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Redskins training camp preview: Offense

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Redskins training camp preview: Offense

At long last, training camp is finally here. Redskins’ players and coaches will report to Richmond on Wednesday and then hit the fields at the Bon Secours training facility on Thursday morning. 

Yesterday we gave you your guide to the top storylines on defense. Up today, the offense:

The big story: There is no question that the focus in training camp will be on quarterback Robert Griffin III. He will be under the microscope every time he steps on the field for practice or for a preseason game. Going into his fourth NFL season, his pro resume includes a spectacular season (2012), a bad season (2014), and a season when he was just about an average NFL quarterback (2013). If he can be great again, that would be an unexpected surprise. The Redskins are hoping he can be at least average in 2015 and praying that he’s not awful.

They are giving Griffin some help to get the job done. While it might take their top draft pick, tackle Brandon Scherff, some time to get acclimated to playing at the next level, he still should be an upgrade in pass protection at right tackle. Jay Gruden has also pledged to put more of an emphasis on the running game and he brought in noted offensive line coach Bill Callahan to help him do so. And they kept receivers Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson on the roster at a combined cap cost of nearly $19 million, giving Griffin two high-quality targets.

Getting help will be great but Griffin’s success or failure ultimately comes down to Griffin.  He needs to clean up his fundamentals, improve his footwork, recognize what is going on in front of him, and learn how to stay on the field. That is a tall order and he may not get all of it done in training camp. But the bar is improvement, not perfection, and that is what camp observers will be looking for as Griffin spends August with a white-hot spotlight following his every move.

The position battle(s) to watch: The starters seem to be set, assuming that Griffin does not fall flat on his face in training camp or during preseason games and can hold on to the starting job. Scherff will be unchallenged at right tackle. Spencer Long appears set replacing Chris Chester at right guard. The other nine starters should be the same from 2014.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t some competitions to watch. Both rookie Jamison Crowder and second-year receiver Ryan Grant are going to push slot receiver Andre Roberts for playing time.

The key role of third-down back also needs to be sorted out. The coaches like Chris Thompson’s speed but they are wary of his inability to stay on the field. Rookie Matt Jones has surprising pass catching ability for a player his size but he has yet to show what he can do in pass protection.

The players on the bubble: Thompson will also have to fend off Silas Redd, who will not give up the roster spot he had last year easily. Despite not seriously challenging for a starting job in his three seasons, 2012 third-round pick Josh LeRibeus is still around. He took some reps at center during the offseason program in an effort to show the versatility needed to be a reserve. LeRibeus likely will be sweating it out right up until final cuts are announced at 4 p.m. on September 5.

The injury concerns: The fact that an ankle injury that Trent Williams sustained in November but didn’t sideline him for even a snap was lingering to the point where he missed most of the offseason work is a concern. He likely will be ready to go for the start of camp on Thursday but he bears watching.

Tight end Jordan Reed also missed most of the offseason program after having a knee procedure. He is a constant injury concern, although he also should be on the field on Thursday. Second-year tackle Morgan Moses suffered a Lisfranc injury late last season; we will see if he is 100 percent for camp but his status is less critical since he is expected to be a reserve.

The bottom line: The Redskins offense was highly inefficient last year. They were 13th in the NFL in yards gained but 26th in points scored. They just ended up spinning their wheels too often due to horrible third down efficiency, too many sacks due to both poor protection and bad execution by the quarterbacks, too many turnovers, and other factors that led to an inability to make a play with they need to. Fixing those issues will go a long way towards curing what ails the Washington offense. 

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

MORE: CAN YOU GUESS THESE REDSKINS BASED ON THEIR COMBINE NUMBERS?

Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

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