Washington Redskins Training Camp: What to Watch
By DC Staff Writer John Manuel:
Training camp is one week away and what am I most looking forward to? Actually that doesn’t matter because according to Michael Vick, for the next 5-10 years the Eagles are about to have a dynasty, so I guess fans of all other teams should just take a hiatus. Vick please just win something or at least stay on the field first before you talk. Didn’t you learn from Vince Young’s talking or were you too busy working on your book?
Back to the Skins now. This training camp and preseason will most likely be the most anticipated since the return of Joe Gibbs, except instead of Mark Brunell you will be seeing Robert Griffin III taking starter snaps. What am I most looking forward to see and hear? Many things come to mind.
First and foremost all Redskins fans will be glued to their television sets to see the RG3 era begin in Washington. I expect to see a written detail of every snap he takes in practice from Larry Michael or any of the Redskins bloggers for the next month. It’s going to be RG3 overkill quickly, but that is good because it is exciting. Not only will we get the excitement of Griffin but also get to see a lot of Kirk Cousins during the preseason. It will be interesting to see how many snaps each one takes during the preseason games. Will RG3 take the normal starter snaps in preseason or will Shanny increase his playing time to get more in sync with the offense? I do expect Cousins to get a good amount of the second halves of games though.
RG3 will be compared during the season to Cam Newton from last year. Newton didn’t have the offseason workouts with his team but that didn’t seem to hurt him. And unlike RG3 will do, Newton actually didn’t start the Panthers first preseason game last year. Shanahan and Shanahan have a lot riding on RG3 so it will be interesting to see how they utilize him in the offseason.
The second thing I am looking forward to is the battles at wide receiver and kick returning. As for the guys who are locks to be there come week one, I want to see what Pierre Garcon can bring as a playmaker. Remembering though that in his first preseason game and even first series Brandon Lloyd made a sick diving catch, leading to a not so stellar Skins career. Let’s also see if both Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson are back from major injuries and will be able to be factors right away. Is a slimmer Santana Moss going to hold onto his spot on the team?
I also hope Moss once again gets work on punt returns. Then there is the battle for the final wideout spot between Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks, Aldrick Robinson and Terrence Austin, where most likely the kick returner will be found. I expect these guys to get much work and will be interested to see how Robinson plays and if he take the job. All these guys should be thrilled that Niles Paul moved to tight end because I think his special teams play would have given him the 5th receiver slot.
As for Niles Paul, it will be a huge preseason for him. I will be closely watching his transition to the tight end position. I am hoping that the Shanahan’s see a breakout star with this move. Chris Cooley isn’t getting younger and has battled injuries. And Fred Davis is talented but has been a roller coaster since he was drafted. From over sleeping his first practice to drug suspensions to part time courtroom capers, Davis’ career has clearly kept him from being considered the team’s future at tight end. It is a huge season for him financially. As Steve Shoup has said in the past, Paul immediately becomes their best blocker at the tight end position. And I love how Paul has talked to NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe (a player with similar size and skills) about playing the position. I would love to see Niles Paul take over as the lead tight end.
As for defense, the front seven is pretty much set and the hope is just to make it through injury free, unlike last year when Jarvis Jenkins went down versus Baltimore. The real battles will take place in the secondary and mainly for the two safety spots. Neither safety spots are set in stone with a battle of veterans going at it with second year player Dejon Gomes. Brandon Merriweather, Tanard Jackson, Cedric Griffin, Reed Doughty and former Maryland Terp Madieu Williams will report to camp next week. Griffin will most likely have to be the third corner. The Skins have to be praying that Merriweather and Jackson can return to their early career form and not be the problem players of their later careers. Merriweather is already behind the eight ball on this. Or Williams to be a solid veteran presence like a Darren Sharper or Gomes will need to make a huge step up in year two. One or two of these scenarios will need to hit.
Two other positions that will be fun to watch are at running back and kicker. As for the running backs, a lot will depend on the return of Tim Hightower from the ACL tear. If he is ready to go I feel Shanny starts him week one. But then again, it’s Shanahan and running backs so speculating on the season is worthless now. But I do feel they are in good shape with Hightower, Helu and Royster to start the season. Then again, rookie Alfred Morris could be the starter by week 6 and go for 1000 yards. That’s just Shanny.
As for kicker, Graham Gano clearly has his toughest challenge with Neil Rackers coming to camp. Gano has fought off challengers in the past like Shayne Graham, but Rackers is legit. I still think the coaches lean towards Gano but bringing in a vet like Rackers clearly shows he is on the hot seat. I expect Gano to win the job, but if Rackers is in New Orleans week one I wouldn’t be shocked.
Most predictions about the Redskins will put them in last place in the NFC East. But this will still be a much hyped training camp and preseason with the debut of Robert Griffin III. As with all preseasons, the main hope is health and that no major injuries occur.
Good thing is Vinny Cerrato isn’t here to make a snap judgment trade for Jason Taylor or TJ Duckett. Let’s lay off Cerrato on trading for Duckett and throw that one on Gibbs. For the first time in ages I just took it easy on Vinny.