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Position Battles: Dwayne Haskins isn't the only rookie pushing for a starting job

Position Battles: Dwayne Haskins isn't the only rookie pushing for a starting job

Many starting jobs will get decided in training camp, but for a number of Redskins rookies, May and June provide an opportunity to make a case for playing time and practice reps later in the summer.

The most high profile situation is obviously Dwayne Haskins. The 15th overall pick out of Ohio State has a real chance to start for Washington this fall, and his every throw, touchdown and interception will be dissected from now until the 'Skins open the 2019 season in Philadelphia. 

Beyond Haskins, there are plenty of rookies that will push for starting jobs. Montez Sweat leads that list on defense, but offensively, the list is longer. 

The biggest push will be on the offensive line. 

Fourth rounder Wes Martin out of Indiana looks to be in a strong position to push for the open left guard spot. His biggest competition appears to be Ereck Flowers, a bust at tackle for the Giants that is trying to restart his career as a guard. Could Flowers be better on the interior of the offensive line? Maybe, and being coached by Bill Callahan could certainly help. And Flowers has talent - he was a Top 10 pick in 2015 by New York. 

Chris Cooley declared Martin the starter at left guard on his podcast, and there is some belief inside the building that the rookie could emerge in 2019 like Chase Roullier did in 2017. Both are very strong and versatile but with less fanfare around their game after playing college ball at non-football schools. 

Beyond Martin, there will be some major push from two wide receivers taken in the draft this year in Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon. Part of that will be that the two rookies are young and talented, but part of that will also be the lack of production from the established wideouts on the Redskins roster. 

Last month, Washington decided not to exercise the fifth-year option on Josh Doctson's contract. That makes his hold on a starting job as tenuous as ever. Paul Richardson is working back from injury and seems unlikely to practice until at least training camp. If McLaurin and/or Harmon can impress now, they can move up the depth chart. 

There is another offensive rookie in center/guard Ross Piersbacher. The former Alabama starter doesn't project as a starter, but more of a depth player with versatility on the interior of the offensive line. Considering the injuries the Redskins have sustained in the middle of their O-line the last few seasons, odds would suggest Piersbacher will get a chance to start before the year ends. 

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How did the Redskins end up as the favorites to be featured on Hard Knocks?

How did the Redskins end up as the favorites to be featured on Hard Knocks?

There's a solid formula to land on the HBO series Hard Knocks, and a rookie quarterback can play a big role. Last year, HBO picked the Cleveland Browns, and much of that was to showcase No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield. Three years ago, HBO did the same thing with the Rams and Jared Goff. 

This year, the No. 1 overall pick landed on a team that can't be shown on Hard Knocks, as Kyler Murray will play for new coach Kliff Kingsbury in Arizona. Teams with coaching changes are ineligible for the show, as are teams that made the playoffs the previous season. 

Well, the Redskins didn't make the playoffs last year and didn't make a coaching change. What other QBs were taken in the first round?

The New York Giants took Daniel Jones with the sixth pick, and the Redskins took Dwayne Haskins at 15. 

Hmmm.

For years, the idea of the Redskins on Hard Knocks seemed far fetched. Team president Bruce Allen is not particularly fond of the media or inside access for television cameras. Allen comes by that honestly, his father Hall of Fame coach George Allen liked to practice in complete secrecy. Like father, like son. And as much as HBO and the NFL can force a team to do Hard Knocks, if the team doesn't want to be a part of it, the access can be very limited. 

So, has that changed? Maybe. 

Oddsmakers have established the Redskins as the betting favorite to land on the show, with the Oakland Raiders and the Giants just behind them. Both the 'Skins and Giants have rookie QBs, but the reception around each rookie has been quite different. While generally, Washington fans are very excited about Haskins, the New York crowd seems non-pleased with Jones. 

The NFL rarely does things that upset the Giants, and in an offseason of turmoil for Big Blue, it's hard to see the team wanting the increased scrutiny of the documentary show. Between trading Odell Beckham, drafting Jones at six, and a series of odd quotes about Eli Manning's future, New York GM Dave Gettleman has become a national punch line. It seems highly unlikely Giants ownership wants their GM on national television, especially in an unguarded format like Hard Knocks, and usually, when Giants ownership wants something, they get their way. How many cold weather cities have hosted an outdoor Super Bowl again?

There's also the Raiders. 

Jon Gruden would be a star because he already is a star. The team traded for Antonio Brown, who is also a star. The Raiders would make great television.

But wouldn't they rather go on Hard Knocks next season when the team moves to Las Vegas? How glitzy is that? There won't be a coaching change — Gruden is armed with a 10-year contract — and the team should be better as their three first-round draft picks will have a year of experience. The Raiders on Hard Knocks in 2020 seems like a slam dunk. 

The Lions and 49ers are also options, but less appealing. Detroit is a perennial also-ran, and San Francisco lacks sizzle. 

So back to the Redskins. 

The team would be appealing for HBO. Washington has a huge fan base across the country, and the television network is already familiar with the team's Richmond training camp setup. In 2015, HBO chronicled the Houston Texans' training camp, and that included a trip to Richmond for joint practices. Everybody remembers that trip. 

But if the Redskins didn't want Hard Knocks before, why is this time different? Oddsmakers think things have changed, and digging in, maybe they're right.

By all accounts, the 'Skins had an excellent 2019 NFL Draft. They added their quarterback of the future in Haskins, and aggressively traded back into the first round to grab Montez Sweat, a potential beast of a pass rusher. The team also signed Landon Collins this offseason to an $84 million contract, and have pieces in place for a Top 10 defense. Offensively, Adrian Peterson is going into the Hall of Fame and second-year RB Derrius Guice should return from a knee injury to push for carries. 

Maybe, just maybe, the Redskins are willing to let HBO inside their walls because they want to brag a little bit. 

In the weeks after the draft, Allen did appearances on ESPN's First Take along with a host of national radio interviews. Stephen A. Smith interviewing Bruce Allen was wildly unexpected, and it corresponds to a noticeable increase in accessibility with the Redskins front office boss. Allen has conducted more media availabilities this offseason than he had in the previous two years combined. 

For all the talk of dysfunction that gets thrown around at Redskins Park, the reality is quite different. At least on the football side. The team did fire a number of high ranking business executives late last year after employing them for less than a season. That was an ugly scene.

On the field, however, things have been fairly steady for years. The team is aggressively mediocre in the Jay Gruden era, which is more stable than the franchise has been for the last 25 years. And Gruden would be hysterical on Hard Knocks, along with Rob Ryan and Jim Tomsula. 

Maybe going on Hard Knocks will change the perception around the team that owner Dan Snyder calls all the shots. Maybe going on Hard Knocks will get fans excited for the Haskins era, and get those fans to buy tickets. FedEx Field was noticeably empty last year. Maybe none of it happens too. 

Despite being the betting favorite, it is far from certain the Redskins land on Hard Knocks later this summer. But there are reasons to believe maybe this could be the year. 

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Redskins depth chart review: Will Jay Gruden really be bold enough to keep just 2 QBs?

Redskins depth chart review: Will Jay Gruden really be bold enough to keep just 2 QBs?

The whole world watched the Redskins start Mark Sanchez at quarterback late last season in a game with playoff implications.

The whole world watched the Redskins get blown out in that game by a bad New York Giants team, and Sanchez throw a first-half pick six. 

Starting Sanchez was obviously a mistake, and while it only occurred because of an incredibly improbable set of circumstances, the process in place that allowed Sanchez to start a December NFC East game in 2018 was seriously flawed.

For a few seasons now, the Redskins have kept just two quarterbacks on their final roster. When the durable Kirk Cousins was the starter, that was never a problem. Cousins never missed a start from 2015 to 2016. Last year, however, not having a third quarterback really hurt Washington. 

Now that the majority of NFL Free Agency has ended and with the NFL Draft complete, Redskins fans have a good look at the reality of their quarterback situation for the 2019 season. 

The Redskins should enter training camp with veterans Case Keenum and Colt McCoy alongside 15th overall pick Dwayne Haskins. There's something for everyone in that group. It's also assumed Alex Smith will spend the season on the injured reserve, with serious questions about him ever returning to the football field. 

Keenum is two years removed from a breakout season in Minnesota, where he guided the Vikings to the NFC Championship game and threw 22 TDs against just seven INTs in 14 starts. Last year, Keenum backtracked in Denver. He wasn't good (18 TDs vs 15 INTs) but he wasn't bad either (62 percent completion percentage, nearly 3,900 yards passing). 

Keenum is not the long-term answer in Washington, but he could manage the offense this year. McCoy is another player that some believe could run 'Skins coach Jay Gruden's offense. 

McCoy has been in Washington since 2014, and while he's had six starts, he's never gotten a chance to be the starter. This offseason, for the second straight year, the Redskins had the chance to make McCoy the starter. And for the second straight year, the front office traded to acquire another QB. Last year it was Smith, this year, Keenum. 

Further complicating matters, McCoy has undergone three surgeries since breaking his leg last December in Philadelphia. Sources believe McCoy will be fine for training camp in July, but that's a long way from now. Arguably McCoy's biggest advantage is his knowledge and familiarity of Gruden's offense, but if he's sidelined, he can't show that. 

Like Keenum, McCoy is not the future at QB in Washington.

That would be Haskins. 

A star last year at Ohio State and Heisman Trophy finalist, Haskins completed 70 percent of his passes and threw for 50 TDs. For some QBs, that's a college career. Haskins did that in just one season for the Buckeyes. 

Gruden was clear Haskins will get a chance to compete for the starting job this season, and that means a three-man race in training camp. In some ways, it will be apparent how serious the contenders are by watching offensive drills in Richmond. Gruden will be forced to give each player significant time with the starting group to decide on QB1. If any player, most likely Keenum or Haskins, gets more work than the others, than that player is likely QB1. 

It's premature to guess at QB1 in May, but it would also be naive to think Haskins won't win the job. The last time the Redskins drafted a first-round rookie QB, he won the job. Anybody inside the beltway remember that guy? Robert something?

Anyway, for the purpose of the 53-man roster, the real question will be if the Redskins keep all three quarterbacks. Speaking at the league meetings in March, Gruden made clear he only likes to roll with two QBs on his 53.

"If you carry three quarterbacks, which I've never been a fan of, it will have an impact on another position," the coach said. 

Which brings things all the way back to Mark Sanchez. 

The Redskins never thought they'd lose both Smith and McCoy to broken legs last year. The odds of that happening were astronomical. The Redskins never thought they'd actually have to start Mark Sanchez. 

Still, it happened, and it buried their season.

In 2019, that lesson might not be lost when figuring out the 53-man roster. Haskins is a rookie, McCoy has dealt with injuries throughout his NFL career, and Keenum was never considered an NFL starter until his seventh year in the league. 

The McCoy injury situation could cloud the issue if there are more delays with his leg. But should Washington leave Richmond with three healthy quarterbacks, all three should make the final roster. 

Learn something from the Sanchez era. History can be quite worthwhile when something is learned from it. 

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