Training camp won’t be a mystery for the Redskins this year. For once, this preseason will foretell Washington’s fate in the fall.
The Redskins were 4-0 last preseason only to go 3-13 in the regular season. Hence, the preseason proved nothing. Former coach Mike Shanahan treated August like a deep secret. New England coach Bill Belichick is Chatty Cathy compared to Shanahan.
But incoming coach Jay Gruden doesn’t get the luxury of smoke and mirrors when camp begins July 24. He needs to figure out if quarterback Robert Griffin III is truly healthy and capable of running the zone read. He also needs to know whether the Redskins have a pulse on special teams and if the defense can actually stop a passing attack.
The team will be exposed during games and daily workouts, especially during the joint practices with New England from Aug. 4 to 6. Redskins players will be competing for jobs against an opponent showing no mercy.
The Redskins will give their best efforts this summer. Players will try to embarrass teammates at workouts. There will be no half measures before a new coach who has no loyalty to the players. Surely, at least 20 roster slots will change, with a couple surprising veteran exits. These will be maximum-effort workouts.
Gruden will tip some of his offense this preseason. Opponents will see if Griffin’s capable of getting to the edge. But a preseason offense that will likely be run heavy may foreshadow a coming run-oriented system this fall.
Meanwhile, a secondary that’s thin will get daily tests from Griffin — as well as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in those few practices. Fans should really attend the Patriots workouts to see the Redskins’ best efforts. Nobody wants to look bad against Brady, so those workouts will reveal if Washington has enough this fall to stop Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick and Seattle’s Russell Wilson. Players may dismiss poor play against Brady as simply practice, but this will really be a window to the season.
And good-old special teams will hopefully be fixed. Every week last season was like watching a horror movie in which the Redskins were the victim. Washington needs a returner, though. Andre Roberts looked the best in offseason camps, but maybe Richard Crawford can assume that role after missing the entire 2013 season. More importantly, can anybody cover opposing returners?
Finally, will fans once more turn the Richmond facility into a contemporary Beatlemania like last year’s inaugural camp — which drew more than 10,000 daily and 165,571 overall? Then again, the Redskins are coming off 3-13 this time instead of 10-6 and a 2012 NFC East crown. Were last year’s manic crowds a fluke or just the start?
Is RGIII still a rock star in Richmond? Camp will tell a lot.
Read more from Rick Snider: