Washington Redskins: 4 Position Battles That Won't End Until Regular Season
2012 has the makings of a milestone year for the Redskins. The recent youth movement in DC has led to a good deal of young, untested talent being shipped in from places far and away to help pump new lifeblood into this troubled franchise.
There are still familiar faces to consider as well.
Veterans don't often liked to be jostled aside by upstarts—whether they're fresh from college or brought in from another team.
This is where position battles are born.
NFL lifespans are short and coexistence between two players gunning for the same position doesn't come along easily. But in the NFL, what is best for the team has naught to do with what is good or preferable for the individual.
For the Washington Redskins, there will be a few position battles happening throughout camp and the preseason, and in all likelihood, up until the very start of the season.
Let's take a look at four position battles sure to entertain all the way up to the start of the 2012 NFL season.
A year ago, most Redskins fans wouldn't have considered the tight end position deep.
Chris Cooley was battling a knee injury that would ultimately keep him out for the duration of the 2011 season and Fred Davis was still largely unproven.
Fast forward one year and all of the sudden, the Redskins seem to have stumbled upon a treasure trove of depth at the tight end position.
And it's likely to produce a perfect storm of competition.
Cooley is back, [supposedly] completely healed and checking in at a svelte 237 pounds. Davis is coming off a career season as he was second on the team in yards (796) and receptions (59), and in 2012 you can bet good money that he's expecting those numbers to improve.
Then there's the wild card, Niles Paul. The former Nebraska standout has recently taken his talents to tight end, where his speed and natural receiving ability should translate nicely to his new interior role.
Still there are question marks for all three, namely Cooley's age/durability, Davis' off-the-field concerns and Paul's ability to embrace a position he's never before played.
Whoever can win out through camp and the preseason will have a shot at being one of RG3's best friends in the coming season.
This is probably my pick for best position battle heading into 2012.
After several seasons featuring studs like LaRon Landry and the late Sean Taylor, the Redskins look to reload at safety.
The problem—that will take until Week 1 to sort out—is that there is no superstar safety listed on the current roster. Now, it's a collection of interchangeable parts that need to be weighed and measured constantly throughout the summer.
What I mean is, there's no clear front-runner.
Tanard Jackson is another import, this time from Tampa Bay, where he served under newly-minted position coach Raheem Morris. Favoritism may factor in here, but Jackson is still not a household name and needs to prove himself.
Madieu Williams, an eight-year veteran, has bounced around a bit during his career, but has several 70-plus tackle seasons under his belt and could benefit greatly from his wealth of experience. I'd imagine he would have the edge on Reed Doughty, anyways.
Doughty has been far from dazzling over the past few seasons and with young bloods DeJon Gomes and Jordan Bernstine looking to move up the ranks, I would be surprised if Doughty had much of a chance of moving up the depth chart.
Safety, perhaps more than any other position on the 'Skin's depth chart, touts sheer force of numbers. While there may be a good deal of bodies at the safety position, the need for a clear pair of front-runners to declare themselves is imperative.
Look for the battle at safety to get physical and stay that way throughout camp and preseason. The Redskins' need for improvement here is crucial.
Based purely on dollar amount and contract viability, we can assume that Pierre Garcon will likely be the No. 1 receiver in Kyle Shanahan's offense this season.
It's a coveted spot considering the prodigious talent dolling out the pigskin in 2012.
So, one can also assume that the position battle for the No. 2 receiver spot will be an all-out war.
Santana Moss, like Chris Cooley, has come back from a comparatively down year and is (as he claims) to be in arguably the best shape of his career. That's saying something, especially if that means he can replicate something akin to his 2010 season when he caught 93 balls for 1,115 yards.
Leonard Hankerson and Anthony Armstrong are two other familiar faces who will each be fighting and clawing to get the No. 2 spot alongside Garcon.
We like Hankerson because he's still very young and oozing with talent. We'll like him even more when that talent is realized and he transforms into one of the best receivers in the NFC East.
Of course, Armstrong has done well during his time in DC, but he hasn't blown anyone away at any point aside from a few brief glimpses of his impressive straight-line speed.
Josh Morgan is the new guy on the block and, honestly, could steal the position right out from under the rest of his peers. He had his best season in 2010 when he caught 44 passes for 698 yards but, as was the case until very recently, he was a casualty of playing in San Fransisco's anemic passing scheme.
Here, with a potential game-changer under center, the lauded athlete and DC native could very well turn that around.
The winner of this battle will have a lot riding on him.
Aside from Garcon, the No. 2 receiver could very well be the benefactor of a much better passing attack and will be instrumental in making or breaking the Redskins' efforts to significantly raise the bar offensively in 2012.
While most of the hype has been focused on whether or not the Redskins could outfit RG3 with the best possible skill players to help him burn up the field, the real focus is what the Redskins have been able to do on the offensive line.
Kory Lichtensteiger was a huge loss last year after he suffered an ACL tear against the Eagles in Week 6.
He's been going through OTAs with the team and, visibly at least, doesn't seem to be too hampered by the injury. He's easily the most experienced option the Redskins have at left guard, but re-injury is a constant concern and a aggravation of the MCL tear would put the Redskins in a huge hole.
Thus, the guys currently behind Lichtensteiger need to prepare as if they will be starting in Week 1.
Maurice Hurt is the only other guard listed on the roster with any kind of game experience. After Lichtensteiger went down last year, Hurt emerged from God's nowhere to start eight games. He might have held his own last year, but the Redskins only won five games; so in effect, his sample size is a little muddled.
Still, experience is experience and SEC linemen products have certainly served the Redskins well in the past.
Adam Gettis and Josh LeRibeus are the two really interesting prospects looming large in the picture. Both are rookies out of Iowa and SMU, respectively and both have experience playing center. They're both versatile, smart, athletic guards who could feasibly make a push to challenge for some early time, especially if Lichtensteiger can't stay healthy.
This position battle will last because the Redskins simply can't afford any more shuffling on the offensive line.
There is some good, young talent at the guard position and a lot is riding on Kory Lichtensteiger to remain durable; don't expect the Redskins to hedge their bets, either. If Lichtensteiger isn't where they want him to be, don't be overly shocked to see possibly LeRibeus or Gettis starting come Week 1.
This will probably not be the most exciting position battle to watch (such is the nature of offensive line play), but it will be critical to the Redskins' ability to keep RG3 upright rather than face-down and writing in 2012.