With the division title in the rear view mirror (only the second since ’99), the real grind towards the 2016 campaign begins in two weeks. When Redskins rookies, free agent acquisitions and returning players descend on Richmond for this seasons training camp which runs through August 14.
To date, much has been made about the Skins quarterback situation, stop me if you’ve heard that one before. The receiving corps being “the best in the league” with the addition of first round pick, Josh Doctson. And the potential improvement of the defense, with the additions of free agent acquisition Josh Norman and a healthy Junior Galette aiding the pass rush. But those items aside, what are the major story lines to focus on, come the last Thursday of July?
RUNNING BACK DEPTH 💥💥💥
Matt Jones is the unquestioned starter when the Steelers come to FedEX on Monday, September 12– provided his well documented issues have been corrected. What’s lining up behind him however is the question. Chris Thompson by far had his best season in 2015. So continued good health is the key here. But the third spot (which will be very important when you have a back who runs w/the style of Jones) is totally up for grabs. And the choice will be made from a mix of largely unproven players, with different styles. One would guess that the best all-purpose back will win out. So look for Brown and Kelley to be the early leaders out of this group (Mack Brown, Keith Marshall, Robert Kelley, Kelsey Young). With 7th rounder Marshall being the wildcard, if he can get on the field and showcase his elite speed.
CONT’D OFFENSIVE LINE GROWTH/RUN BLOCKING
Barring any major shake up at center, there is only one spot up for grabs on a line that showed drastic improvement in 2015 under new O-line coach Bill Callahan. According to reports on Shawn Lauvao’s recovery process (ankle), the LG job will start out as third year man Spencer Long’s to lose. Arie Kouandijo’s overall improvement after a year on the practice squad, will be the determining factor on his chances to push for time. The team as a whole, will be hoping that the unit, especially the young right side (Scherff, Moses) will be able to improve the fortunes of a woeful run game from last season. The bench rotation on paper should be improved, thanks to being forced into game action last season. Additionally the team will be looking for more consistency from Cofield and Nsekhe at the swing tackle spot, as well as from Josh LeRibeus who could be pushed at backup guard and center.
STARTING INSIDE LINEBACKER
With the departure of Keenan Robinson and a recovering Perry Riley Jr., Will Compton is the man in the middle by default. Injuries and front office decisions aside, his play over the course of 10 starts last season may have seen him rise to the top of the depth chart regardless. Mason Foster who similarly saw increased action in 2015 showed well opposite Compton. If the season started today, they would be your starters. Will it be enough though, without playing behind a space eater up front (addressed below)? Compton is probably the only sure bet starter here. As time will tell how much if any ground the returning ST stalwart Heyward (returning from injury) and the young group vying for spots on the 53 (Daniels, Speight and Garvin) can make-up.
INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE
Where’s the beef? With no Pot Roast (signed w/NE), watching the team elect not to address the need for a true nose in a 34 scheme was baffling. If I were ranking the priority of these issues, this may slide to number two after RB. The veteran Kedric Golston starts camp with the ones. With Jerrell Powe (330 lbs) possessing the size to play the spot in a traditional sense. After that, the team has a bevy of ends, and rookie 5th round pick Matt Ioannidis, who they have mentioned possibly playing the spot. Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry, may have to earn his money this season. As his hybrid 34 may be put to the test to mask the void of a quality big man up front. We should find out early on, if the team has to make a move prior to the start of the season.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. We think, the Free Safety spot should be okay, with Deangelo Hall making the move that many a talented corner has made at the end of their careers. Health is probably the only issue here, but a big one. Will Blackmon, also making this move, should be a good backup option. Strong is where it’s anyone’s game. David Bruton Jr. (FA from DEN) and Duke Ihenacho will more than likely be viewed as options 1 and 1a to start camp. With Bruton whose never started more than 3 games in his career looking to prove he’s more than a special teamer and Ihenacho battling back from another injury plagued season. The wildcard is UDFA Geno Matias-Smith out of Alabama, who possesses the talent to be a diamond in the rough.
2016 Redskins Training Camp
when: July 28-August 14
where: Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center – Richmond, VA