Updating Washington Redskins' Key Position Battles Early in Training Camp
After the first week of training camp, it is apparent that there is a lot on the line for a lot of players currently on the field for the Washington Redskins. There are still plenty of questions to be answered and more questions to come about, but things are coming into focus early on.
With upward of 90 players currently on the roster, the Redskins have a long way to go before the regular season and a trimmed-down 53-man roster.
There are some position battles that have yet to heat up thus far, others that have disappointed and others that have come out of nowhere.
Here is a look at how the important position battles are shaping up after the first week of camp.
Kai Forbath and Zach Hocker began their head-to-head competition on the second day of training camp.
Forbath nailed all four of his attempts, while Hocker hit on all three of his attempts.
On the third day of training camp, Hocker was perfect on three attempts, but Forbath missed one of his three kicks, a 49-yarder he pushed wide right.
Both kickers have had five attempts from beyond 40 yards, but Hocker has yet to miss.
Though missed kicks are to be expected from time to time, Hocker’s consistency and accuracy from distance puts him ahead of Forbath early in training camp.
There has been very little news regarding Spencer Long's progress or the competition with Chris Chester at right guard, but the left side has seen the arrival of an in-shape Josh LeRibeus.
LeRibeus was a promising rookie, but showed up to training camp out of shape last season, which hurt his chances and limited his playing time in 2013. Unlike last season, LeRibeus looks quicker and more effective than he did at this point last season.
Mike Jones of The Washington Post reports that LeRibeus drew praise from offensive line coach Chris Foerster after he not only executed his initial assignment in run-blocking drills, but moved to the second level for a combo block with the center.
This year, however, he’s making a push behind free-agent addition Shawn Lauvao.
Don’t expect LeRibeus to overtake Lauvao for the starting position, but his progress and apparent renewed dedication bode well for depth along the offensive line.
It is expected, or at least hoped, that Morgan Moses will seize the starting right tackle job from Tyler Polumbus sooner rather than later. Though he is physically gifted and loaded with potential, his first week of training camp has shown he’s not ready to be a starter.
Not only is Moses struggling on the right side, he’s losing ground to third-year man Tom Compton, who has shown improvement thus far.
He did get beat by Brandon Jenkins while Moses stopped Jenkins, who failed to execute a countermove. It doesn’t say much, however, when a touted rookie is barely besting a sixth-rounder from two years ago.
Moses remains a work in progress, but it looks more and more like his time will come late in the season, if not next season. Polumbus showed some skill absorbing a bull rush from Rob Jackson, but Ryan Kerrigan’s assault proved too much to handle head-to-head.
Rookie Bashaud Breeland has a leg up on much of his competition because of his lack of experience, but also because he’s not recovering from any injuries.
Even so, Richard Crawford and Chase Minnifield may have something to say about his position on the depth chart.
Breeland is physically gifted as an inside corner, but he has a lot to learn playing outside on island.
Mike Jones of The Washington Post notes that Crawford “didn’t show any limitations” during 11-on-11 drills, as he was step for step with Andre Roberts down the sideline on a deep pass.
If not for a little shove from Roberts, Crawford would have made the play as opposed to giving up the touchdown.
Minnifield is another player loaded with potential who just needs a chance. He had his biggest day on the fourth day of training camp, recording an interception and a pair of deflections.
He’s had some knee troubles, but he is fundamentally sound. At the very least, he could rotate with Breeland and Crawford in nickel and dime packages.
Alfred Morris and Roy Helu remain one-two at the top of the running back depth chart. Evan Royster was figuring in as the third man until he was sidelined with a wrist injury that could ultimately cost him a roster spot.
Instead, second-year back Chris Thompson has been getting reps ahead of Silas Redd and Lache Seastrunk.
As opposed to last season, where Thompson was visibly hesitant in his execution, he is making the most of every opportunity, every snap and every touch on offense.
Until further notice, Thompson has the edge as the third running back, taking full advantage of the extra opportunities gained from Royster’s injury.
Thus far in training camp, the Redskins have taken the spaghetti approach to return duties and are throwing everyone on the field to see who sticks.
DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Santana Moss have all seen return reps, as have Richard Crawford and Lache Seastrunk.
Roberts is pulling double duty on both punt and kick returns and appears to be the front-runner for both roles. Depending on his role with the offense, Roberts may have to relinquish one of the two slots, with Crawford possibly getting the nod on punt returns.
Unsurprisingly, Keenan Robinson remains in the starting lineup at middle linebacker. Though his position as starter continues to be cemented in spite of some inconsistent plays in coverage against Jordan Reed, he hasn’t seen much pressure from the other candidates.
It is a close battle among Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan, Adam Hayward and Will Compton.
Sharpton brings experience at the position, Compton is familiar with the defensive coaches and the scheme, Jordan has the most NFL experience, while Hayward is a bit of a dark horse for anything beyond special teams duty.
There is no clear leader thus far, with Jordan and Compton getting reps together one day, and Sharpton and Hayward getting reps later the same day.
The safe bet puts Sharpton and Jordan as primary backups for Robinson and Perry Riley, while Compton and Hayward are vying for a roster spot, likely on special teams.
Trent Murphy has asserted himself as the top backup at outside linebacker, showing of his athleticism in training camp. He still has a ways to go before he’ll be a regular impact player, evidenced by the job Trent Williams did on him on the fourth day of training camp.
Murphy’s mere presence has apparently ended any training camp battle between himself, Rob Jackson and Brandon Jenkins, as Jenkins was waived after struggling during the first week of camp.
It solidifies Murphy and Jackson as backups to Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, respectively, while making the battle between Adrian Robinson and Gabe Miller to even make the roster all the less important.
With Jason Hatcher officially on the PUP list and Stephen Bowen still recovering from microfracture surgery, Chris Baker and Jarvis Jenkins have been getting starting reps at left and right defensive end, respectively.
Jenkins moving to the right side is significant since he started on the left side last season, effectively being leapfrogged by Baker.
Baker should end up being the starter on the right side once Hatcher returns to active duty, which means Jenkins could end up being a backup and battling Bowen for snaps.
While Jenkins has looked good in practices, showing off a nastiness in his play, he will need to do a lot more to assert himself as a viable starter. Entering his fourth year, with a major knee injury and a suspension on his record, Jenkins has a lot to prove in training camp.
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