Washington Redskins: 3 Questions the Redskins Must Answer in Training Camp
As June comes to a close, we are now a month away from the start of training camp for the Washington Redskins. The team has had a busy offseason full of headlines and, fortunately enough, devoid of major injuries during OTAs.
While contact was not permitted during the recent team activities at Redskins Park, you'd be surprised how tender knee ligaments can be during the offseason.
Am I right, Ravens fans?
But as we officially move into the second half of the 2012 calendar there are still a number of questions facing a franchise coming off of a 5-11 campaign from the year before.
Let's take a look at three questions in particular that Washington must answer in training camp this year.
What's the Direction at Running Back?
With Tim Hightower re-signing and the top three backs from last season returning, I argued last month that the team is going to enter the season without a true No. 1 running back.
Whether or not that proves to be the case, the question needs to be answered during training camp.
What exactly is Mike Shanahan's plan at running back?
Fellow Featured Columnist Matthew Brown recently wrote an article about what Shanahan needs to change for 2012 and chief among his concerns was the running back by committee approach. Brown argued that all three backs displayed their starting ability last season but that the team shouldn't waste its time splitting carries.
I would like to point out that splitting carries and utilizing each player's unique abilities should reduce the wear on them throughout the season and can set them up to be as productive as possible. If you have three running backs that have three distinctly different skill sets, cater the offense to each so that they can all flourish in the right spots.
Don't force one back to expose a weak portion of his game when their are two other capable backs on the roster potentially able to step up in that role.
Either way, Shanahan needs to lay the foundation for his running game in training camp. If he's going to go with a committee approach, each of the 'Skins trio of backs needs starting reps. If Shanahan chooses to go with a true work-horse back, they need to be ready to start the season off strong to take some pressure off of Robert Griffin III.
The team cannot afford to go into Week 1 of the season not knowing under what direction the unit will be operating throughout the season.
Is the Offensive Line from Last Season Really Good Enough for 2012?
The starting offensive line for Week 1 of the 2011 season for the Washington Redskins consisted of Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester and Jammal Brown.
At this point in the offseason, the starting lineup for this upcoming season looks to be exactly the same.
By his refusal to go after starting talent in the offseason and to, instead, acquire players with potential to strengthen the depth chart, Mike Shanahan is clearly giving a vote of confidence to the unit he put in place last year. The players acquired in the draft and via free agency were welcomed additions to the roster, none of them are coming in with the expectation of winning a starting spot in training camp.
It appears as if last season's performance didn't prove anything to the coaching staff about their starting five. You can chalk it up to injuries or poor performance by whomever happened to be playing quarterback, but either way the offensive line was bad.
The questions that plagued the unit from last year have yet to be resolved so far this year.
Jammal Brown hasn't proved yet that he's 100 percent and/or back to his New Orleans form. Kory Lichtensteiger is still recovering form a season-ending injury. Trent Williams needs to go into training camp with the intent of proving his doubters wrong and showing that he was deserving of a No. 4 overall pick.
Williams and Fred Davis are both on very thin ice. Were they not immensely talented physically with huge upsides, they could have very easily been cut.
The performance of the offensive line this year is going to make or break RGIII's rookie year. I have nightmares back to David Carr's rookie season when he was sacked 76 times.
To be clear, I am in no way saying that RGIII and David Carr are on the same talent level.
What I am trying to point out is that David Carr's career was ruined by the punishment he had to endure in his rookie season because of a poor offensive line.
Is RGIII the Real Deal?
Yes I think it's a stupid question to answer definitively at this point. But for all intents and purposes, he better be the real deal.
However, people need to be reminded that Griffin has yet to take an official snap in the NFL. So before we give him the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, let's let him get through training camp. He has looked great in shorts in the spring time, but let's see how he reacts when everything speeds up in training camp.
RGIII has proven that he is a very poised, charismatic and talented young man. But he has yet to prove he is an elite NFL QB.
He has most certainly impressed during OTAs with the media and teammates alike. This doesn't mean that we have to believe all of the hype that surrounded him through the draft process.
From his late-season performances through the bowl season to winning the Heisman and ending up at draft night in New York City, RGIII had a meteoric rise in popularity, coverage and on many NFL organization's draft boards.
Looking back, the former Baylor QB had as much press if not more than the No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Luck. Many in the media even thought that the Indianapolis Colts would take Griffin III over Luck.
Everyone fell victim to the hype.
But that's OK as long as we realize that Griffin III doesn't have to be Johny Unitas, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. RGIII just has to be himself which seems, at this point, to be light years ahead of what Washington had under center last year with Rex Grossman.
Could RGIII have an impact on the franchise like Sonny Jurgensen did in the '60s and '70s? Sure.
Could he have a career like Joe Theismann that is incredibly productive but tragically cut short? It's always a possibility.
But before we start electing him to the Hall of Fame, Griffin III's got to get through his rookie season.
As rookies transition from college to their first OTAs to training camp, the speed of the game and pressure increases exponentially. Griffin needs to come out in camp and prove that he can keep up with the competition and has a firm grasp of the playbook.
So far he has done all of the right things, but his performance in training camp will lay the groundwork for the Washington Redskins 2012 regular season.
And what if Griffin has a mediocre first year in Washington; is the franchise doomed for good? No.
Is it playoffs or bust this year or next? No.
All he has to do is come into training camp continuing to work his tail off and prove that he can keep up. If RGIII makes it through camp looking every bit as good as he does now, as Redskins fans we can all collectively exhale and let him become the QB we want him to be over time, not overnight.
For more by Scott and his cohorts, check out The Recap.