Jason Hatcher aims to return from arthroscopic knee surgery by the start of training camp. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Between now and training camp, Mike Jones takes a closer look at players who’ll be key to Washington’s 2014 season. Here’s his first:

Believe it or not, the Redskins will kick off training camp in less than a month, and at that point, Jay Gruden & Co. will look to build on the foundation they laid during the offseason program. Training camp will also serve as a proving ground for many players.

Over the course of the next four weeks leading up to camp, we’ll take a look at some of them. First up, Jason Hatcher.

Minicamp concluded with Washington’s highest-profiled defensive free agent on the sidelines and in need of arthroscopic knee surgery. He had the procedure done on June 19 and was expected to require four to six weeks of recovery time. The July 23 report date for training camp is five weeks after Hatcher’s surgery, so it’s possible that he could open up camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list as he wraps up his rehabilitation.

A knee scope isn’t considered major surgery, and five days after the procedure, Hatcher reported that he already was off crutches.

But, there’s still cause for some concern, whether he or the Redskins will publicly admit it. Hatcher will turn 32 on July 13, and questions about how much he has left in the tank is part of the reason why Washington gave him a contract that doesn’t feature any guaranteed money beyond this season.

Hatcher says he’s confident he can make a full recovery and that the knee issues will not linger. He also believes that he can have a similar impact to last season when he recorded a career-high 11 sacks for Dallas although he had never had more than 4.5 in a season prior to that.

It’ll be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Jim Haslett uses Hatcher. His big sack total came while playing in a 4-3 system. Hatcher averaged 2.3 sacks per season as a 3-4 end in seven seasons prior to that.

Haslett and Hatcher say the plans include a lot of versatility and freedom for the pass-rusher. Will those plans pan out, and can Hatcher remain healthy and deliver?

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

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