Ranking the Top 10 Training Camp Position Battles:
1. Starting Safties:
-The Redskins are replacing both of their starting safeties this season. While the favorites appear to be Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson, there are serious questions surrounding both players. Returning players Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes and veteran addition Madieu Williams will all get a shot to crack the line-up. Even if Meriweather and Jackson break camp as the starters, expect this battle to go on all season.
2. Back-up Corners:
-The top two corners are set, but behind them it is completely up for grabs. Read here for a more indepth look.
-The Redskins have had kicking woes for years now, and if they are to get back to being a contender they need to rely on their kicker more. Graham Gano has a strong leg and for the most part is a good kick-off specialist as well (though Rackers is good in this area too). His issue is consistency, but he improved on that last year, especially when you consider that five of his misses were blocked kicks at no fault of his own. This should be a pretty even match-up and could go either way, but Gano might have a slight edge.
4. Back-up Offensive Linemen:
-The Starters appear to be set, but given the risk of injury and suspension on this team, these back-ups are highly important. Last season back-up offensive linemen started more than a combined 20 games, showing just how important quality depth is. I think the team will keep four guys with Tyler Polumbus, Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus and Tom Compton my choices. Willie Smith will be an interesting one to watch, but without major improvement he might not make the cut.
5. 2nd and 3rd Receivers:
–Pierre Garcon is locked into the top spot, leaving Santana Moss, Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson to fight it out for the 2nd and 3rd spots. I think Hankerson’s injury will hurt his chances, leaving it between Moss and Morgan. I feel that Moss’s veteran status will win out here, as he knows the system better and can be a bigger asset to a rookie QB.
6. Starting DE:
-In fairness starting DE is an unfair term, because what ever defensive personnel package is out there for the first snap is dependent mainly on the other team. For instance against the Saints in week 1, our first defensive snap could be in a nickel package. Instead this battle between Adam Carriker and Jarvis Jenkins, is going to be more about who is more important to the team. Despite returning from an injury, I think Jenkins will win this role and get more key snaps for the team. If Jenkins does win it has the potential to really help improve the defense.
7. Running back depth:
-I think most people would like to see this higher up and there be a battle for the top two spots, but I’m not sure it will happen. I think Tim Hightower and Roy Helu are fairly locked in at 1 and 2 respectively. Instead I think the battle will come down to incumbent Evan Royster and rookies Alfred Morris and Lennon Creer, for the third RB job. Now the team could keep four backs making this far easier, but that hasn’t been determined yet. I still think this 3rd RB job is still Royster’s to lose.
8. Number 2 TE:
-This will be an intriguing battle as it pits fan favorite and long time quality TE Chris Cooley vs the up-and-coming converted receiver Niles Paul. Cooley’s health is very much in question and Paul has an athletic advantage, but don’t count out Cooley just yet. He’s got the ability to be a nice short yardage safety valve for Robert Griffin. In addition Shanahan usually favors experience. I’d expect Paul to carve out a niche, but still be firmly behind Cooley.
-With Mike Shanahan saying that Brandon Banks will need to make this team as a receiver first, it has left open a real possibility of needing a new returner or two. Banks, despite the hype surrounding him, failed to produce as a returner and it cost Washington field position on a number of drives. I’d guess that consistency will be key in this battle. Also don’t be surprised if return duties are split up, since these guys will have a bigger role on the team.
10. Back-up QB Battle:
-In many ways this is a sham battle as I don’t think there is anything Kirk Cousins can do to surpass Rex Grossman. The team is going to want experience to be behind Robert Griffin, not another rookie that could complicate things. This “battle” is still important to Redskins fans though because of what it means for the future. Cousins is definitely supposed to take over next season as the primary back-up, so it would be nice if he showed some flashes of that ability. Also, the expectation/hope is that you can one day trade Kirk Cousins to a team that could use him as a starter. How he does this preseason won’t make or break any future trade, but a strong year could make swinging a deal in the future easier.