan of Murphy having a breakout year. He’s a smart, but incredibly gifted physically. I seem him as not ringing up the sack totals, but breaking up plays and making life difficult for any offense that challenges his side of the field.

  9. timwillhidetimwillhide - Jul 23, 2015 at 8:56 AM

    Everyone hating on LG Shawn Lauvao. He was Credited for only 4 of the 41 sacks the Oline gave up last year

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 24, 2015 at 8:46 AM

      That’s a good point Tim but try and find the number of pressures allowed on the QB. That statistic is more impactful than just sacks given up. However, I think the area where Lauvao was particularly weak last year was run blocking. Also, considering that Lauvao is the 17th highest paid guard while being ranked 37th is not a good indicator that he is worth the 4 plus million a year he is receiving. The prior year he was ranked the 71st guard out of 80 in the NFL, so maybe he is improving. Based on what i witness last season, I didn’t see Lauvao providing many wholes for AM. The team was much more effective on the left side when Lich was playing along side Trent Williams. I just feel he is not worth the contract he was given when he arrived and he seems to have solidify feeling that since.

  10. timwillhidetimwillhide - Jul 23, 2015 at 10:03 AM

    I think Paea, Robinson , Murphy, and Paul are gonna have a Breakout season. RG3, Morris, and Garcon are gonna have a resurgence.

    • kenlinkins - Jul 23, 2015 at 10:47 AM

      If you are correct this will be a fun season to watch as a Redskins fan.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 23, 2015 at 12:13 PM

        I hope you’re right since I have overpriced club seats tickets invested on a fun season.

        • timwillhidetimwillhide - Jul 23, 2015 at 12:58 PM

          I have season tickets and I have a good time at the stadium regardless

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 23, 2015 at 3:56 PM

          I”m sure having a good time is not coming from what you’ve seen on the field lately. I’m just want to see the fruits of my labor show up in games as well like what we saw 2012.

  11. wvredskins - Jul 23, 2015 at 3:36 PM

    I dont know what it is but there is something about the Trey Williams that I am intrigued about. He seems to be a bigger, durable Chris Thompson. He didnt get alot of touches in college due to the offense but when he got the ball in space he was impressive. The Bad thing is theres Thompson and Redd ahead of him on the depth chart with Jones and Morris being for sure spots. He is going to have to impress with limited work and must really shine in Preseason games cause only 1 of the 3 are going to make the roster imo.

    • ET - Jul 23, 2015 at 4:38 PM

      I like Trey Williams, too, but he’s probably headed to the practice until Thompson inevitably gets injured … Silas is a good back, but he’s in direct competition only because of the finite number of backfield spots.

  12. obxskins - Jul 24, 2015 at 10:27 AM

    Good question and statement..good article Rich..agree mostly..I do believe Ryan Grant is ready if he can get some reps..the other guy to me is K.Robinson….just believe he is ready is bust out!! Thanks again for a good read!! Archives

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