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Redskins training camp preview: Offense


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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Maryland Gov. Hogan wants new Redskins stadium, but won't use public money

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Maryland Gov. Hogan wants new Redskins stadium, but won't use public money

As attendance slumps at FedEx Field this season it's become quite clear the Redskins need a new stadium. By all accounts the team is working hard towards that end. 

News emerged last week that the Redskins are working with the Trump administration and D.C. government officials to get back to the RFK Stadium site. It's far from a done deal, but there is some progress. 

Fans remember RFK fondly, as it was the site of the team's greatest seasons. Every Super Bowl team the Redskins ever fielded called the East Capitol Street stadium home. 

Since 1997, however, the Redskins have played at FedEx Field in Maryland, and it appears Governor Larry Hogan doesn't want to lose the team either. Speaking with reporters, Hogan revealed his plans to get a new stadium adjacent to the MGM National Harbor casino in Oxon Hill. 

The Washington Post reported that Hogan has begun the process of a potential "land swap" with the federal government. Maryland would surrender lands in the western portion of the state in return for the parcel of land next to the casino to develop a new Redskins stadium. 

Nothing is official, but conversations have been ongoing between the Hogan administration and the Department of the Interior. There is one important caveat, however, that Hogan wanted to make clear. 

"We are not going to build a billionaire’s stadium, either,” ­Hogan said. “We have no interest whatsoever, and there have been no discussions, ever, about us spending one penny in construction."

The Redskins' lease at FedEx Field runs through 2027, but sources have told NBC Sports Washington that if the team builds a new stadium in Prince Georges County, those terms could change. The Oxon Cove site would be in Prince Georges County. 


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As Redskins offense continues to struggle, Jay Gruden reveals 'the curse'

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As Redskins offense continues to struggle, Jay Gruden reveals 'the curse'

The Redskins average fewer than 20 points-per-game. The Redskins rank 27th in the NFL in yards-per-game. The stats are bad for the Washington offense, and watching the games, it makes sense. 

For a Jay Gruden team, it's odd that the Redskins can't move the ball. Even when Alex Smith was healthy at quarterback, the offense still struggled. 

Watching the games all season, the offense has often been ugly. On Wednesday, Gruden revealed what he believes to be the root cause for the problems. 

"The big thing is we have way, way too many negative runs. Negative runs have been the death, that and penalties, both of those two things have been the curse of this offense and that kills our drives, that kills our momentum, that kills our ability to call plays, keeping everything open in the playbook," Gruden said. 

The coach isn't wrong. 

The Redskins have 24 false start penalties in 13 games, 2nd in the NFL. The Redskins have 27 offensive holding penalties, the most in the NFL. 

Penalties have been a persistent problem all season, as have the negative runs. 

Using data from the NFL, the Redskins have 19 negative rushes when they run to the right. That's tied for the worst in the league. The Redskins have another 26 negative runs to the center or left of the offensive line. 

Teams can't win when they don't run the football, and the Redskins can't run the football with their current penalty problems and negative plays. 

"When you have second and 18, and third and 15, your playbook goes down," Gruden said. "When you're first and 10, second and six and third and two, everything is open and we haven’t had that luxury."