Last season, tight end Robert Royal caught four touchdowns, including three in the final three games. Royal's forte has been pass catching, and his production wasn't surprising. Nonetheless, the Redskins will try to upgrade at the position by having H-back Mike Sellers compete with Royal for the starting job during training camp. Coach Joe Gibbs emphasizes run blocking at tight end while his H-back -- a hybrid receiver and fullback -- acts as more of a pass catcher. The 6-foot-3, 278-pound Sellers is a sturdy blocker who last season occasionally played fullback -- normally an obsolete position in Gibbs's offense -- during goal-line situations.
Royal still has a good shot to remain on the first unit; he is a solid if unspectacular blocker who is familiar with Gibbs's system. The 6-4, 260-pound Royal must increase his strength to become the ideal blocking tight end for Gibbs. Redskins coaches are so intent on employing a tight end with blocking skills that even center Lennie Friedman is taking snaps at the position. The 6-3, 295-pound Friedman has the requisite athleticism, but he's a long shot to start; it won't be easy to become accustomed quickly to playing on the outside instead of in between fellow linemen.
Last season, Sellers excelled in special teams while playing a reserve role at H-back. The Redskins want Sellers to focus on being a pure tight end, freeing him from the mental burden of being an H-back in Gibbs's system.
This week, the Redskins released tight end Billy Palmer, an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame, and signed Robert Johnson, a 6-6, 278-pounder to add to the competition. But the starting gig will almost certainly go to Royal or Sellers.
FRESH FACE: JOSH WARNER
Position: Offensive lineman.
Who He Is: Warner spent last season out of football after being released by the Chicago Bears at the conclusion of the preseason. He played in 10 games for the Bears in 2003. He has played guard and tackle and is also able to play center.
How He's Doing: Warner has taken his share of snaps during practice and for at least the past two days has been one of the last players off the field as he gets in extra work with Joe Bugel, assistant head coach-offense. "He's really an up-and-comer," Bugel said. "He has a tremendous work ethic. He has the two great characteristics we look for in linemen: He's smart and tough."
Chances of Making the Roster: Bugel refers to Warner as being "in the mix." Warner has played in NFL games, so his experience with the rigors of the league gives him an edge over younger, less-experienced players. He has good strength, and his ability to play center is a plus, but he needs to work on his pulling ability. "With four preseason games you don't know what's going to happen."
"That's a perfect spot for that. That's great."
Coach Joe Gibbs, on David Patten after the wide receiver dropped a pass and ran into a metal blocking sled
COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF
Days until the Redskins play the Bears at FedEx Field
-- Nunyo Demasio and Daniel Lyght