For the past decade, a theme for the Washington Redskins heading into training camp has been, well, questions. Usually, it's been who's coaching the team this
year, which under-talented QB is leading the team, or who can actually make a big play when the chips are down?
This year, however, there is stability at the coaching positions. HC Mike Shanahan returns for his third year in Washington, along with coordinators Kyle Shanahan and Jim Haslett. The defense made improvements last season along the front-7, and leadership concerns on the offensive side vanished when the 'Skins drafted wunderkind, Robert Griffin III.
The Redskins still have a long way to go to build a competitive team in an unforgiving NFC East, but the foundation is there. Here are some storylines to track as training camp kicks off in Ashburn, VA.
1. Who will be the starting running back? And will it even matter?
Coach Shanahan's history tells us that it's only a matter of time before the old RBBC Monster rears its head in Washington. This year, the Redskins will get back the 2011 opening day starter and recently resigned, Tim Hightower, whose campaign was cut short after a devastating knee injury. Hightower averaged 64.2 yards a game as a starter last season before injuring himself, but he is an outstanding pass protector. Roy Helu, last year's 4th-rounder out of Nebraska, surprised after taking over the starting role and put up over 100 yards in three straight games. Another 2011 draft pick, Evan Royster, is also there with a great potential to poach carries from these two backs. Look for this to be a heated competition during training camp, and even into the beginning of the season. Hightower's blocking may prove to be the decider in this battle to ensure Robert Griffin's protection.
2. What exactly is going on in the secondary?
To say the Skins' cornerback unit comes with some question marks is a severe understatement. After letting safeties OJ Atogwe and La'ron Landry walk this offseason, Washington added former Tampa Bay Buccaneer's Head Coach, Raheem Morris, as their secondary coach, and picked up CBs Tanard Jackson, Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams. Incumbent starting safety Reed Doughty is expected to compete for the job again this offseason, but Meriweather and Jackson have the ability to press him onto the bench. Mike Shanahan preaches competition during training camps, and by signing just about every possible free agent safety to address the problem, he is hoping one of these players can reinvigorate their careers and make an impact for a much-improved Redskin's front-seven.
3. Which receiver can RG3 rely on?
The Redskin's were somewhat lame, characteristically, in terms of expenditures this offseason, mostly because the league stripped them of $18 million in salary cap. But they did splash in the receiver market, signing Pierre Garcon and Joshua Morgan. Garcon was a big-play target for Indianapolis, but has never proven to be a number one receiver. He did put up career numbers last year, posting 947 yards and six TDs, so he should be able to stretch the field for tight ends Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. Joshua Morgan is still rehabbing a broken leg that cut his 2011 season short, and has much to prove this training camp. Meanwhile, veteran Santana Moss is coming off a down year, but has received rave reviews from coaches for his fitness in offseason camps so far. Moss and Garcon will most likely begin the season as the starters, with Joshua Morgan and Leonard Hankerson providing size and length off the bench.