Predicting the Washington Redskins' Most Heated Roster Battles This Offseason
A lot can change between now and the start of the season, and there will be a number of important position battles taking place.
There is competition at every position, whether it be for the right to start or for the right to be the next guy in line. No matter the case, the 'Skins will see some wars throughout the offseason and training camp.
Here are the most heated position battles shaping up for Washington this offseason.
Third Running Back: Evan Royster vs. Jawan Jamison
If Roy Helu returns healthy this season, after spending majority of last season on IR with leg injuries and turf toe, he will most likely assume the position of second running back behind workhorse Alfred Morris.
He runs harder and is a legitimate threat as a receiver out of the backfield than Evan Royster.
Helu may find himself fighting for carries this season, but Royster may find himself fighting for his job against rookie Jawan Jamison. Being a late-round running back selected by Mike Shanahan means Jamison could become a 1,000-yard back like many of his predecessors under Shanahan.
Royster was unremarkable in limited duty last season, getting just 23 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns. He did convert eight first downs, but nothing that can't easily be replaced.
It may not seem like much of a battle, but Shanahan is a 1,000-yard back maker and never seems to settle on one running back for a long period of time anymore. Given Helu's injury history, Royster and Jamison could be fighting for the backup job, and Jamison may get the edge by being a better receiver out of the backfield.
Winner: Jawan Jamison
Left Guard: Kory Lichtensteiger vs. Josh LeRibeus
Even though Kory Lichtensteiger earned a five-year contract after successfully returning from a torn ACL and MCL in 2011, he struggled through a high ankle sprain at the end of the season and gave Josh LeRibeus a chance to show his worth, however briefly.
LeRibeus is bigger than Lichtensteiger and doesn't have the injury history, while Lichtensteiger had to have major knee surgery.
Lichtensteiger's contract is worth a modest $17.5 million and does not guarantee he will be the unquestioned starter heading into the season. A strong camp from LeRibeus could push Shanahan to make a decision at the wire and give the nod to the younger, healthier man.
The uncertainty of it gives Lichtensteiger the edge, as does his history with Shanahan from his Denver Broncos days.
Winner: Kory Lichtensteiger
Defensive End: Jarvis Jenkins vs. Adam Carriker
Jarvis Jenkins saw his rookie season go up in smoke when he tore his ACL during preseason. Adam Carriker saw his chance to follow up a career-best 5.5 sacks slip away when he tore a quad and landed on IR after a little more than one game of action.
Jenkins didn't do much to seize the opportunity granted with Carriker's absence in 2012, and Carriker has displayed more playmaking ability opposite Stephen Bowen at defensive end.
The biggest factor working against Jenkins is his inexperience. He has not displayed his ability to make plays as a 3-4 defensive end, which typically does not promote high sack totals. Carriker, however, showed his ability to stop the run and collapse the pocket from the very same position.
Carriker may be fresh off his injury, but his combination of strength and speed give him more than enough to stand out as the unquestioned starter. Jenkins may have come to Washington with more promise, but he doesn't have the tenure to command a starting role.
Winner: Adam Carriker
Right Tackle: Tyler Polumbus vs. Jeremy Trueblood vs. Xavier Nixon
Between incumbent Tyler Polumbus and free-agent veteran Jeremy Trueblood, there wasn't much hope for the right tackle spot to be any better in 2013 than it was in 2012. Then the Redskins signed Florida tackle Xavier Nixon as an undrafted free agent, and everything changed.
Nixon has the skills and size to play left tackle, but lacks motivation and ends up being relegated to the right side. Shanahan gets the most out his linemen and could be the man to light the fire under Nixon.
Though he may not start immediately, with time and work, Nixon may be the starter by season's end. That's the future, though, and as of right now, it is difficult to see anyone other than Polumbus suit up as the starter on opening day.
Winner: Tyler Polumbus
Tight End: Jordan Reed vs. Logan Paulsen
For better or worse, Fred Davis is the starting tight end for the Redskins. He's shown his ability to be among the best tight ends in the NFL, but has seen his chances dwindle between suspension and injury. If he can make the most of his one-year "show me" deal, he'll be the starter for a long time to come.
Behind Davis is Logan Paulsen and rookie Jordan Reed, while Niles Paul figures as more of a special-teamer than a regular tight end.
Paulsen is the best blocker at the position, but is limited in what he can do as a receiver. For a guy as big as he is, Paulsen is a below-average, red-zone threat, lacking body control and instincts to find soft spots in coverage and shield his man from the ball.
Reed lacks the size and blocking skills of the average tight end, but has the receiving skills necessary to excel as a playmaker anywhere on the field. If the Redskins adopt a two tight end offense to offset the inconsistency of their receiving corps, Reed has the edge.
However, given the emphasis on the ground game with Morris and a healthy RGIII, as well as the unknown at right tackle, Paulsen could see his role maintained this season.
Winner: Logan Paulsen
Wide Receiver: Leonard Hankerson vs. Aldrick Robinson vs. Josh Morgan
Leonard Hankerson has potential, but seems to lack the concentration to make the most of his abilities. Aldrick Robinson has the big-play ability, but gets lost for long stretches of games which extend to multiple games.
Josh Morgan, by virtue of being a consistent threat over the middle and at the chains, remains the best option for the Redskins offense behind Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss. Until someone can unseat Moss as the next best receiver behind Garcon, this is a battle for the third spot on the depth chart.
Hankerson finished 2012 with 38 receptions for 543 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 14.3 yards per catch, but Robinson had just 11 catches for 237 yards for a whopping 21.5 yards per catch and three touchdowns.
Robinson is entering his second season, while Hankerson is entering his third season and has shown improvement. Regardless of their experience, it comes down to the capacity each can play, and the edge may go to Robinson for his ability to stretch the field.
With a history of drops and mental lapses, Hankerson cannot be counted on to improve enough to assume full control of the third spot on the depth chart.
Winner: Aldrick Robinson
Cornerback: David Amerson vs. Josh Wilson
DeAngelo Hall is likely to slide back into his spot as starting corner for the Redskins, despite being released briefly following the season, largely due to financial reasons. Behind Hall is a pack of players who need to prove themselves capable of being the starer alongside him.
The battle to focus on will take place between incumbent starter Josh Wilson and the ball-hawking rookie David Amerson.
Wilson failed to improve in his second season as a starter for Washington, which prompted the team to draft Amerson with their first pick in the draft. Amerson tallied 13 interceptions as a sophomore, but failed to follow it up with a stronger junior campaign.
Even so, he's got the tools, particularly size and ball skills, to unseat Wilson either in camp or very early in the season.
Winner: David Amerson
Free Safety: Phillip Thomas vs. Bacarri Rambo
With uncertainty regarding Madieu Williams gone and Tanard Jackson being reinstated to start the season, the free safety position is up for grabs. The Redskins drafted both Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, who will likely duke it out for the right to be the starter.
Rambo is more of a strong safety by trade, while Thomas has played at both safety spots and possesses better range to be a free safety.
Both players have a nose for the ball, combining for 29 interceptions and seven touchdowns in their college careers, but Thomas has better instincts in coverage and range suited for the position.
Though Thomas figures to be the starter entering the season, he may give up some snaps to Rambo during preseason just to give both a shot.
Winner: Phillip Thomas
Strong Safety: Brandon Meriweather vs. Bacarri Rambo
With Phillip Thomas likely to win the starting free safety spot, Bacarri Rambo could find himself in competition with Brandon Meriweather for the starting strong safety position.
Meriweather is coming off of a tumultuous first season with the Redskins, incurring a DUI very early in his tenure, and then missing all but one quarter of action during the season.
However impressive those seven tackles and one interception were in that quarter, they do very little to earn Meriweather the unquestioned starting job at strong safety. Both Meriweather and Rambo are hungry to prove themselves, though for very different reasons.
Rambo wants to prove he's better than his sixth-round draft position, and Meriweather wants to prove he isn't injury prone. He may not hold onto the job for the entire season, but Meriweather wins the camp battle to start it off.
Winner: Brandon Meriweather
Quarterback: Robert Griffin III vs. Kirk Cousins
If healthy and unhindered by his second knee surgery, Robert Griffin III will be the unquestioned starter for the 2013 season. However, history dictates that he will not be fully recovered, and the likelihood of setbacks always looms with ACL/MCL injuries.
Kirk Cousins led a critical comeback against the Baltimore Ravens and looked impressive in a big win over Cleveland last season, but apparently didn't do enough to supplant a hobbled RGIII in their Wild Card playoff game against Seattle.
If he's smart, Cousins will see Griffin's recovery as the biggest opportunity of his career and come into camp looking his best, both inside and outside of the pocket. Though he'll never possess the speed and agility Griffin does, Cousins does a great job keeping his eyes downfield when chaos reigns in the backfield.
Not to spoil the ending or anything, but Griffin will be the starter this season. Between now and then, however, Cousins will make him work for it and will push Griffin to be better than ever in his second season.
Winner: Robert Griffin III