Derrius Guice, Case Keenum, Reuben Foster pivotal for Redskins

ASHBURN, Va. -- One could block the path of the rookie quarterback, buying the coaches time to get Dwayne Haskins ready. Another could provide the energy the Washington Redskins' offense needs. And the third could help lift the defense into a place it hasn't been in a while.

All three players -- quarterback Case Keenum, running back Derrius Guice and linebacker Reuben Foster -- are among Washington's most important players this season.

There's no doubt the health of the Redskins' offensive line greatly factors into this season, just like it did in a negative way the past two years. But when healthy, the Redskins know what they will get up front.

Derrius Guice

Late last season, Redskins running backs coach Randy Jordan was discussing the rookie running back, who tore his ACL in the preseason opener. Guice had excited the Redskins, showing vision and quick cuts they hoped -- believed -- would lead to big plays.

"One thing that really got me about him was how well he catches the ball," Jordan said. "You have to remind yourself. I had to go back and look at tape on him. He's going to be f---ing really good."

The Redskins have other options at running back, with Chris Thompson and Adrian Peterson. Both can help Washington. Two years ago Thompson was the Redskins' big-play guy on offense, at least until he broke his leg in the 10th game. When healthy, he's a top third-down back in the NFL. Last season Peterson rushed for 1,047 yards -- with a banged-up line and no pass game to help.

But Guice provides potential juice in both the run and the pass game. One member of the organization was recently talking about Guice's potential this season with wide-eyed excitement. Guice must prove he's durable and can fulfill his promise. If the Redskins want to rely on the run game -- and they do -- they need big chunk plays on the ground with occasional home runs. Guice is capable of providing them.

Case Keenum

One member of the organization referred to rookie quarterback Haskins as having "ridiculous upside." But they also keep preaching patience, knowing Haskins started only 14 games in college. Washington's goal: prepare him for a successful career, not just Week 1.

That's where Keenum enters. Colt McCoy could just as easily be here, but Keenum has more starting experience and McCoy also has now had three surgeries on the leg he broke in early December. His durability remains a question mark. Two years ago Keenum showed he could take a team -- albeit a talented one in Minnesota -- to the playoffs.

If Keenum struggles early, there will be pressure -- whether from the fan base or internally -- to play Haskins. He's the 15th overall pick and it's hard to imagine him sitting the entire season. But if the organization can be patient, it allows Haskins to get more comfortable -- learning the offense, adjusting to the NFL and improving his footwork.

In the Redskins' first five games, they have four against this group: Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago and New England. All four made the playoffs in 2018; all four will be tough to beat this season. Haskins can handle pressure; he just played at a school whose fan base expects one thing: to win every game. At some point he'll be what the Redskins need, but Keenum's play can make sure he doesn't need to be rushed.

Reuben Foster

Redskins coach Jay Gruden has referred to Foster as a wild card. That's the best way to put it: Foster could become a force on defense or he could become another disappointment. The Redskins have added other talents to the defense, notably safety Landon Collins and linebacker Montez Sweat. Collins has already played to a certain level in the NFL and you can rightly expect the same performance this season. Sweat is a rookie, though the talent is obvious and the Redskins anticipate early returns.

But there's still some mystery surrounding Foster. In two years, thanks to injuries and suspensions, he's played in only 16 games. He could be a home run; he could be ... nothing. San Francisco waived him in part because the organization felt it could no longer trust him. Foster must earn that trust here.

The Redskins' defense could still be good if Foster stumbles -- they have an excellent young defensive line to build around. But Foster's speed and athleticism could elevate this group, providing the kind of lift Dallas received from speedy linebackers such as Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. The Redskins got that on occasion from Zach Brown, but not nearly enough to prevent them from cutting him this offseason. Foster's athleticism and speed could stand out and help provide what Washington hasn't had in a long time: a top-10 defense.