Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Redskins Camp Watch
By Dan Graziano
╗ NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South ╗ AFC: East | West | North | South ╗ Dates
Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:
One thing of which I'm certain: Competition. The Redskins have their quarterback in Robert Griffin III, but they still need to build an offense around him. And they're addressing potential weaknesses by bringing in a lot of people to compete for certain spots and hoping that competition breeds quality starters. At wide receiver, veteran Santana Moss will compete with Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan for snaps opposite Pierre Garcon. At running back, Tim Hightower's 2011 knee injury opens up competition between him, Roy Helu and Evan Royster. There's competition at tight end, where Fred Davis is the No. 1, but converted wide receiver Niles Paul threatens the playing time (and maybe the roster spot) of mainstay Chris Cooley.
The defense seems much more set, especially the front seven. But there's someácompetition at safety, where Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams aren't the safest projected starters in the league. Mike Shanahan's goal for this offseason was to make his roster deeper, and he believes he has done that. But he's still working to build something long-term in Washington, and while the Redskins do appear to be deeper than they've been at any point during Shanahan's tenure, they still need to identify starters at some key spots.
One thing that might happen: There's a real chance for Moss to re-establish himself as a good starting wide receiver. After the team signed two wide receivers in the first hour of free agency, the Redskins' coaches reached out to Moss to make it clear (in case it wasn't already) that his spot on the roster wasn't safe. They didn't think he looked right last year and told him he needed to lose weight, get in shape and get back his pre-2011 focus. Moss did that, showed up to OTAs having lost 15 pounds and seems determined to hang onto a starting spot.
It helps Moss that he can play the slot, but unless Hankerson or Morgan gets healthy and dazzles 'em in training camp, Moss right now projects as the starter opposite Garcon. He's 33 years old, but he had 93 catches and 1,115 yards just two years ago and could be a huge help to Griffin and the younger receivers on the roster. But it's clear he's not hanging around just to mentor guys who are trying to take his job. Moss believes he can still play, and will be determined to prove he still deserves to be a starter.
One thing we won't see: A quarterback controversy. Last year at this time, all eyes were on Rex Grossman and John Beck as the Redskins entered camp without an anointed starter at the most important position on the field. This year, Beck is gone and Grossman has returned as Griffin's backup. Rookie Kirk Cousins is also in camp, but there's a clear pecking order and no doubt as to which quarterback is in control of the team. The Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick for Griffin and just signed him for $21 million. They will do everything they can to make sure he succeeds, and that includes making it clear from the very start that he faces no pressure in terms of job security.
Now, Griffin is a rookie who will face growing pains, as they all do. And he must do the job in order to keep the job. But there's little doubt around Redskins Park that he'll be able to start right away, and barring injury there doesn't seem to be any way he could lose the starting quarterback job before the beginning of the regular season. A rookie quarterback can't ever offer certainty, but the Redskins have established some stability at quarterback as they get ready to open camp this week.