It’s that time of year…again. Probably one of the more anticipated training camps in recent memory with the arrival of Robert Griffin III. Every year fans flock to Ashburn itching for some football, anxious to see the newest free agent signings/draft picks & ready to dissect the Redskins Quarterback situation. Last year we had the joy of evaluating Rex Grossman & John Beck while trying to convince ourselves which ridiculed QB was the better option. This year the starting QB has been named before camp, but there are a bunch of new faces & question marks surrounding the rest of the roster.
What to Watch for:
Backup QB: Rex Grossman vs Kirk Cousins. My guess here is that Rex will be the backup QB to RG3 to start the season. Kirk will probably get the bulk of backup work during pre-season games because the team knows what Rex can do. But I’m interested in seeing during training camp if Kirk shows the ability to be able to run this offense effectively & minimize turnovers, the latter being something that Rex has shown he can’t do throughout his career.
Starting RB: It’s been mentioned on the podcast that if Tim Hightower is healthy & ready to go, he’s the guy the staff feels more comfortable with starting. The staff views Roy Helu as the change of pace guy, but healthy or not Evan Royster could possibly push Hightower for the starting spot. Shanahan loves competition at every spot & if Royster shows signs of breaking out this training camp, he could be the guy. Another battle to watch amongst this group in which Royster could be lumped into is 3rd RB. The team drafted Alfred Morris, a bowling ball type of running back in the mold of a Michael Turner, could push for a spot if he flashes potential.
WR: Pierre Garcon is entrenched as one starter, & Santana Moss seems to have the slot position locked up, now the question is who’s the other outside starter? We talked to Josh Morgan & he says the team definitely has him lining up on the outside but his biggest competition will be Leonard Hankerson. This will be my favorite battle to watch, Leonard Hankerson showed huge flashes in 2 games that he started last year before going down with injury. This position group all over will have intriguing battles, Aldrick Robinson vs Anthony Armstrong vs Terrence Austin vs Brandon Banks for the final 2 spots will definitely be one to watch. From all I accounts I hear Aldrick Robinson has done nothing but impress in OTA’s. I have to think that him & Anthony Armstrong are the favorites here.
Backup Tight End: Niles Paul has been converted to TE & many think Shanahan sees a young Shannon Sharpe with him. He’s been adjusting well, now the question remains does he move ahead of Chris Cooley on the depth chart? Chris Cooley acknowledges that he has prove he’s the guy he once was to make this team but if Paul looks better the team won’t pay Cooley the money he’s making to be a 3rd string TE.
Offensive Line: Redskins 3rd round pick Josh LeRibeus will be either competing for LG or starting Center. His battle will be against Kory Lichtensteiger who is coming off of a major injury. If KL doesn’t return to previous form, I see LeRibeus winning the battle. RT is the only other position I see that may have a battle. Jammal Brown has been hampered by injuries since coming here & he’s probably been the worst starting lineman because of it. Shanahan talked about how good Brown has looked in OTA’s but I’m skeptical & I think Willie Smith who did a solid job in place of Trent Williams last year could overtake him.
Defensive Line: Strongest position group on the team, Jarvis Jenkins will push Adam Carriker for time on the line. But nothing major as there will be rotations aplenty among the line.
Linebackers: Starting 4 looks intact, battle for depth positions here.
Cornerbacks: Most interested in seeing who emerges as the team’s nickel back. Kevin Barnes, Cedric Griffin & my sleepers Brandyn Thompson & Chase Minnifield will be one to keep a close eye on. Griffin if he can stay healthy figures to be the favorite, but I think Brandyn Thompson can possibly make the Redskins shut the door on Kevin Barnes.
Safeties: Lots of competition here but this is the one group that really concerns me. Both Safety spots are up for grabs, Tanard Jackson if healthy can be serviceable playing under his coach in Tampa Bay Raheem Morris. I expect him to win the Free Safety job over Madieu Williams. The other safety spot will pit a battle between Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty & DeJon Gomes. Meriweather has been passed around between the Bears & Patriots the last couple of years, has struggled mightily since making 2 consecutive probowls in 2009 & 2010. Reed Doughty is the Redskins version of toast, you cringe when he’s in coverage. Reed is a solid tackler & great special teams player but it’s not comforting when you’re trotting him on the field as your starting safety. Gomes showed some potential last year, he’s solid in the box but I’d like to see improved cover skills from him.
Kickers: Graham Gano vs Neil Rackers. Lot of fans give Gano grief because he’s missed a lot of field goals in his first 2 years. Although last year he missed 10 but 4 of those kicks were blocked due to horrible kick protection. Kickers take some time to get adjusted in the league. Graham is going into his 4th year & as a Redskins fan this is where you hope he turns on that light & become very reliable. Neil Rackers is a seasoned vet who at one point was considered automatic when he played for the Cardinals. He’s played with the Houston Texans the last 2 years & was pretty good for them making 59/68 FGs, that’s an 86% accuracy rate. This will be a great competition as you’ll see what Gano is made of going against a great veteran in Neil Rackers.
Couple of Things I’ll Be Looking For:
1. I want to see how much of the playbook RG3 has been able to grasp as well as how much of a relationship he’s developed with his receivers already.
2. I’m interested in seeing if the defense has learned to defend the bootleg that Kyle Shanahan calls for RG3. A couple of times in OTA’s I heard about RG3 running a bootleg & had free field to run, that’s scary playing against the likes of Cam Newton & Michael Vick.
3. Ready to see if Brian Orakpo takes that next level to be elite. Would love to see him have an array of moves to beat lineman & effectively get to the QB better.
4. Want to see if DeAngelo Hall can get more turnovers with the way Raheem Morris has him playing. You know DeAngelo is susceptible to the big play, but if he’s giving up the big play & not causing turnovers he’s useless.
5. Definitely want to if the offensive line proves that a cohesive unit can be stout. Pretty much the same starting lineman as the previous year but with more depth(hopefully quality depth). RG3 had a terrible line at Baylor, if this line can be formiddable RG3 may be able to surpass expectations in his first year.
It’s almost here, see you at Redskins Park!