Vacation has come to an end. It’s time to get to work again.
The Washington Redskins on Wednesday report to Richmond – the place they will call home for the next 20 days as they lay the foundation for the 2014 season during training camp.
In the past month, we’ve taken a look at a number of players to watch during camp, in all three phases of the game.
Today, we go over key areas to monitor on offense. Tomorrow, we’ll dig further into the defense, and Wednesday we’ll tackle special teams.
1. Gruden’s stamp – The first-year head coach took steps toward molding the team in his image during the offseason as Washington added more speed at the skill positions, and more size along the offensive line. He introduced a new offense – a blend of plays from his own offense and the best pages of the Redskins’ offense from 2012 and 2013. In reality, according to players, because both Gruden and former coach Mike Shanahan come from the West Coast Offense family tree, the offense will still look largely the same. But some terminology will change, as will some tactical philosophies. The players express encouragement over how the offseason introductory course to the offense went. Now, Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay will tinker and experiment and try to figure out exactly how they want things to look.
2. Griffin’s rebound – Although he must oversee the entire rebuilding process as Washington tries to rebound from a 3-13 campaign and return to the ranks of the contenders, Gruden’s chief task involves helping franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III reclaim the magic from his rookie season, and exceed that level of play. Physically, the young quarterback – now 19 months removed from his 2013 right knee reconstruction – has fully returned to form. Now, it’s about sharpening his mental tools, improving his understanding and feel for the game and helping him become a more complete passer. Gruden and McVay this camp will continue to work to help Griffin become more accurate while also tutoring him on how to more quickly read and react to defenses. Team officials have upgraded the pieces around the quarterback, and now they need him to take his unit to another level.
3. Quarterback-coach relationship – In addition to fixing Griffin’s game, Gruden and McVay must ensure that trust between coaches and quarterback is – and remains – fully restored. Somewhere along the way as he injured his knee, went through surgery and rehab, Griffin lost faith in Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan. Despite sit-downs between the parties involved, things never truly improved. The season ended with the Shanahan camp leaking damning reports to the media about the quarterback, and with Griffin telling teammates that the Shanahans didn’t like him. Owner Daniel Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen believe that Gruden’s style, approach, youth and experiences as a former quarterback will help restore order in that coach-quarterback relationship. So far, Griffin has praised Gruden for his communication skills, leadership style and vision for himself and the offense. Gruden, meanwhile, has praised Griffin’s approach to the game and willingness to learn. We’ll see how this marriage progresses during the heat of training camp, and if Griffin struggles during the preseason or early in the regular season.
4. Fitting in the new pieces – The offense this season will feature three new starters in wide receiver DeSean Jackson, fellow wideout Andre Roberts (when they open games in frequently-used three-receiver sets) and left guard Shawn Lauvao. It’s four if you count Kory Lichtensteiger, who moved from left guard to center. Some other roles will adjust, as second-year tight end Jordan Reed is expected to take on a larger role. The offseason practices introduced everyone to the changes, and helped coaches get a feel for the new players’ capabilities. In training camp, these players will truly define their roles. How will Jackson and Roberts complement returning No. 1 pass-catcher Pierre Garcon? Will the addition of Lauvao and switch for Lichtensteiger spark improvement out of Griffin’s line? Meanwhile, draft picks Morgan Moses (tackle), Spencer Long (guard), Lache Seastrunk (running back), Ryan Grant (wide receiver) and Ted Bolser (tight end) will try to carve out slots on the depth chart and possibly push veterans for playing time.
5. Position battles – The Redskins have few jobs up for grabs on offense. But they do have a number of players competing for spots in the rotations at wideout and running back, and others vying for slots on the depth chart along the line. The Redskins need to figure out who is best suited for the third-down back role behind workhorse Alfred Morris. Fourth-year players Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster, second-year pro Chris Thompson, Seastrunk and undrafted rookie Silas Redd all will compete for this job. At wide receiver, a slew of players including long-time veteran Santana Moss, youngsters Aldrick Robinson and Leonard Hankerson (once fully recovered from anterior cruciate ligament surgery) and undrafted rookie Cody Hoffman will try to earn roster spots.
Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.
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