Five Redskins who could lose playing time or a depth chart spot to a 2020 rookie

Peter Hailey
NBC Sports Washington

To most around the NFL, including coaching staffs, front offices and fans, a rookie class represents new possibilities.

But to a select group of players on every roster, those first-year pros will act as threats to their playing time and spots on the depth chart.

Now, does Ron Rivera like it that way? Of course. Washington's new head coach would start every morning with a cup of competition instead of coffee if he could.

Some of the current players, on the other hand, probably aren't as thrilled about where they stand after the draft compared to where they were before. 

With that in mind, here's a list of five Redskins in particular who'll have to battle a rookie for snaps or a place in the lineup when football picks up again.

Cornelius Lucas

Will battle with: Saahdiq Charles

While some may look at Charles' counterpart as Geron Christian, the way Rivera and Kyle Smith have talked up the LSU tackle suggests Charles is already above Christian in their minds and could challenge Lucas to start.

The funky offseason structure may give Lucas the upper hand initially - his 53 games of experience will be something he and the coaches can fall back on if camp and exhibition reps are limited - but Charles is regarded as a Day 2 talent who fell to Day 3 for non-football reasons. If he is able to get off to a fast start mentally, he could overtake Lucas rather quickly.

Kelvin Harmon

Will battle with: Antonio Gandy-Golden

Harmon came on late in 2019 when Dwayne Haskins became the starter, catching passes more consistently in addition to the contributions he had been making all year long as a blocker. But with Gandy-Golden in town, he's not the only receiver with imposing size or physicality anymore.

Harmon and Haskins have chemistry that Gandy-Golden and Haskins won't early on, but the way the Liberty product is able to regularly haul in jump balls could also make him a favorite of No. 7. Remember, too, that Harmon is a guy the previous regime brought in, so it's unclear what Rivera and Scott Turner make of his skills.


Steven Sims

Will battle with: Antonio Gibson

Gibson is a difficult guy to nail down for this exercise. He's going to begin his NFL career as a running back, so pairing him up with anyone in the backfield would be more than fair.

Running back, however, is still so muddled. In fact, it was muddled before Gibson was drafted in the third round. So, because there's still so much to figure out there, Sims feels like the more appropriate choice in early May. 

In Sims, the Redskins had an offensive player in 2019 who wasn't the most technically sound or reliable option, but he was a dangerous one if the offense could scheme up ways to get him the ball. Well, in 2020, the team will likely have that in Gibson as well. 

Therefore, while Sims is going to be mostly operating out of the slot and Gibson will mostly be operating from behind the line, the former still needs to be worried about the latter. The tricky handoffs and jet sweeps and screen passes Sims starred on last season could be what Gibson stars on this season. They could also overlap when it comes to the returner jobs on special teams.

Ross Pierschbacher 

Will battle with: Keith Ismael

If running back is muddled, then the interior offensive line is MUDDLED. Chase Roullier, Wes Martin, Wes Schweitzer, Jeremy Vujnovich, Pierschbacher and Ismael all can play multiple positions up front, which could lead to some very interesting decisions in the future.

Right now, though, Pierschbacher appears to be the one who'll most immediately feel heat from Ismael, the fifth rounder out of San Diego State. They're both centers with guard experience, but Pierschbacher didn't play at all as a rookie and isn't a Rivera selection, while Ismael obviously is. 

Interior O-line competitions aren't exactly glamorous, but there's going to be one on the Redskins, and Pierschbacher will need to improve to emerge from it with a job.

Ryan Kerrigan

Will battle(?) with: Chase Young

There's a question mark there because it's not like Young and Kerrigan are going to be scrapping in the summer and early fall for playing time, with the loser being relegated to the bench. Both of these edge rushers will factor into the defense in 2020 in major ways.

That said, Kerrigan ultimately will see the field less because of Young (and Montez Sweat). He's long been Washington's top sack artist, but at 31 and coming off of his first ever injuries, Kerrigan may now be Jack Del Rio's third-best QB harasser. After being asked to play so much for so long, expect him to be used more situationally.

By the way, that won't necessarily be a bad thing. While the four bolded names above would be negatively impacted by the rookies in each scenario, Kerrigan could very much benefit from Young's arrival. The veteran's snap count will go down, but he should be fresher for the ones he does get.


Five Redskins who could lose playing time or a depth chart spot to a 2020 rookie originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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