The Washington Redskins begin training camp on Thursday. What are the biggest storylines to watch? We provide four of them here.
With the euphoria that's come out of Monday's announcement of the end of the NFL lockout, this week's fast and furious resumption of football will conclude with teams reporting to training camp. There will be plenty of issues that will be a big part of Washington Redskins training camp, which begins on Thursday. With the team heading into Ashburn with so much uncertainty at numerous positions, it remains to be seen just how successful the team can be in 2011.
The Redskins started camp off on the right foot by trading both Donovan McNabb and then later Albert Haynesworth, two players that could have caused major distractions had they stayed with the team. But with both of them out of the picture moving forward, only the football storylines will be the top ones in camp.
And with that, let's take a look at the top issues that will likely dominate training camp. We'll count down to make it suspenseful.
4. The Logjam at Wide Receiver
When the team re-signed Santana Moss for a three-year deal, most believed that they could be done spending at that position. That wasn't to be. The Redskins signed Donte' Stallworth and Brandon Stokely while also trading for Jabar Gaffney, which now makes the receiver situation cloudy at best. None of these receivers are game breakers, but all of them are solid veterans who have had past (key word: past) success at previous NFL stops.
That doesn't make the situation any easier for the younger crop of receivers on the roster. Not only are there second-year players looking to build on 2010, such as Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks and Terrence Austin, but the team has three rookie wideouts who are also trying to crack the roster as well.
It'll be interesting how many and which receivers wind up on the final roster come Week 1. Given the youth at the position, it wouldn't be surprising to see a veteran corps to start the season, with the younger pass catchers eventually getting into the rotation.
3. The Development of the Rookie Class
The Redskins may have been prudent to select 12 players in the draft, but it may have been the worst year to do so. The NFL lockout has deprived them of the opportunity to learn their respective systems quickly, and those rookies will now go into camp having to learn on the job. It will be very critical for the Redskins top three selection to get comfortable quickly, as it seems as though they will be asked to contribute rather quickly.
Ryan Kerrigan is expected to start opposite of Brian Orakpo. And to add to the challenge of learning an entirely new scheme, he will have to learn how to play a new position, going from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker.
Jarvis Jenkins will be expected to contribute this season, appearing to make the transition from 4-3 defensive tackle to a 3-4 defensive end. His development will be key to what could be a vastly improved defensive line.
The top picks will get more of a look, but with the depth of the Redskins draft class, it will also be interesting to see which of the lower round rookies are able to emerge in camp.
2. The Progression of the 3-4 Defense
Last season, the Redskins were among the worst defensive units in the league, finishing the season ranked 31st overall in total defense. Heading into the offseason, it was quite clear that there were more holes on that side of the ball than anywhere else on the roster.
The team addressed its bevy of needs on defense by first signing free safety OJ Atogwe from the St. Louis Rams. Atogwe's ability paired with his previous experience with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett should prove beneficial to a secondary that did not see great play from its free safety in 2010.
The team then addressed more needs in the draft when they selected Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan to pair with outside linebacker Brian Orakpo as the outside pass rusher that the 3-4 defense needs to be successful. They then drafted Jarvis Jenkins out of Clemson in the second round to play defensive end, and then interior lineman Chris Neild out of West Virginia in the seventh round.
But the Redskins clearly weren't done there. After the acquisition of Barry Cofield, along with other moves they are expected to make along the defensive line, the team has certainly upgraded it's talent on the defensive side of the ball.
This is year two of Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense, and will be one where the unit as a whole needs to show big progress to validate Shanahan's decision to make the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4.
1. John Beck's Chance
If you're John Beck, this is the opportunity you've been waiting for since 2007. It appears the Redskins will indeed give Beck a chance to compete for the starting job, a decision that has many around the league scratching their heads.
Beck, as we all know, has only had four NFL starts, all them during his rookie year for the 1-15 Miami Dolphins. Ever since, he's been a backup and looked to be destined to be a career journeyman. That was until Mike Shanahan declared his admiration for Beck's skills immediately after the draft, stating he could have a chance to start in 2011.
From that point on, the John Beck media blitz kicked into high gear, with Beck publicly endorsing himself to become the starter. To his credit, Beck hasn't been shy about his confidence in himself. But in the end, it will be about what he does on the field.
Can he do it? We're all about to find out. The future Beckons, or something like that.