By: Joe Pohoryles
*= still on team
^=on team prior to 2010
QB – Kirk Cousins (2012-2017)
RB – Alfred Morris (2012-2015)
RB – Chris Thompson* (2013-2019)
WR – Pierre Garcon (2012-2016)
WR – Desean Jackson (2014-2016)
TE – Jordan Reed* (2013-2019)
Cousins was not supposed to be the guy on this list when he entered the league, but here is. Coming in immediately as RG3’s backup, Kirk soon developed to be a fringe top 15 quarterback in the Gruden-McVay system, breaking several single-season franchise passer marks and leading the team to a division title in a weak 2015 NFC East, but never really much else in terms of winning. He’s now got Minnesota in prime playoff position with Washington fully in his rear view after years of mediocrity and contract disputes.
Morris completed the star backfield of 2012, and even sustained a couple years of success afterward. He finished second in rushing yards (1,613) in the entire NFL his rookie season behind near-record-breaking league MVP (and future Redskin) Adrian Peterson. After tallying over 1,000 rushing yards and receiving a Pro Bowl nod in both his second and third season, Morris finished his fourth and final season in Washington with 751 rushing yards and just one touchdown in a more crowded backfield. His reign was not long, but he was the team’s best back by far.
Thompson has dealt with injuries that have hampered his production throughout his career, but when healthy he’s proven to be a big offensive weapon catching passes out of the backfield. He’s also maintained his spot on the roster longer than most skill position players on the team, an impressive task for any NFL player, let alone a team like the Redskins.
Garcon was the team’s top targeted and most consistent receiver through both the RG3 and Cousins eras, his best season coming in 2013, where he had a league-leading 113 receptions for 1,346 yards and five touchdowns. After missing six games in 2012, Garcon started or played in the remaining 64 games of his Redskins career, always holding a main stake in the offense.
D-Jax was in Washington for just three years and will be remembered mainly as an Eagle, but he posted two 1,000+ yard seasons (the lone exception being his second season in which he played just 10 games), and was lethal as a deep threat. His best years were behind him, but his production exceeded that of the inconsistent Jamison Crowder, and the aged Santana Moss, whose best years came prior to 2010.
Reed is one of the biggest “what ifs” in modern football. He has never made it through a full season, and has not even touched the field in 2019. When he’s out there, he has proven to be an absolute beast, and a rare bright spot on the offense. Despite the injuries, he has a career average of 830 yards and six touchdowns per 16 games. Sadly, he has never been able to reach that mark, topping out at 14 games in 2015. Still, he is without a doubt one of the best pass-catchers of the decade on this team, and is the obvious pick for tight end.
LT – Trent Williams* (2010-2019)
LG – Kory Lichtensteiger (2010-2016)
C – Will Montgomery (2010-2013)^
RG – Brandon Scherff* (2015-2019)
RT – Morgan Moses* (2015-2019)
Here we see a mix of early decade and late decade stalwarts in the O-line, with Williams serving as the common denominator. The starting left tackle since being drafted 4th overall in 2010, Williams has developed into one of the best tackles in football, making seven straight Pro Bowls from 2012-2018. That streak will end this season, as Williams has held out all season due to a falling out with the medical staff and management in yet another display of the organization’s incompetence. It’s an unfortunate end to one of the best Redskins in recent history, but he deserves all the success he can find with another organization.
The versatile Lichtensteiger has spent time at left guard and center, and has provided solid protection as one of the unsung heroes of the offensive line for most of seven seasons. He even has the third-highest Approximate Value (the Pro Football Reference metric for comparing players across all positions) of modern linemen on the team behind Williams and Moses.
Montgomery was a reliable center through the ups of 2012 and the downs of, well, pretty much every other year he was here. He was on the team prior to 2010, but still held down the starting role well into the decade.
Initially selected as the bookend opposite Williams when drafted fifth overall in 2015, Scherff proved he was more valuable on the interior, emerging as one of the best guards in the league. The three-time Pro Bowler reaches free agency this year, and it is uncertain whether the team will pay up, but his impact on the team is unquestionable.
Moses has been a steal since the Redskins selected him in the third round in 2014, although he missed his entire rookie season due to a lisfranc injury. Once he finally took the field, Moses cemented himself as another key piece in the revamped offensive line, earning a five-year, $38.5 million contract in 2017 that should ensure he sticks around despite the possible departures of Williams and Scherff.
Defense: (Set up as a 3-4, as that was the most used formation)
DL – Chris Baker (2012-2016)
DL – Barry Cofield (2011-2014)
DL – Preston Smith (2015-2018)
Baker was never one to rack up sacks, compiling 11.5 in five seasons, but he still provided enough pressure and personality to be a leader on defense, especially toward the end of his time on the team. Kedric Golston was also considered for this slot, but the brunt of his production came prior to 2010.
Cofield started every game in his first three seasons, commanding the nose tackle position. Another guy who did not fill up the stat sheet, Cofield remained a consistent presence on the defensive line, bringing the pressure and batting down passes from time to time.
Smith played in every game during his four seasons, starting each one after his rookie season, upping his tackle numbers every season. His sack numbers would rise and fall, topping out at eight in both his first and third season, but the Mississippi State product was always a solid end. Of course, his breakout season comes the year he leaves with the Green Bay Packers. Guys like Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne and Matt Ioannidis have been good, but the sample size is too small to justify a spot.
OLB – Ryan Kerrigan* (2011-2019)
ILB – London Fletcher (2010-2013)^
ILB – Perry Riley (2010-2015)
OLB – Brian Orakpo (2010-2014)^
Kerrigan headlines what’s arguably the best positional group on the team. As one of the best defensive players, Kerrigan never missed a game until the 2019 season, starting his first 140 career games. The Iron Man has made four Pro Bowls, including three in a row from 2016-2018, and has put up career numbers in line with J.J. Watt and Von Miller, proving just how underrated he is.
Fletcher was the heart and soul of the Redskins defense from the mid-2000s until he retired after the 2013 season. All four of his Pro Bowls came in Washington, more impressively in his age 34-37 seasons. Another Iron Man, he started all 112 games from 2007-2013, and was a tackling machine, accumulating well over 100 tackles every season. I believe he should be a Hall of Famer, but I do not predict he will get the votes.
Riley was a fixture in the linebacking core for the first half of the decade. While he does not have the same level of recognition as the other guys in this unit, Riley put up solid production in the tackling department and remained a constant through the revolving door of inside linebackers in D.C.
Orakpo became an instant fan favorite upon being drafted 13th overall in 2009, and was immediately a sack machine, putting up 11 in his rookie season, and never less than 8.5 as a Redskin. His potential was hampered by two separate pectoral muscle tears in the 2012 and 2015 seasons, the latter even putting his career in jeopardy, but he rebounded with four strong seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
Interesting fact: These exact four linebackers began the 2012 division-winning season as the starting linebackers, before Orakpo suffered his first major injury in Week 2.
CB – Deangelo Hall (2010-2017)^
CB – Bashaud Breeland (2014-2017)
S – Reed Doughty (2010-2013)^
S – DJ Swearinger (2017-2018)
Hall spent parts of 10 seasons in Washington, serving mainly as the team’s top cornerback before he aged into a reserve role at both corner and safety. Despite the team’s reputation for having a porous secondary in the early parts of the decade, Hall brought his Pro Bowl level talents locking down receivers for most of the decade.
Breeland started at least 14 games in each of his four seasons on the team, and soon developed into a better corner than his counterpart Josh Norman, who never lived up to his huge contract and even got benched in 2019. Never a Pro Bowl talent, Breeland still brought solid defense every season he played.
Doughty first established a bigger role upon the death of Sean Taylor, who maybe would have made this list despite being drafted back in 2004. It is sad to think about what we missed out on from Taylor, but Doughty remained a reliable presence in the secondary throughout the remainder of his NFL career, with all eight of his seasons spent in Washington.
Swearinger spent just two seasons in Washington, but in 2018 was arguably the best safety in the NFL. He had four interceptions in each year, and his ferocity and leadership made him the closest thing to a Sean Taylor reincarnation that we’ve seen (although I don’t think any comparison would do Taylor justice). DJ may still be a defensive leader here were it not for a falling out with the coaching staff – yet another example of organizational incompetence – but he’s still one of the best safeties in recent memory.
K – Dustin Hopkins* (2015-2019)
P – Tress Way* (2014-2019)
ST- Lorenzo Alexander (2010-2012)^
Hopkins was able to keep the starting kicking job in a decade that saw the likes of Shaun Suisham, Graham Gano and Billy Cundiff, among others, come and go without success. He’s no Justin Tucker, but he’s been good enough to hold down one of the most unstable jobs in professional sports for a considerable amount of time.
Way is actually one of the best players on the team, which is fitting given he’s a punter. Way had a “perfect season,” in 2018, not allowing any touchbacks, and finally made his first Pro Bowl in 2019 after several years of snubs.
Alexander started his Redskins career in 2007 as a reserve linebacker, but by 2010 became one of the best special teamers in the league. He was elected to Pro Bowls in the 2011 and 2012 seasons as a special teams player, and has since become an All-Pro linebacker for the Buffalo Bills.