Monday, December 21, 2009

Ten Of The Best Redskins This Decade

Chris Cooley, Tight End, 2004 to present

Chris was drafted in the third round of the 2004 draft by the Redskins and soon made an impact with the team. He started in nine of the 16 games he played as a rookie, catching 37 balls for six touchdowns.

Now firmly entrenched as the starting tight end, Cooley caught 128 passes and scored 13 times over the next two years. Not only had he quickly become the Redskins main weapon in the passing game, he was a fan favorite and an elite player in the NFL.

He made his first Pro Bowl in 2007 after scoring a career best eight times on 66 catches, and repeated that honor the next year after grabbing a career best 83 balls. After catching 29 passes in the 2009 season, he broke his ankle in the seventh game and was placed on injured reserve.

As things stand now, Cooley is just 81 receptions away from passing Redskins legend Jerry Smith as the all-time receptions leader by a tight end in team history. His 83 receptions in 2008 is the most by any tight end in team history, and ranks sixth overall by any Redskin ever. He is the only tight end in NFL history to have at least six touchdowns in each of his first four seasons.

But it isn't just what "Captain Chaos" does on the field that has him so beloved by Redskins Nation, it is what he does off the field as well. His work with children, as well as feeding the poor, has had him nominated as NFL Man of the Year. His countless charitable acts also includes an interactive blog that he runs to communicate with fans. A complex character of many interests, many fans hope Cooley finishes his career as a Redskin because he has already attained a lofty status only held by a few in the teams long history.

Chris Samuels, Offensive Tackle, 2000 to present

Chris was the second player drafted in the first round in 2000 by the Redskins. He was put into the starting line up at left tackle immediately, and held that job for the rest of his career.

He made the Pro Bowl in his second and third seasons, then returned in his sixth year. He then would make the Pro Bowl until the 2008 season, a four year run. He started in all 141 games he played in the NFL, and was very reliable week to week. He missed just eight games in his career before this year.

During the fifth game on the 2009, Samuels crumbled to the turf virtually untouched on a pass play. He was carted off the field, and it was found he had a narrowing of the spinal column which is termed a chronic spinal condition. Though he has yet to announce his retirement, most experts feel he has played his last game.

For the ten years he played for the Redskins, there was perhaps none better in the teams 78 years of existence. His six Pro Bowl appearances are the most by any offensive lineman in team history, and is the fifth most by and Redskins player ever.

Chris Samuels will always be remembered for being a well rounded player who always got the job done.

Clinton Portis, Running Back, 2004 to present

Clinton was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 2002 draft. Though he did not earn the starting job until the fourth game of his rookie season, he exploded onto the NFL scene.

He gained 1,508 yards and scored a career high 17 touchdowns, ultimately being named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. He scored five touchdowns in one game, a feat that has not been matched since in the NFL.

Averaging 5.5 yards per carry as a rookie, he matched that again the next year. This is an NFL record. He also ran for a career best 1,591 yards that year, and scored 14 times despite missing three games.

The Redskins then made a blockbuster trade to acquire Portis. They traded Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey and a second round draft choice for him. That picked turned out to be running back Tatum Bell, who ran for over 1,000 yards one season for Denver.

Portis became the definition of a workhorse for the Redskins. In his four full years with the team, he never carried the ball less than 325 times. He never ran for less than 1,262 yards in those four years either. He has, however, been injured to where he played in just eight games in both the 2006 and 2009 seasons.

The 2009 season saw him reach the end zone a career low two times. He had averaged just under nine touchdowns in the five previous years. Portis is also considered valuable off the field to the team. He often dresses up in costumes and acts in personalities he calls his alter egos. His ability to joke has often kept his fellow Redskins loose and happy.

He suffered a concussion against the Atlanta Falcons this year, causing him to lose consciousness. The effects were so severe that he was shut down for the year, and has people questioning his football future. Portis has not retired, and recently said he plans on playing again. Whether it will be in a Redskins uniform remains to be seen.

Sean Taylor, Safety, 2004 - 2007

Sean was the Redskins first round draft pick in the 2004 draft. He quickly earned the starting job at free safety, and had four interceptions for 85 yards, a sack, and a career best 15 passes defended.

He had two interceptions and the last sack of his career the next year, but most fans will remember what he did in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had scooped up a fumble in the first quarter and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown, which ended up providing the winning margin. Later in the game, he spit in the face of an opposing player and was ejected.

His 2006 season saw him pile up a career best 114 tackles, yet also have a career low one interception. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Week in week 12 after leading the Redskins to a win over the Carolina Panthers.

One of his biggest moments that year was blocking a game winning field goal attempt by the arch rival Dallas Cowboys late in the fourth quarter. Taylor grabbed the ball, but was tackled via a facemask. The ensuing 15 yards from the penaly allowed Washington's Nick Novak to kick a game winning 47 yard field goal. Sean was named to the Pro Bowl that year, and would play in the only Pro Bowl game of his career.

His 2007 season started off in fine fashion. He had reported to camp in perhaps the best shape of his life and announced the birth of his child had made him a changed man. His famous quote, "You play a kid's game for a king's ransom. And if you don't take it serious enough, eventually one day you're going to say, 'Oh, I could have done this, I could have done that.', still is remembered by many to this day as an example of his evolution as a man.

He picked off a career best five interceptions in just nine games, which led the NFL at the time. He then was injured, and missed two games. During this time, Taylor went home to spend time with his child. One of those nights saw intruders break into his home as he slept. Hearing noise in the other room, Taylor went to investigate. An intruder shot him in the leg, which caused him to bleed to death at the age of 24 years old.

The NFL named him to his second Pro Bowl honor as the season ended. He is the only player in NFL history to be given this honor posthumously.

His team was struggling along at a 5-6 record at the time of his death, then rallied to dedicate the season in his honor. Washington finished the year 9-7, and made the playoffs. They clinched the berth by beating the Cowboys by 21 points, which happened to be Taylor's jersey number.

Since he passed away, the Redskins have established a trust fund to benefit his child. Chris Cooley, Ethan Albright, and Chris Samuels were named to the Pro Bowl the year he died, and all wore Taylor's jersey number in his honor.

Redskins fans remember Sean Taylor as one of the hardest hitting players in the league during his career. He was a young man who was just beginning to scratch the surface of his unlimited potential, but his impact in such a short time will never be forgotten.

Joe Bugel, Coach, 2004 to present

The "Boss Hog" came back to the Redskins in 2004, off a a three year retirement, after leaving them after 1989 to be a head coach for the Phoenix Cardinals. Most football followers know of the great jobs he did with the offensive lines of the Redskins, Houston Oilers, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, and San Diego Chargers in the past.

He has picked up right where he left off, though his guys this decade have had problems staying healthy. The 2009 season hasn't been much different, yet perhaps is encountering the worst case of injuries to the unit the team has seen in decades.

"Buges" has done a spectacular job this year, despite having to shuffle any warm body he can find week to week, even if the Redskins have lost more games than they won. He is certainly the best coach the team has on their staff, and once again has shown why he is one of the best offensive line coaches in NFL history.

Jon Jansen, Offensive Tackle, 1999 - 2008

Jon was drafted in the second round of the 1999 draft by the Redskins. He was named a starter at right tackle immediately, and held that position for the next seven years, a span of 82 straight games, he got on the field for Washington.

He missed the entire 2004 season due to injury, then another game in 2006, and was only able to play one game in 2007. He then headed into the next year as a reserve, but ended up starting 11 of the 14 games he appeared in.

Washington and Jansen parted ways after the 2008 season, and he signed a contact with the Detroit Lions to be a reserve. Though he has appeared in just eight games so far, he has started in two of them.

Redskins fans remember Jon Jansen for being dependable and excellent. He was called "The Rock" by his teammates because of his stabilizing presence.. Though he never was named to the Pro Bowl, he was generally considered one of the best right tackles in the game for several years.

LaVar Arrington, Linebacker, 2000 - 2005

LaVar was the Redskins first pick in the 2000 draft, and earned a starting job after the fifth game of the year. He had four sacks and returned the only kickoff of his career for 39 yards.

Despite missing two games the following season, he had the only three interceptions of his career. Gaining 120 yards overall, he returned one 67 yards for a touchdown and had a career best 99 tackles. He was named to the Pro Bowl.

Washington needed help on their pass rush, so they changed Arrington's role. Using him as a defensive end on third downs, he racked up a career high 11 sacks and scored off a fumble recovery. He was named to the Pro Bowl again.

The 2003 season saw him return to a more traditional approach as a linebacker. While he had six sacks, he also had a career high 11 passes defended and a career high six forced fumbles. It was also the final year he would make the Pro Bowl.

Washington signed Arrington to a contact worth $68 million over eight years before the 2004 season, but it was soon found out Arrington's lawyer had failed to properly look over the final revision of the contact. It would end up costing $6.5 million in bonus money. To compund matters worse, Arrington was injured much of the season and started in two of the four games he played.

With the impending lawsuits in court, he was playing as if he was distracted. He was benched temporarily for playing outside of the teams defensive scheme, starting in eight of the 12 games he appeared in. It caused a rift in the locker room, so he paid the Redskins $4 million to buy his release from the team.

The New York Giants quickly signed him to a seven year contract worth $49 million. He appeared in six games, getting a sack and a safety. He then blew out his knee, was placed on injured reserve, and subsequently released.

Though he has not officially retired as a player, his career may be over. He suffered major injuries from a motorcycle accident in the summer of 2007, yet has hinted an attempted comeback over the last few years. In the mean time, he has opened a restaurant, a sports management firm, and hosts a radio and television show.

Many Redskins fans recall LaVar Arrington as an exceptional athlete who hit very hard. He is remembered as the man who ended Dallas Cowboys Hall Of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman's playing career in front of a packed Texas stadium. Many feel that Arrington's hit has caused Aikman severe and permanent brain damage, which can be seen and heard weekly on the television broadcasts he participates in.

Champ Bailey, Cornerback, 1999 - 2003

Champ was the Redskins first round draft pick in 1999, and he was put to use day one. Starting every game in his career with Washington, he also was used as a wide receiver, running back, and return specialist.

He was a shut down cornerback the moment he stepped onto an NFL gridiron. His rookie year saw him intercept five balls, which included a 59 yard return for a touchdown. He also had a sack, something he only has done one again in the 2008 season.

Bailey made his first Pro Bowl in 2000, after having five interceptions, three receptions for 78 yard, one punt return for 65 yards, and one rush for a seven yard touchdown. He would begin a string of Pro Bowl appearances that would last until the 2007 season.

His 2002 season has been one of the best of his career. He defended a career best 24 passes, returned the only kickoff of his career for 17 yards,and returned the last 24 punts of his career for 238 yards. It would be his last in a Redskins uniform.

He had just finished a contract that paid him under $2 million a season, so he wanted a pay raise. He and the Redskins could not agree to terms, so he was traded to the Denver Broncos for running back Clinton Portis. Denver quickly signed Bailey to a seven year contract for $63 million. Washington then signed Portis to an eight year contract worth $50.5 million.

What has transpired for Bailey since has been four Pro Bowl years that saw him named First Team All-Pro three times. He led the NFL with 10 interceptions for 162 yards in 2006, and with two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the 2005 season. He also set an NFL record for a non-scoring play. He intercepted a pass by New England's Tom Brady, and returned it 100 yards before being stopped. It set up the Broncos game winning touchdown, and ended the Patriots quest for a three-peat as NFL Champion.

Bailey became so feared that teams virtually stopped throwing in his direction. He also did not allow an opposing receiver to score on him in the 2006 season. To this day, his is one of the first names mentioned when the NFL elite cornerbacks are mentioned. The fact he has just five interceptions since 2007 shows how much teams avoid him.

Though the team has gotten wonderful years from Portis, Champ Bailey has left many Redskins fans wondering what could have happened if the team had just paid him his worth. Lock down cornerbacks are a rare species in the NFL. He learned the game from Hall Of Fame cornerbacks Darrell Green and Deion Sanders with Washington, and should one day be learning his way around Canton from them as well.

Ethan Albright, Long Snapper, 2001 to present

Ethan joined the Miami Dolphins in 1995 as an undrafted free agent rookie. He lasted ten games with the team before being cut and picked up by the Green Bay Packers as a member of their practice squad.

He joined the Buffalo Bills the nest year, staying with them for five years, and quickly established himself as one of the best long snappers in the game. The Redskins then signed him as a free agent before the 2001 season.

He remains a member of the team to this day, and is still considered one of the very best in the NFL at what he does. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2007. Though he plays a position the casual fan only notices when an error occurs, "Red Snapper" is held in high regard by the team. He has been re-signed each time his contract expires before he becomes a free agent for a reason.

Marcus Washington, Outside Linebacker, 2004 - 2008

Marcus was drafted in the second round of the 2000 draft by the Indianapolis Colts. He stayed with the Colts for four seasons before joining the Redskins as a free agent for the 2004 season.

He had the best year of his career that season, getting a career high 87 tackles and being named to his only Pro Bowl. The next two years saw him defend a career best 8 balls, as well as get ten sacks, despite missing two games. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate in both seasons.. After missing ten games over the following two years, the Redskins cut him at the conclusion of the 2008 season.

Fans remember Marcus Washington as being a complete linebacker who was equally adept at rushing the passer and defending the pass.


David Funk said...

That's a very good list in an otherwise not so good decade for the Redskins. I can't really think of anyone else that should be included.

leslie said...

The NFL Draft

is creating a partnership with researchers at Boston University who are studying the long-term effects of brain injuries on players, the Associated Press reported.
“It’s huge that the NFL Draft
actively gets behind this research,” Robert Cantu, the co-director of the school’s research program, told the AP. “It forwards the research. It allows players to realize the NFL Draft is concerned about the possibility that they could have this problem and that the NFL Draft is doing everything it can to find out about the risks and the preventive strategies that can be implemented.”