The Washington Redskins wrapped up their final practice session of the offseason Wednesday. The players and their coaches won’t reconvene for another six weeks, when they kick off training camp in Richmond.
Coach Jay Gruden and veterans expressed satisfaction with the foundation they have laid during the past month of offseason practices. But at the same time, they all agree that the finished product remains far off.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins took on a larger leadership role in the offense this offseason, and new players received their introduction to the offensive and defensive systems. Young players, such as wide receiver Jamison Crowder, linebacker Preston Smith and cornerbacks Quinton Dunbar and Dashaun Phillips, showed signs of maturity and development.
But the team still has a number of unresolved matters it must address once training camp kicks off July 28.
“We feel like we’re in a good place. We’ve got a lot of returning starters, so that helps. But we can always improve and clean up on everything,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “It’s not one particular thing. If we approach it like that, you cut yourself short.”
Williams and several other veterans ranked the need for eliminating mental errors as the top priority for training camp.
However, several starting jobs and key backup roles are up for grabs, and the depth chart at many positions remains unresolved.
On offense, starters return at nine of the 11 spots, and the 10th — running back — is settled as coaches have second-year pro Matt Jones slated to be the starter.
Left guard remains unresolved, however. Spencer Long started the final 13 games of the season, while original starter Shawn Lauvao missed the bulk of the year because of multiple ankle surgeries. Lauvao didn’t practice this offseason because of the need to further strengthen his ankle. However, by training camp, he should receive full clearance, and the competition with Long will begin.
“You know, Shawn was playing at a very high level before he got injured, so I’m not going to pencil in anybody as a starter right now,” Gruden said. ‘I want to make sure Shawn gets healthy first. I really like his ability, but I love the way Spencer came on at the end of the year. It’s good to have two good guys at that position.”
On the other side of the line, two of three starting jobs remain up for grabs. Left defensive end Chris Baker returns, but Kedric Golston, Ricky Jean Francois, Kendall Reyes, Ziggy Hood and Trent Murphy all have seen time in the trenches with the first team this offseason. However, a determination on starters won’t likely come until a couple of weeks into training camp, defensive line coach Robb Akey said.
“We haven’t even had contact yet. I think that’s going to tell us a lot when we get to training camp,” Akey explained. “I like the ground that we have gained, and then it’ll tell us in the combative situations, ‘Who’s going to continue to rise in those scenarios?’ I think that’ll rise when we get to Richmond. . . . They all need to be fighting to see who’s in the mix.”
The depth chart at safety also remains unresolved. DeAngelo Hall returns at free safety, and free agent addition David Bruton has taken the bulk of the first-team snaps at strong safety. However, Duke Ihenacho remains under consideration there, while converted cornerbacks Will Blackmon and DeShazor Everett vie for spots as backups.
As they settle on the depth charts at numerous positions, coaches will use special-teams play during camp and the preseason to help them reach many of their determinations, Gruden said.
“Special teams is probably an area that we have got to find some players stepping up: the fliers and the punt protectors and punt team and all that good stuff; kick cover guys. But overall, once you get to training camp, you’re going to have 90 guys, let them complete, play the games and see what you need to do.”
The offseason practice season came and went without the Redskins having gotten much of a look at top draft pick Josh Doctson, who injured his left Achilles’ tendon during rookie minicamp, then missed the next four weeks while receiving treatment.
Eventually, Doctson, the 21st overall pick of this year’s draft, is expected to earn a key spot in the wide receiver rotation behind Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. Doctson has expressed frustration over his inability to practice. However, wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard dismissed any reasons for concern, saying that he expects Doctson to be ready for training camp and to work his way into the mix quickly.
“Josh Doctson will be just fine,” Hilliard said. “I’m not worried about him at all. He can spit out [all the terminology]. He knows it all. He’s going to be real good.”