The Washington Redskins players and coaches report to camp tomorrow to acclimate themselves to the city they will call home for the next two and a half weeks. After a 3-13 season last year, that saw them go from NFC East champions to the NFC’s worst, the Redskins have acquired new personnel to turnaround a team that has an invigorated fan base eager to return to the top of the NFL.
Here are five storylines to keep an eye on while you’re watching the team train for the 2014 season at the Bon Secours Training Facility here in Richmond.
1) Robert Griffin III’s Progression
Robert Griffin III exploded onto the NFL landscape in 2012, showcasing his incredible athletic ability and game changing potential as the signal caller. In his rookie season he led Washington to its first NFC East Division Title since 1999, but an ACL tear against the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round ended his season and plagued him throughout 2013.
With a full off-season and full participation in this year’s training camp, Griffin can take full advantage of the opportunities in front of him. He will need to get as many repetitions as possible during practices to show his progression under center, and prove to critics he is in fact the rightful face of the Redskins franchise moving forward.
2) Coach Gruden and Griffin’s Chemistry
After Griffin’s ACL tear in 2012, former Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan limited Griffin’s activity in training camp during 2013, leading to a widening gap between coach and quarterback. Washington made the decision to let Shanahan go and bring in a quarterback friendly coach in the way of Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who coached and developed Andy Dalton over three seasons.
Coach Gruden and Griffin are already experiencing a solid working relationship according to the star quarterback. However, the real test of their chemistry will come during training camp and the upcoming season.
Gruden must be able to tailor to his quarterback’s needs, put him in the right situation to succeed, and most importantly keep him healthy. Especially during the grind of the season around middle to end during the playoff hunt when stress will be high.
3) Offensive Line Woes
Washington’s offensive line is a two sided coin. It has produced consecutive thousand yard rushing seasons for running back Alfred Morris, but over the past two seasons has allowed 76 total sacks.
The area of focus is on the right side of the line, where guards Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester are seemingly locked into the starting lineup for now. But the Redskins did draft rookie Spencer Long of Nebraska with the intention to find the starting lineup at some point during the season. Same goes for rookie Morgan Moses from Virginia, who is transitioning from left tackle to right tackle to take over the starting spot from Tyler Columbus.
The concern is chemistry on the line, if the rotation is in constant flux, it will spell trouble for Griffin under center, who wants to have a consistent season and avoid being pressured constantly.
4) Secondary Depth Issues
Despite adding veteran safety Ryan Clark from Pittsburgh, the Redskins don’t have much in terms of depth in the secondary. DeAngelo Hall returns as the primary cornerback, but after him David Amerson moves from the third spot to second on the depth chart and Tracy Porter from the Oakland Raiders is the third cornerback.
Porter had a comeback year with Oakland last season, but before that he was a non-factor with the New Orleans Saints. Yes, Porter picked off Peyton Manning in 2009 to win the Super Bowl that year for New Orleans, but despite having four interceptions that season, he only has five in the past four seasons.
Then there is rookie Bashaud Breeland from Clemson. A third team All-ACC selection, Breeland is a physical, athletic corner that is great when defending the run, but is rough around the edges in pass defense. Breeland cannot be expected to contribute big minutes early, he needs to be eased into the speed of the NFL if he wants to make large contributions to the Redskins in his career.
5) Get the Ball to the Playmakers
Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts, Santana Moss, Jordan Reed, Alfred Morris; all of them are sure playmakers. The question is how to equally distribute them the football under Coach Gruden’s system.
Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both experienced career seasons last year as primary targets. Jackson is a player who is not afraid to voice his displeasure if not given enough touches, and Garcon expects to be the primary receiver again this season.
Jordan Reed has developed into a serious asset for the Redskins’ west coast style offense, Gruden would benefit from including him in gameplanning.
It is key for him to find the right solution to tailor to all his players, properly utilize the weapons in his arsenal, and use them creatively to boost his offensive production.
Redskins Training Camp begins this Thursday July 24th, 2014 at 8:35 a.m. at the Bon Secours Training Facility here in Richmond.
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond