Washington Redskins' Training Camp To-Do List
It's time for training camp—two-and-a-half weeks of tireless work in the blistering summer heat.
With a new coaching staff, several new players and a new offensive playbook, the laundry list of things to accomplish for a team that won only three games in 2013 far outweighs the allotted time granted.
That said, some issues are more of a priority than others. Here are the items that should be atop the Redskins' training camp to-do list.
Get RG3 Maximum Reps
For Robert Griffin III, it's all about reps in Richmond.
He spent last offseason rehabilitating his reconstructed knee but pleaded to be on the practice field during training camp a year ago. Former head coach Mike Shanahan remained steadfast in his plan to keep his franchise quarterback under wraps until Week 1 of the regular season.
The tension between QB and coach was palpable throughout the preseason, and the results spoke for themselves.
The tenor of this offseason couldn't be more different. Griffin, now 100 percent healthy, was an active participant in OTAs and minicamp. He even took his show on the road to Arizona in an effort to further build chemistry with his backs and receivers, according to The Washington Post's Mike Jones.
His new head coach Jay Gruden appears to have a temperament conducive to developing healthy relationships with his players. So far, the two have hit it off.
The success of this team starts and ends with Griffin. In addition to learning a new playbook, he needs these summer reps to build upon the weaknesses in his game, fine-tune what he already does best and develop a rapport with his new teammates.
The phrase "practice makes perfect" never rang so true for Griffin last season. He had none of it, and the Redskins won only three games.
A full offseason under center for RG3 may be all this team needs to change its fortunes.
Further Establish New Identity on Special Teams
New special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica is tasked with turning around what was the worst special teams unit in the NFL last season.
Lucky for Kotwica, the personnel he'll be working with this season is an upgrade from 2013's underachieving bunch.
Credit Redskins president and general manager Bruce Allen for signing and drafting several special teams-minded players this offseason.
Veterans such as linebackers Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward and rookies Trent Murphy and Bashaud Breeland, among others, are expected to make meaningful contributions.
Then there's Kotwica, the disciplinarian.
As the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Michael Phillips notes, Kotwica, a West Point graduate, applies principles from his eight years of military experience to his coaching:
I would suggest to you that one of the most important lessons is that you can have a plan going in, you can have an operational order, but the enemy’s got a vote.
You’ve got to have the ability to make adjustments. Because you’ve got a plan going in that might work, but again, the enemy’s got a vote. Whether it’s in the desert of Iraq or the football field on Sunday, you’ve got to have the ability to make adjustments and instill confidence in your soldiers or players that the job is going to get done.
No one will know what to expect from special teams until September, but Kotwica has already changed the culture this offseason. That transformation must continue throughout camp.
A drastic turnaround by special teams coupled with a healthy Griffin will go a long way toward making the Redskins contenders in the NFC East.
Develop Secondary Depth
The Redskins are hoping that training camp produces one or more surprises from a secondary whose current depth leaves much to be desired.
Uncertainty lies behind starting cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson. Veteran Tracy Porter, whom the Redskins signed to a two-year deal this offseason, is expected to be the No. 3 corner. He has spent the entire offseason recovering from shoulder surgery.
Washington wouldn't have paid Porter $3 million per year if it didn't expect him to contribute, but the combination of his injury history and recent spotty play cannot be ignored.
Will anyone else emerge? Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland is a lock to make the team—if only to play special teams—but must prove during camp and preseason games that he can be relied upon.
E.J. Biggers and Chase Minnifield will also have their opportunities, but neither fully took advantage last season.
If secondary coach Raheem Morris isn't seeing progress in training camp, it will be up to management to scour the waiver wire for veteran help before the regular season commences.
Quickly Identify the Starting Offensive Line
Training camp is all about competition, but there's something to be said for chemistry.
As it stands, left tackle Trent Williams and center Kory Lichtensteiger are the only two surefire opening-day starters.
Tyler Polumbus is the clear favorite to start at right tackle, but he will compete with rookie Morgan Moses in Richmond. Guards Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester are both on-paper starters, but bruising rookie Spencer Long will be nipping at their heels.
The last thing the Redskins need is a revolving door for an offensive line. While it's important that the offensive coaching staff allow Moses and Long every opportunity to win a starting job in camp, nothing is more paramount than getting the best five linemen ample reps together before Week 1 against J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and the Houston Texans.
The uncertainty currently surrounding this unit could be troublesome throughout the regular season if it's not met with conviction early. Barring injuries, Griffin shouldn't have to worry about who's protecting him on a weekly basis.
Keep D-Line Fresh, Healthy for Regular Season
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett must concoct the perfect combination of rest and reps for his aging D-line in training camp.
Defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen, both 30 years old, each missed the entire offseason recovering from hernia and microfracture surgery, respectively. Newly signed defensive end Jason Hatcher, 32, is still on the mend after arthroscopic knee surgery last month and may not be available at the start of camp.
All three players are expected to play major roles on defense this season. Haslett's balancing act in training camp will consist of trying to get the trio in game shape while ensuring there are no medical setbacks.
The Redskins can ill-afford to lose any of their defensive linemen, most notably Cofield and Hatcher.
Cofield has started every game at nose tackle in his three seasons with Washington. Hatcher is fresh off an 11-sack season that earned him his first-career Pro Bowl berth as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Expect Haslett to put the veterans who need it on a pitch count early in camp, only to slowly increase their workload in preparation for the "dress rehearsal" preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens in late August.
All statistics and player information courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.
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