With a new general manager in charge, new faces throughout the lineup as well as new assistant coaches bringing new ideas to the table, the Redskins are a team in transition. Between now and the start of training camp, CSNWashington.com reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the top questions facing Jay Gruden and Co. as they prepare for the season.
How will the Redskins’ depth chart at quarterback shake out?
Here’s what we know: Robert Griffin III is set to open training camp as the No. 1 quarterback and he’ll get every opportunity to prove that he’s the Redskins’ best option. Here's what we don't: how Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy fit into the equation. According to Coach Jay Gruden, they'll compete for the backup job while simultaneously attempting to apply pressure on RG3. In many NFL cities, the backup gig isn’t a big deal. But it is in Washington for a couple of reasons: Griffin has battled injuries throughout his career and, in each of the past two seasons, he’s also been shown to the bench for performance-based reasons.
El-Bashir: To me, there’s no reason to suspect that anyone other than Griffin will be under center Week 1. The team has picked up his 2016 option. He led the first team offense throughout spring. And, perhaps more important, he produced a couple of his sharpest offseason practices in minicamp, drawing praise from Gruden, who noted the progress he's made working from the pocket.
After Griffin, there’s a tight battle brewing between Cousins and McCoy. So tight, in fact, they alternated days leading the second team offense. And when asked if one had the edge on the other, Gruden said he expects the competition to last deep into the preseason. Which wasn't really an endorsement of either player.
Cousins and McCoy each had the opportunity to show Gruden during OTAs that there wasn’t much distance between himself and Griffin. But neither managed to do that. In fact, their inconsistency, combined with Griffin’s progress seemed to increase the gap if anything.
If I had to take a guess right now, I suspect McCoy’s experience and comfort level running Gruden’s offense will give him the edge he needs to grab the backup job. But I’ll also say this: if things get to the point where Griffin ends up on bench and the backup is called upon, chances are the Redskins’ season is already in jeopardy.
Tandler: While training camp is fun and there are lots of interesting storylines, there are some topics that make a writer (and, I’m sure, some fans) just scream that they wish the regular season would start already. This is one of those topics.
If we judge by what happened in OTAs and minicamp, Griffin would be cruising to the starting job and possibly NFL comeback player of the year honors. He wasn’t razor sharp during the sessions that the media was permitted to see but the issues seemed relatively minor and correctable.
Meanwhile, Cousins and McCoy both looked like backup quarterbacks, making some nice plays here and there but misfiring frequently and throwing too many interceptions. While it was hard to separate the two into a second or a third, it didn’t appear to matter the way Griffin looked.
But next they are getting out of the shorts and helmets phase and into training camp, something that more resembles real football with pads on. Then we go on to preseason games, where you have guys you don’t have dinner with every night trying to stop you. And then it goes to the highest level, the regular season.
Will Griffin maintain his sharp edge when things heat up, both literally and figuratively? We will have to see. If I had to guess (and I do since I agreed on this topic for the post) I’d say that he maintains his grip on the starting job for at least the first few weeks of the regular season. After that, we’ll see.
If the decision on the second-string quarterback was up to me I’d go with Cousins, who has some upside if he can shake the ball protection problems. But it’s Gruden’s call and I agree the pick is likely to be McCoy. Gruden seems to like him as a game manager even though two of his four starts (vs. Colts and Rams) were poorly managed.
Previously on Redskins preseason Q&A: