This time last year, Kyle Shanahan was in a new city with a new team and a new collection of players to work with, but the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator says that his excitement level is higher in 2011.
Why, you ask? The Redskins don’t even know who their starting quarterback is. What may be viewed as uncertainty by outsiders is what makes things interesting for the coach.
“I’m excited because I think we have a lot better competition,” the 31-year-old Shanahan says. “Last year, we kind of knew who our guys were a little. We were trying to figure out our team and stuff. The depth wasn’t there. We have better depth this year and there’s going to be some competition there from the first quarter all the way to the fourth.”
Some teams enter a preseason with few or no positional battles, because players are entrenched at each position. According to Shanahan, the Redskins last season entered the preseason with few positional battles not because everyone was that good. But because depth was awful.
Redskins officials this offseason worked to improve the depth, and we’ll soon learn how they fared.. It’s debatable, for example, whether they improved the quarterback position by shipping out Donovan McNabb and declining to replace him with a proven veteran. But Washington does now appear to have competition almost all the way across the board.
The offensive line basically is set: LT Trent Williams, LG Kory Lichtensteiger, C Will Montgomery, RG Chris Chester, RT Jammal Brown. Outside of tackle Sean Lockler and guard Artis Hicks, there is little experience among the backup linemen.
But otherwise, jobs remain very much up for grabs. Here’s a look:
Quarterback – It’s Rex Grossman vs. John Beck, and Kellen Clemens would like to be inserted into that conversation.
Running back – For now it’s Tim Hightower vs. Roy Helu, but Ryan Torain expects to soon rejoin the race when his broken hand heals.. Rookie Evan Royster is trying to create a niche for himself by working hard to hone his pass-blocking skills. And Keiland Williams, despite working at fullback, wants to remain in the third-down back conversation.
Tight end – Chris Cooley is the top guy, but isn’t healthy. Coaches are high on Fred Davis, who could start on any team. Logan Paulsen is a strong blocking TE, but Mike Sellers is trying to unseat him.
Wide receiver – Santana Moss is the undisputed No. 1, and Jabar Gaffney is listed as the other starter, although Anthony Armstrong and Donte Stallworth rotate in often with the first team. Leonard Hankerson does as well, but is battling inconsistency. Niles Paul, Terrence Austin and Aldrick Robinson are working to catch coaches’ eyes as well, and likely will need strong special teams play to help their cases. Malcolm Kelly once again can’t be included right now because he is injured.
Fullback – Darrel Young seems to have taken over as the starter there, with Williams seeing action as well. Young looks sharp in practices, but if he falters in games, could Sellers re-join the mix?