WASHINGTON — The Redskins begin training camp next Thursday in Richmond with a host of questions at positions all over the field.
Competition will be fierce for starting jobs and roster spots alike. And while there are positions of relative stability – quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, outside linebacker – there are others where younger players will push for playing time and veterans aren’t assured of jobs. Here are five position groups where the competition could be stiffest:
Expect Will Compton to start at the Mike linebacker as he takes over as the defense’s primary signal caller. Mason Foster ended last year next to Compton and is a good bet to start there this season, too. But let’s see how Perry Riley, Jr. – a starter since 2012 – recovers from a broken right foot sustained last December. He didn’t participate in OTAs or minicamp, but at last check was out of a walking boot and would be ready for camp. The rest of the competition here is young and inexperienced or primarily special-teamers, but players like Martrell Spaight and Steven Davis could make an impact.
Shawn Lauvao is the veteran and the starter here the past two years. He was lost in Week 3 last season with torn ligaments in his left ankle. Is it coincidence that Washington’s running game almost immediately cratered? Lauvao had five surgeries combined on his ankle and later his right foot – a separate injury that had lingered for years. Meanwhile, there are young prospects behind him. Spencer Long started the final 14 games of last year, including the playoff loss to Green Bay. And the Redskins hope to see progress from Arie Kouandjio, a fourth-round pick in 2015 who appeared in three games as a rookie.
We might not have a complete picture here yet if the Redskins decide to add a veteran. Matt Jones is in line to start in his second year. Chris Thompson is expected to be ready for training camp after offseason shoulder surgery. After that? A lot of unproven players. Mack Brown has the most experience after a year on the practice squad. Keith Marshall has the speed, but limited production at Georgia. Washington drafted him in the seventh round this past spring. Keep an eye on undrafted college free agent Robert Kelley. Jones and Thompson are solid here. But if the Redskins don’t bring in another back the competition for the final two spots will be fierce.
Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland are the mainstays here. Then it gets interesting. Quinton Dunbar showed a lot of promise last year after his switch from wide receiver. Greg Toler is a veteran – and a D.C. native – who has starting experience in the NFL. Rookie Kendall Fuller was a third-round pick and appears recovered from microfracture surgery on his right knee. He participated in OTAs and minicamp. And Dashaun Phillips earned valuable experience last year. He could be the favorite to start at nickel cornerback. That group is deep enough, Will Blackmon and Deshazor Everett moved to safety. Dark horse candidate: Look out for undrafted rookie free agent Lloyd Carrington, who showed well in offseason workouts.
Intriguing fights here both inside and out. You can expect Chris Baker, Ricky Jean Francois, Stephen Paea and Kendall Reyes, a free-agent signing from San Diego, to make it as defensive ends. There are likely seven spots. How does Trent Murphy make the adjustment from outside linebacker after putting on 20 pounds this offseason? Can a young player like Corey Crawford make a push? He was on the practice squad all of last year. Kedric Golston appears to be the starter at nose tackle. But Golston, the longest-tenured Redskins player (10 seasons), has to hold off former Steelers first-round pick Ziggy Hood. Rookie Matt Ioannidis should push for a roster spot, too. He was chosen in the fifth round.
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