RICHMOND, Va. -- The Washington Redskins once more drafted a rookie they believed would make an immediate impact. Once more, that rookie suffered a major injury.
The hard part for the Redskins: That line could have been written several times in the past seven years.
This time it refers to running back Derrius Guice, who tore his ACL in the preseason opener. But there are others from the recent past, and the rookie injuries are among the reasons Washington hasn’t done much damage in the playoffs in a long time.
Since 2011, the Redskins have drafted 13 players in the first or second round. Of those, seven have suffered a major injury and missed most, if not all, of a season. Guice is the second rookie during this time to miss an entire season; two others have missed at least 11 games their first year. Since 2016, three of their six picks in these rounds have missed at least 11 games, and a fourth was absent his entire second season.
DE Jarvis Jenkins (second round, 2011): He was likely going to start along the defensive line as a rookie, but he tore his ACL in the summer and was lost for the season. It’s hard to say whether his loss had a major impact, but it certainly weakened the depth up front. He had started at left end in the first two preseason games; Adam Carriker replaced him and started all 16 games. Carriker responded with his best season in Washington, recording 5.5 sacks.
Jenkins did start 33 games over the next three seasons and now is with his fourth franchise (Kansas City).
QB Robert Griffin III (first round, 2012): As the NFL world well knows, he was a dynamic player in his rookie season. But he sprained his knee in Week 14 vs. Baltimore doing what he attempted to do way too often as a rookie: gain an extra yard when it wasn’t completely necessary. He missed one game.
But he tore his ACL in a playoff game and was never quite the same. Griffin was not the same explosive player the following season, and other flaws became magnified. When Jay Gruden took over, he let it be known that the 2012 Griffin was long gone. It wasn’t that he had lost his straight-line speed as much as he struggled to turn the corner in situations in which he would have done so previously. There were other issues to be sure, but the injuries were a big factor. The Redskins turned to Kirk Cousins as the full-time starter in 2015 and Griffin was released in March 2016.
WR Josh Doctson (first round, 2016): He didn’t tear his Achilles, but he did hurt it in a late May practice and couldn’t work until late in training camp. He was limited to two games early in the 2016 season and eventually landed on injured reserve. The Redskins didn’t need him as badly with Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Jamison Crowder on the roster. But the lack of development set Doctson back.
The missed practices hurt quite a bit. By the time he started practicing, the focus was more on game preparation than individual work. That’s why, in his second season, Doctson was learning rookie lessons about running various routes or how to adjust against unplanned looks that he didn’t endure as a rookie. This will be a pivotal year for him.
S/LB Su’a Cravens (second round, 2016): He missed only five games as a rookie, but it had a major impact on his future. He suffered a concussion that lingered into the offseason and eventually led to other issues. Cravens missed three games at the end of his rookie season with a strained elbow, causing teammates to be upset with him, thinking he should have returned for the last game -- one they needed to win for a playoff berth.
Cravens played a hybrid linebacker role in the Redskins’ nickel package, and they wanted him to be like the Cardinals' Deone Bucannon -- a player with safety skills who could cover backs and tight ends. He clinched a victory over the New York Giants with an interception. When he was out, the Redskins tried several players in that role, and they haven’t yet found someone.
DE Jonathan Allen (2017, first round): He suffered a Lisfranc injury in the fifth game last season and was placed on injured reserve. Allen didn’t post eye-popping stats in his five games, but his mature game helped others thanks to his ability to collapse the pocket. He was playing mostly in their nickel packages next to Matt Ioannidis, so players such as Ziggy Hood, Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain -- all of whom played in their base front -- were forced into more time. There was a trickle-down effect, and the extra reps resulted in decreased production.
Linebacker Preston Smith, who often rushed next to Allen, recorded half of his eight sacks when Allen was healthy.
Losing Allen was a critical blow. The Redskins’ defense allowed an average of 88 rushing yards per game in the first five weeks and 155.1 rushing yards per game the rest of the season. Allen alone didn’t cause that drop -- there were other injuries -- but his absence had an impact on their defense. Allen now starts at right end and works at tackle in the nickel; if he stays healthy, he’ll make a difference.
RB Derrius Guice (2018, second round): The 59th pick in the draft was seen as a potential playmaker. Then he tore his left ACL in the preseason opener vs. New England. Guice had already won over teammates and coaches with his personality and approach -- not to mention his talent.
Washington could have traded for another full-time back in the offseason but didn’t view their options as better than what they had. Now Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine have to reward that confidence. Both players look a little quicker this summer, and Perine has run with more confidence. But the difference is that Guice gave them someone who could create something out of nothing. Now the Redskins need other facets of the run game -- especially the blocking -- to really work.