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.