Breaking Down Washington Redskins' Biggest Training Camp Projects
The Washington Redskins have managed to avoid the word “rebuilding” throughout the course of this offseason. In spite of the new additions to the roster and coaching staff, the general feeling about the 2014 season is that of renewal as opposed to repair.
General feelings aside, the Redskins roster is not without its projects, which could factor greatly into the success or failure of the coming season.
Beyond new head coach Jay Gruden’s transition from offensive coordinator, the Redskins are faced with projects along the offensive line, in the secondary and in the middle of the defense.
Here are the most pressing projects the Redskins need to address during training camp.
Phillip Thomas, Strong Safety
Brandon Meriweather may be the starter on the depth chart and may recapture his former luster by returning to his more natural position.
But Phillip Thomas should not be forgotten at the strong safety position.
Thomas, a hard-hitting safety with good range and instincts, saw his rookie season snatched away by a Lisfranc tear that landed him on injured reserve.
With Meriweather being the starter, Thomas has his work cut out for him, and missing his rookie season only compounds the problem.
That being said, Thomas was viewed as a potential starter before going down during preseason last year.
As good a strong safety as Meriweather is, he is prone to drawing penalties and fines; he even incurred a suspension last season. Though he is not a headhunter, he has the attention of the officials and has been unfairly targeted from time to time.
The Redskins signed Meriweather to only a one-year deal, which means they aren’t sold on his ability to be a long-term option.
Thomas, though he is behind in his development, should see that as an opportunity to get back up to speed with the defense and prove he’s a successor now rather than after the season is finished.
Keenan Robinson, Inside Linebacker
Keenan Robinson is as close to a feel good story as the Redskins have for this offseason. After London Fletcher’s retirement, the second inside linebacker position next to Perry Riley was viewed as a void that would be near impossible to fill.
Robinson, despite missing most of his first two seasons with a pair of pectoral tears, has displayed an excellent grasp of Washington’s defensive scheme. More importantly, he has positioned himself to win the starting job over veteran free agents Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan.
What is overlooked in his promising offseason is his lack of game experience.
While having the opportunity to sit on the sidelines and soak up the concepts and nuances of the defense, there can be no discounting the importance of live action in the development process.
For Washington’s defense to succeed, even with the upgrade made to its secondary and the renewed emphasis on the pass rush, Robinson cannot be a weak link in the middle of it all.
Spencer Long, Right Guard
It could be argued that Chris Chester was the weakest link of the Redskins offensive line in 2013. He was overpowered on numerous occasions throughout the season and was outright embarrassed by Kevin Williams of the Minnesota Vikings.
Spencer Long is a different sort of guard, a mauler if ever there was one, and just the sort of ornery blocker the Redskins need in the trenches.
The roadblock in Long rising to the rank of starter, beyond his rookie inexperience, is the over $9 million left on Chester’s contract through the 2015 season.
The situation creates a bit of a conflict for Long’s development. The Redskins cannot rush him into the starting lineup, particularly if he hasn’t shown himself capable of being the starter, and they can’t push him to the front and then pay Chester over $4 million to sit on the bench.
On the other hand, the Redskins cannot risk Chester allowing anymore sacks on their franchise quarterback.
Morgan Moses, Right Tackle
Like Long, Morgan Moses was drafted for the purpose of supplanting the current starter at his position. In this case, Tyler Polumbus is the starter at right tackle whose days have been numbered since the Redskins selected Moses in the third round in May.
Moses was a left tackle at Virginia and has had some difficulties transitioning to the right side, but that is to be expected.
Between Moses and the starting spot, however, is Polumbus, who showed improvement last season over his 2012 performance but still doesn’t inspire confidence.
The Redskins cannot afford to see Robert Griffin III buried on every pass attempt, which means that Moses must assume the starting job sooner rather than later. Then he must improve throughout the season.
It is no small task, the jump from left side to right and from college to the NFL, but Moses must do so on an expedited basis without being rushed.
David Amerson, Cornerback
There is no doubting that David Amerson is a talented cornerback. He didn’t begin his rookie season as a starter, but he had won the job from Josh Wilson by the end of it.
However, the jump from promising upstart rookie to second corner is much different from simply stealing snaps from a disappointing veteran.
Amerson has excellent ball skills, tallying 13 interceptions in his final college season, as well as a pair of picks as a rookie. What Amerson lacks is consistency and control, hesitating in coverage and incurring the occasional penalty for getting a bit handsy with receivers.
DeAngelo Hall is Washington’s top corner and has cemented himself as a solid presence, and the addition of Ryan Clark at free safety will ease Amerson’s transition to full-time starter.
It is up to Amerson to work to improve himself as opposed to relying solely on his supporting cast to make up for his mistakes.