With Washington Redskins Training Camp starting in just a few weeks, it’s that time again to take a look at the top position battles for the Redskins heading into the summer. The team added several key players in free agency and the draft this offseason, and should have plenty of competition for several positions on the roster.
While the team has lived by the philosophy of “those who do well in camp, will be rewarded” under current Redskins head coach Jay Gruden tenure, there will be five main roster battles that will stand out come late August.
While Robert (Fat Rob) Kelley has secured the starting role after a good rookie season in which he recorded 704 yards rushing and six touchdowns, the second-year bruiser-style back will be tested this year. Rookie Samaje Perine is expected to give Fat Rob all he can bargain for heading into preseason. Truth is, they both possess the same “grind-it-out” power back traits and should compliment each other. Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh says that even though Kelley is the top guy, for now, the offense will ride the hot hand during games this fall.
“I think really it’s a game-to-game evaluation, an in-game evaluation of how well he’s doing and how winded he is — ‘Does he need a blow,'” Cavanaugh said. “We just feel like we’ve got depth at that position now with a lot of similar-type players: stocky, quick-footed, strong, smart guys that can sub in for each other. I wouldn’t put a pitch count on any of them, but obviously, if a guy’s got a hot hand and he’s feeling good and he’s not gassed, we’ll keep him on the field. Ideally, maybe have some third-down reps too.”
With the Redskins already having third-down back Chris Thompson, who is more of pass-catching weapon, the major competition will be between Kelley and the fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma, Perine. Washington also has former seventh-round pick Keith Marshall who spent last season on the injured reserve.
The conversations surrounding the left guard position has lingered for the Redskins for a few seasons now as Washington continues to look for the type of player their offensive line needs who can stay healthy; it’s not an easy combination in today’s NFL.
As camp draws near the left guard position still belongs to Shawn Lauvao, but third-year guard Arie Kouandjio will be pushing hard for a starting spot this summer. Kouandjio did well in two starts last season when Lauvao went down. Redskins assistants believe he’s ready to make the next step. Washington has a couple of options as it pertains to the rest of their depth chart, rookie Chase Roullier and current center Spencer Long can both play center and guard. It’s hard to believe that a seventh-round pick will actually challenge for a starting job, but he could play a role in the process.
Washington can save $4 million in cap space by releasing Lauvao. This decision appears to come down to how much has Kouandjio improved over last season. If he’s not ready, the team will likely stick with Lauvao for at least one more season.
In most years following a nine-sack season, an NFL player is relaxed in their starting position heading into training camp. That’s exactly what outside linebacker Trent Murphy was expecting before he was hit with a four-game suspension for violation of the performance-enhancing substance policy the league has. Now Murphy will be allowed to attend camp, preseason games, and practices but will have to stay away from the team’s facilities during the first five weeks (Redskins have their bye in week 5).
They telling me to slow Downnnn but I Canttttttt pic.twitter.com/nmY3VLwYpS— Junior Galette (@JovaisG) June 4, 2017
Without Murphy to start the season Washington will have no choice but to find a replacement for him. That process may prove difficult and once it’s complete, Murphy may lose his spot in the rotation permanently. The Redskins depth chart has Preston Smith, Junior Galette, and rookie Ryan Anderson, to go along with Murphy. All four have the skills in which to succeed in the league. Smith had a bit of a slump in 2016 after grabbing eight sacks as a rookie, while Galette has spent the last two seasons on the injured reserve with separate Achilles tears.
The most intriguing prospect perhaps on the Redskins roster is Anderson. This battle should heat up in August with it being way too early to call now.
The Redskins were noticeably slow in the middle of the field in 2016 as the team had troubles defending against opposing tight ends across the middle. To further insult some situations, the starting inside linebackers were out-ran or couldn’t keep up with the athletic moves other skill position players made against them. While the team retained both Will Compton and Mason Foster for another season, they also signed former Buffalo Bills linebacker Zach Brown. Brown is everything Foster and Compton are not, physical, fast, and athletic.
The battle at camp should be interesting between Foster, Compton, Brown and Martrell Spaight, the other Redskins linebacker on the roster. Spaight played a lot of special teams last year and subbed in when the team needed him starting one game.
At one time in the history of the NFL, players and fans together viewed the slot cornerback position as nothing but a backup spot directly behind the starters who were used sparingly. Those days are long gone as the slot position is now one of the most important across the defense as the player oftentimes has to contend with the fastest player on the field. Add to that the fact that most teams in today’s age use multiple packages with receivers lining up all over the place, and you can see why the need for good slot corners has been on the rise for some time now.
The Redskins have a few possibilities at the slot spot with second-year corner Kendall Fuller currently leading the way on the depth chart. Fuller will head into camp with a stranglehold on the spot having two rookies chasing him. UCLA’s Fabian Moreau and Auburn’s Joshua Holsey will be Fuller’s main competition, both will prove to be tough competition. Fuller holds the edge for the simple of fact of playing a year in the system and having already adjusted to the playing speed of the league itself, which is considerably faster than college.
Other notable battles
With the Redskins losing two starting veteran 1,000-yard receivers it would be silly not to mention the fact that the team will be looking elsewhere for production this year at the position. Washington will be looking to newly signed Terrelle Pryor Sr and second-year receiver Josh Doctson to be the team’s one-two punch. With Doctson that means staying healthy, something he was not able to do in his rookie season. The Redskins also have Jamison Crowder, who in his third year in the league could be the best slot receiver in football.
[Featured Image by Patrick Smith/Getty Images]