- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Redskins fans weren’t surprised this week when Adrian Peterson was the franchise’s only player to be named to the NFL’s All-Decade team. They also understood that it was Peterson’s work with the Minnesota Vikings — not with the Burgundy and Gold — that earned him the honor.

The 2010s, after all, were more about disappointment than accomplishment for a franchise that went 62-97-1 in that span.

But there were highpoints — two trips to the playoffs — and there were stars who shined, however briefly. Sometimes, brightly enough that the rest of league took note.

Focusing on the dysfunction of the last decade can dampen appreciation for the accomplishments of Redskins who persevered, despite the mess. Here’s our take on what an All-Decade Redskins team looks like.

A quarterback carousel: There weren’t many “remember-where-you-were” moments for the Redskins last decade, but Robert Griffin III was responsible for a big chunk of those, especially during his electric debut in 2012.

The then-rookie sensation lit up the New Orleans Saints, and for the rest of the year, he was a must-see anytime he was on the field.

For the All-Decade team, though, go with consistency. That, for the most part, is what the Redskins had with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Contract drama aside, Cousins provided stability at a position that saw names like Rex Grossman, John Beck, Colt McCoy and Case Keenum suit up for Washington. Cousins, too, was better than the high-profile names — Donovan McNabb, Alex Smith — that were sold as solutions.

Only five times in franchise history has a Redskins quarterback thrown for more than 4,000 yards in a season. Cousins represents three of those years.

Apologies to AD: Peterson has had a respectable two years in Washington, but it doesn’t match the production of Alfred Morris, whose 1,613 yards in 2012 ranked second in the league — ironically, trailing Peterson.

But perhaps the greatest indication of Morris’ skill was this: Coach Mike Shanahan didn’t replace him the next year. In Denver, Shanahan was famous for churning through running backs and having a different starter practically every season — frustrating fantasy football players in the process. Morris started every game over his first four seasons with the Redskins.

A solid pass-catching group: If you caught 1,000 yards in a season for the Redskins, congratulations you made the list. Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Santana Moss weren’t on a level with Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Brown or Julio Jones — the four receivers to make the NFL’s team — but the trio provided an explosive element to Washington’s offense when they were healthy.

Promise lost: Nothing quite represented the Redskins’ hope-turned-sorrow decade than tight end Jordan Reed.

Griffin may be the franchise’s ultimate “What if?,” but his chapter in Redskins’ history concluded much quicker than the dragged-out decline of Reed.

In Reed, Washington looked like it had the next Rob Gronkowski or Tony Gonzalez on its hands — an athletic freak whose 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame fit the profile of how football players had physically evolved.

But Reed couldn’t stay healthy.

His preseason concussion in 2019, the seventh documented brain injury for Reed dating back to college, sidelined him for the entire season.

Still, Reed’s injury history overshadows just how dominant the tight end could be.

Former coach Jay Gruden always blossomed when discussing the mismatches Reed could create for an offense. On the field, Reed punished smaller defensive backs and blew by slower linebackers.

Merging of the two eras: The Redskins actually had respectable offensive lines for most of the decade, aside from an atrocious 2014. The choices, too, were pretty clear: Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses.

The line blends the Shanahan and Gruden eras, with Williams being the anchor that tied them together.

If there was a “Player of the Decade” for the Redskins, it would arguably be Williams, the dominant left tackle who made the Pro Bowl seven years from 2012 to 2018.

That streak was snapped, of course, when Williams missed all of last season due to a medical and contract dispute with the Redskins. On Tuesday, Redskins coach Ron Rivera said the team was still working to find a trade partner for the 31-year-old.

Defensive line promise wins out: It was telling for the Redskins’ defensive line that the players who made this list primarily emerged in recent years. Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne were the Redskins’ back-to-back first-rounders in 2017 and 2018, while defensive end Matt Ioannidis was a late-round steal in 2016.

The trio has been the most productive group of interior linemen the Redskins had all decade.

Before that, the defensive line ranged from serviceable veterans (Ricky Jean Francois, Chris Baker) to misses in free agency (Albert Haynesworth, Stacy McGee, Terrell McClain).

Familiar faces at linebacker: Let’s start on the outside with an obvious lock. Ryan Kerrigan became the face of the Redskins’ defense, an outstanding pass-rusher with often little help around him.

On the opposite of Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo was the Redskins’ other notable edge-rusher, though injuries and inconsistency limited his production.

Orakpo beat out Preston Smith for that spot because not only did he have more sacks (29 to 24½), but his GEICO commercial alone is a reason worthy enough to be on this team. (“You are Brian Orakpo, All-Pro linebacker! Surely you can do better than this.”)

On the inside, London Fletcher was also a no-brainer — and he deserves all the accolades after the Redskins famously misspelled his name on the video screen at FedEx Field last season when inducting him to their Ring of Fame.

The other spot is trickier to find, but Perry Riley gets the nod for his back-to-back seasons of having at least 100 tackles in 2012 and 2013.

Revolving door at safety: We know Landon Collins has played only 15 games in a Redskins uniform and D.J. Swearinger got cut for publicly roasting Greg Manusky’s play-calling.

But don’t try to argue Brandon Merriweather — and his $300,000-worth of career fines — or LaRon Landry were better choices. Or Montae Nicholson, Su’a Cravens, DeShazor Everett, David Bruton, Duke Ihenacho or the parade of other safeties who have crashed and burned in Washington.

The Redskins couldn’t find a long-term solution at safety over the last decade — and so many of their defensive breakdowns resulted from it.

Under Gruden alone, the Redskins started 18 different players at those two spots. That number jumps to 21 if you add the games under former interim coach Bill Callahan.

Big names at cornerback: DeAngelo Hall began the decade with a six-interception season, four of which came off of former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

When Hall retired in 2018, he joked that if he could have faced Cutler for every game of his career, he’d be in the Hall of Fame. Hall will likely fall short of the — pardon the pun — Hall, but he was a respectable cornerback for Washington. He justified the six-year, $54 million deal the Redskins gave him in 2009.

Josh Norman, meanwhile, didn’t live up to the expectations of the five-year, $75 million contract he inked in 2016, but by this point, his play with the Redskins might have become overlooked. For the first three years of his deal, Norman was graded as an above-average cornerback by Pro Football Focus.

The problem, of course, was that the Redskins paid him to be a superstar.

Special specialists: Dustin Hopkins, Nick Sundberg and Tress Way are the lock-iest of locks. Perhaps Kai Forbath could have been penciled in at kicker, but he’s lacked Hopkins’ longevity.

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