No position will be more closely watched. If starter Patrick Ramsey slips up, it may not be long before veteran Mark Brunell gets another shot. First-round draft pick Jason Campbell will be watching it all, and if the Redskins fall out of playoff contention, the rookie might get his chance as well. The coaches want to see Ramsey limit his turnovers and avoid sacks, and have adjusted the offense with more spread formations and by using the shotgun and focusing on deeper passes.
No position is more unsettled. Star LaVar Arrington is coming off major knee problems, while veteran Mike Barrow, who missed all of 2004 with a knee injury, was released last night. Pro Bowler Marcus Washington is a fixture on the strong side, but lesser-known linebackers like Lemar Marshall, Clifton Smith, Brian Allen, Warrick Holdman and Chris Clemons could be playing substantially in other spots.
One starting cornerback (Fred Smoot) is gone, the starting strong safety (Matt Bowen) is coming off season-ending knee surgery and the starting free safety (Sean Taylor) is facing felony assault charges. The likely nickel back (first-round pick Carlos Rogers) is battling ankle and foot injuries. Walt Harris, a steady veteran a year removed from career-threatening knee surgery, is the replacement for Smoot, and the top cornerback, Shawn Springs, will need to play at his superb 2004 level. If Taylor's legal problems curtail his play, Ryan Clark, another surprise starter last season, will be eager to show 2004 was no fluke.
The Other Positions
Clinton Portis will be a workhorse again, but perhaps not to the degree he was a year ago. He should benefit from the shift to zone blocking, while Ladell Betts is ready for more carries, and rookies Manuel White and Nehemiah Broughton were drafted to aid the short-yardage game.
Struggled in run blocking and pass protection in 2004 with anchor Jon Jansen injured. His return to right tackle should help the entire line improve, as it adjusts to new schemes.
Tackle Cornelius Griffin was a beast, and a cast of characters followed his lead as this group shined despite modest expectations. The cast is back, with tackle Brandon Noble and end Phillip Daniels hoping to fully recover from lingering injuries.
H-back Chris Cooley could be a linchpin to the offense in his second season and tight end Robert Royal emerged as a touchdown threat late in 2004, but depth could be an issue.
Jeff Chandler will challenge John Hall for the kicking duties, and the coverage and return teams should be bolstered by new personnel. All units must be much more consistent than they were last season.