Washington Redskins: 8 Position Battles to Keep an Eye on
Competition has remained consistent since Mike Shanahan has been at the helm in DC.
The Washington Redskins' front office doesn't appear to play favorites either; your veteran status or draft selection does not dictate playing time.
It started paying off this past year, and as holes are continuing to get filled at Redskins Park, many questions still lie within the roster.
Despite the quietest free agency in Dan Snyder's history, this summer's training camp will be one of the most hard fought in recent memory.
Below are eight position battles that will come to fruition throughout the next few months.
Reserve Wide Receiver
Competition: Aldrick Robinson, Donte Stallworth and Devery Henderson
Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan aren’t going anywhere. Barring any unusual circumstances, neither are Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson.
That leaves Aldrick Robinson, Donte Stallworth and Devery Henderson left on the receiving corps. Robinson has shown flashes of upside, but has yet to showcase a level of consistency as an NFL player.
On the other hand, both Stallworth and Henderson are savvy veterans who possess good speed and adaptability, but both of them are past their prime.
If Mike Shanahan keeps five receivers on the roster, it will most likely be between those three (Robinson, Stallworth and Henderson).
Aldrick Robinson will have to spend training camp and the preseason proving that he’s more than just a speed guy and that he’s able to produce in Kyle Shanahan’s high-octane offense.
Prediction: Aldrick Robinson remains a Redskin
Stallworth and Henderson are great insurance policies to have while in training camp. In case of injury, the Redskins staff feel confident in their ability and veteran-like approach.
That being said, it’s Robinson’s job to lose. He’s entering his third season in Washington and his youth will prevail.
Competition: Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen and Jordan Reed
Fred Davis is a Redskin for at least one more year, and being the opening day starter seems like the most likely scenario for him.
While I understood the selection of the former Florida Gator Jordan Reed (Mike Shanahan chose the “best available” strategy in that round), it does create a backlog at the position.
Logan Paulsen was re-signed this offseason, and Niles Paul remains Shanahan’s “special project”.
So what does this all mean?
For one, Fred Davis has one more year to prove that he’s a starting caliber tight end in the league, and he absolutely is if he can stay healthy and out of trouble.
Secondly, Paulsen and Paul’s contributions go beyond offense, as both are valued members on special teams (Paul more than Paulsen).
Lastly, Jordan Reed might have the most potential out of the group, but he still has a long way to go as far as his development is concerned (He was a former quarterback turned tight end at Florida).
Prediction: All four will be on the roster
Mike Shanahan will find a way to keep all four and he’ll have to trim the roster somewhere else.
Reserve Running Backs
Competition: Evan Royster, Roy Helu, Chris Thompson and Juwan Jamison
Alfred Morris is the starting running back this season. He was a workhorse last season and Evan Royster replaced him when needed.
Now with a healthy Roy Helu returning and two rookies selected in April’s draft, the running back depth is now at a premium.
Looking at the full roster realistically, there is no way that they are keeping all five backs on the team. Does that leave rookies Thompson and Jamison destined for the practice squad? Does that make Helu and/or Royster expendable?
What’s interesting is that each of these four running backs offer something different. Royster is the quintessential role player, Helu is a playmaker who shows great versatility as a receiver out of the backfield, Thompson looks like the Energizer Bunny and Jamison’s skill set appears similar to Alfred Morris.
Prediction: Royster and Helu make the roster, and Thompson and Jamison end up on the practice squad
As long as Roy Helu can show that he can stay healthy, he will be on the roster. However, if injuries continue to set him back, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him out of a job.
If Evan Royster continues doing all the “little” things correctly (pass protection, screens, draw plays, etc.), then he’s likely to remain on the team.
Chris Thompson’s role for the Redskins is going to be interesting. I love his ability, especially since it’s antonymous of what Alfred Morris does, but it creates a logjam at the position.
Can Mike Shanahan find a way to stash him on the practice squad to start the season?
Competition: Richard Crawford, Niles Paul, Aldrick Robinson and Chris Thompson
In limited duty, Richard Crawford did a great job as the team’s primary punt returner. He’s not going to put up Devin Hester-like statistics, but he’s going to be solid.
Greater competition is going to be found for the future kick returner.
Niles Paul filled in decently by default last season, but assuming he’s going to be emphasizing his transition to tight end, it’s hard to imagine making that Paul’s full-time job.
However, the Redskins did give that role to Rock Cartwright for over a year a few seasons ago.
Aldrick Robinson has been given few opportunities in the preseason as a returner, and Chris Thompson had eight total returns while at Florida State.
Prediction: Richard Crawford remains the punt returner, and Aldrick Robinson and Niles Paul will return kicks by committee
The punt returner is Richard Crawford’s job to lose. Santana Moss is a reliable fill-in if needed as well.
As far as the kick returner is concerned, it will be interesting to see how much rope Mike Shanahan is willing to give Niles Paul. Can Paul manage both his development as a tight end and a valued return specialist? Will he even be needed at tight end with a surplus of them on the roster currently?
If the Skins choose to go in a direction more concentrated on speed, then that’s where Aldrick Robinson potentially fits in.
Competition: Adam Carriker vs. Jarvis Jenkins
This is the kind of problem you want to have: two starting quality players at the same position.
Both came off of serious injuries: Jenkins in 2011,and Carriker in 2012. When healthy, both have impressed.
While Carriker might be the safer start at the moment, Jenkins is still developing as a defensive end and seemed to improve on a game-to-game basis.
Prediction: Carriker will start, but Jenkins remains important
Jim Haslett is going to find a way to incorporate both his veteran and youngster. Keeping his defensive line on a rotational basis will pay huge dividends.
Special Teams Ace
Competition: Bryan Kehl, Keenan Robinson and others to be determined
Not seeing Lorenzo Alexander on the Redskins this season is going to be an adjustment; his dominance on special teams was completely undervalued.
While Alexander seems almost irreplaceable, the special teams unit will need find a reserve player who can fulfill that role.
Predictably, a linebacker would seem best suited for the opportunity. A veteran like Bryan Kehl seems likely, as well as second-year player Keenan Robinson, two players that have the athleticism and speed to cover a lot of ground.
Reserve safeties could be an option too; Jordan Bernstine, Bacarri Rambo and DeJon Gomes are viable.
Prediction: Bryan Kehl takes it
Kehl is similar to Alexander. He’s versatile, a good teammate and aggressive.
Competition: Reed Doughty, Phillip Thomas, Tanard Jackson and others
The safety position is a crapshoot. This position was obviously addressed in the draft with Thomas and Rambo. There are two players still developing (Gomes and Bernstine), there’s the veteran Reed Doughty and don’t be surprised to see DeAngelo Hall take some reps there at some point.
With last year’s starter Madieu Williams no longer on the roster, the free safety position is arguably the biggest competition going into training camp.
What about Tanard Jackson? If it wasn’t for his suspension last season, he would probably have been the starter. Will he still have a role in Washington?
Prediction: Reed Doughty starts Week 1, rookies work their way in
Reed Doughty is the safe choice to begin the season. He knows the defense and is highly regarded amongst his coaches and teammates.
While he’s not going to be lighting up the highlights or earning a Pro Bowl trip to Hawaii, Doughty can create a bridge for his younger teammates who are still getting accustomed to the NFL.
Even the strong safety position is going to be interesting. With Brandon Meriweather set to return from his knee injury, he will look to start. Then again, he’s now years removed from his prime.
Competition: Richard Crawford, E.J. Biggers, David Amerson, DeAngelo Hall and Chase Minnifield
The secondary was clearly the Redskins biggest weakness last season, which is why three defensive backs were selected in April’s draft and why Raheem Morris brought in one of his former Buccaneers.
Three cornerback sets are becoming more and more prevalent in today’s defenses. Nowadays, for a defense to prosper they need three solid corners.
Similar to safety, this is another loaded position. The Skins' second-round pick, David Amerson, will need to produce. E.J. Biggers is a veteran who can potentially get the job done. Richard Crawford has shown significant improvement, and Chase Minnifield is an under-the-radar type prospect.
Prediction: DeAngelo Hall moves into the slot, while David Amerson moves to the outside
Hall was in this role last season, and the rookie Amerson’s physicality is best suited to play on the outside.
I would expect Richard Crawford to be sprinkled in there from time to time.