As training camp approaches, Mike Jones takes a closer look at players who find themselves competing for key roles this season, or are in position battles this preseason.
Despite having to spend the offseason rehabbing from a complicated surgery while also seeing his team make significant moves at his position during free agency, defensive end Stephen Bowen remains confident that he can remain a part of the equation that helps his unit improve this season.
Bowen endured a trying third season in Washington (and eighth in the NFL) as he battled a knee injury and wound up missing the final six games because he needed microfracture surgery. Uncertainty over Bowen’s ability to recover, and the need for the Redskins’ pass rush to improve dramatically, prompted Washington to sign Jason Hatcher away from the Dallas Cowboys and add Clifton Geathers and Frank Kearse to compete for spots on the depth chart.
Aside from Barry Cofield at nose tackle and Hatcher at right end, the roles in the trenches remain undefined. Chris Baker, whom Washington re-signed after a promising 2013 campaign, saw significant time at the starting left end position during offseason practices. Holdovers Jarvis Jenkins and Kedric Golston also remain in the mix.
But jobs very much remain up for grabs. It remains to be seen if Bowen can make a full recovery, and if so, where he fits into the puzzle. He spent all of the offseason rehabbing from his surgery, but aims to make his return to the practice field at the start of training camp.
Hatcher appears to have replaced him as the starting right end, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett likes to rotate his linemen frequently to keep them fresh and effective.
Bowen believes that regardless of whether or not he starts, he can play an important role.
“I’m willing to do what it takes to win,” he said earlier this spring. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of talent on the defensive line,” Bowen said. “I feel like the great defenses that win championships, they come at people in waves. They have a lot of talent, and that’s how you get it done. … I think, just basically the defensive line as a whole, for us to be the dominant group, everybody has to have a role. Everybody has to know their role and play it out to perfection.”
Once training camp gets underway, and then the preseason games begin soon after that, we’ll see if and how Bowen can define a role.
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