So far, so good with Griffin: There is one issue that overshadows all others and that is the return of quarterback Robert Griffin III from knee surgery in January. Coach Mike Shanahan has taken the seemingly sound approach of easing Griffin back gradually toward full-time duties, limiting him to individual drills in practices so far and opting to withhold Griffin from the entire preseason. Griffin said early last week that his knee was feeling good and that he was pleased with his sharpness in passing drills. Shanahan said Saturday that Griffin has suffered no setbacks. There are plenty of tests still to come, with Griffin poised to be allowed to participate in full-team drills perhaps as soon as within another week or so, but to this point he seems on course to being ready to play in the opening regular season game.
Rookie defensive backs: A team badly in need of help in the secondary, after ranking 30th in the league in pass defense last season, appears to have gotten some with the draft-pick additions of cornerback David Amerson and safeties Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas. Amerson has impressed the coaches on the practice field and is making a strong push for a starting job. Rambo continues to practice with the starting defense. Thomas is catching up after falling behind when he missed a week of offseason practices. Any NFL team that leans on rookies in its defensive backfield is virtually certain to take some lumps due to their inexperience. But inexperience doesn’t last forever and the Redskins at least have hopes for improvement.
Orakpo, Davis appear okay: The comebacks of linebacker Brian Orakpo and tight end Fred Davis from their season-ending injuries last year — a torn pectoral muscle for Orakpo and a ruptured Achilles’ tendon for Davis — are less scrutinized and less celebrated than Griffin’s return. But their presence in the lineup is important for the Redskins, too. They are practicing and appear to be doing well.
Wide receivers seem capable of more: The Redskins lacked even a 700-yard receiver last season even while having one of the NFL’s most productive offenses. That should be rectified this season if Pierre Garcon stays in the lineup. Josh Morgan says he is healthier now than he was at any point last season. Griffin could have better receiving options at his disposal, which could be particularly important if opposing defenses make significant adjustments this season to try to limit the Redskins’ rushing yards.
Barnett aboard: The Redskins added Nick Barnett, a veteran linebacker who was a free agent, out of need when their defensive depth was put to an early test (see below). There are reasons why a player of Barnett’s caliber was available into training camp; he is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery. But he is a career-long NFL starter in Green Bay and Buffalo. He was credited with 112 tackles last season for the Bills. He has been a respected locker-room leader. This is a move that could end up paying off for a team that lost one of its leaders, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, to free agency in the offseason.
Meriweather’s work cut back: Safety Brandon Meriweather played in only one game last season because of a series of knee injuries. The Redskins were eager to have him back, believing his presence this season would give the secondary a major boost. But Meriweather has had his practice work curtailed and has been absent from full-team drills lately. There’s still plenty of time to get ready for the season, of course, and the Redskins say they’re being careful and smart. But the need to scale things back with Meriweather is a bit ominous after his run of bad luck last season. He said Saturday that he hopes to be permitted to participate in at least portions of full team drills Monday.
Another drug suspension: When the league announced that defensive end Jarvis Jenkins will be suspended without pay from the first four games of the season for a violation of the NFL’s policy on banned performance-enhancing substances, he became the eighth Redskins player over the last three seasons to be suspended under the sport’s drug policies. The Redskins say that each case is different. Jenkins said he tested positive for a banned substance that he didn’t know was contained in a supplement he was taking. But Shanahan acknowledged that the team perhaps must do a better job of emphasizing to its players the importance of being careful and vigilant in complying with league drug policies.
Defensive depth tested: Adam Carriker, a former starter at defensive end, remains sidelined after recently undergoing a third surgery for a torn quadriceps tendon. Jenkins, who replaced Carriker in the starting lineup last season, and reserve linebacker Rob Jackson are suspended from the first four games. Backup linebacker Keenan Robinson suffered a torn pectoral muscle during the opening practice of training camp, after which the Redskins began auditioning free agents and ended up signing Barnett. The losses have come in relatively rapid succession for a defense that struggled for much of last season before steadying itself to contribute to the team’s late run to the NFC East title. The injuries that the Redskins have suffered so far certainly don’t seem insurmountable. But the depth of the defense certainly will be put to the test, especially in the season’s early going while Jenkins and Jackson are serving their suspensions.
No right tackle solution: The Redskins never made a serious push, it doesn’t appear, to sign free agent tackle Eric Winston despite the fact that Winston played for offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Houston. Winston remained out of work all offseason until recently signing with the Arizona Cardinals. So the Redskins are left with the option of staying with Tyler Polumbus as their starter at right tackle or going to the veteran Tony Pashos, who was signed in the offseason. Pashos has been a starter for several teams but he didn’t play in the NFL last season as he worked his way back from a ruptured tendon in his foot. Griffin, tailback Alfred Morris and the Redskins’ offense thrived last season even with Polumbus’s play being criticized. But will the Redskins end up regretting not making a move?
Williams’s wrist: Left tackle Trent Williams has continued to practice after aggravating a sprained left wrist. But he has been noticeably limited by the injury. Williams’s toughness is unquestioned at this point. He played through a series of injuries last year and still had a Pro Bowl season. But it would be a bonus for the Redskins if he at least could go into the season relatively intact.
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at email@example.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.
● The Redskins are off Sunday. Practice resumes Monday at 10 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. If you’re headed to Richmond, check our our guide to training camp for tips on getting autographs, where to park and things to do after the session is over.
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