The Washington Redskins embark on the 2013 season looking to prove the doubters wrong.
Despite a seven-game winning streak following the bye week to win the NFC East crown and host the team's first playoff game in what seemed like forever, the Redskins still don't seem to be receiving the respect they deserve as reigning division champs. (See for yourself here, and don't forget to check out Sporting News' and Athlon Sports' season preview magazines.)
Although much of the Redskins' potential success in 2013 depends on players' durability and continued rehabilitation, the same can be said for a lot of other teams in the NFL.
Mike Shanahan and the coaching staff will have their hands full this summer with a good haul of guys competing in training camp. Here are the 53 men who will make the final cut when it's all said and done.
The Training Camp Edition.
(2): Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins
Analysis: It may catch you off-guard at first, but be prepared. This year wouldn't mark the first time that Shanahan enters the regular season with just two quarterbacks.
Despite the lasting image of him crumbling to the dirt in the Redskins' first-round playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks last season, Robert Griffin III is once again defying the odds and is on pace to start Week 1.
The team has confidence in backup Kirk Cousins, as demonstrated against the Cleveland Browns last season, and Rex Grossman shouldn't be too far from an open phone if the Redskins came calling in an emergency situation.
(4): Alfred Morris, Chris Thompson, Roy Helu Jr., Jawan Jamison
Analysis: There aren't many surprises for the Redskins backfield this season, although Roy Helu Jr.'s recovery could decide a lot.
Seventh-round rookie Jawan Jamison is an early favorite for me, as he provides a more versatile skill set than most give him credit for. But if the Redskins are looking for special teams contributors, perhaps a guy like Keiland Williams would unseat Jamison, providing versatility of position/duties.
(1): Darrel Young
Analysis: As much as we're all rooting for Eric Kettani, the Redskins are set with Darrel Young at fullback. There's no need to carry two at the position, and Young is solid in all parts of his game.
(4): Fred Davis, Jordan Reed, Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul
Analysis: Not that it's really a shock to see four tight ends on the roster, but the position has a lot to do with how the rest of the roster shapes up (see: quarterback, kicker).
Hopefully Fred Davis returns healthy after going down last season with a torn Achilles and can stay that way. After him, Logan Paulsen fills in as a solid backup while the rookie Jordan Reed learns the ropes, and Niles Paul enters the second year of his transition from wideout to tight end.
When fully developed, the offense gains a lot of flexibility by way of four tight ends, and the Shanahans are going to enjoy the numerous mismatch opportunities.
(6): Pierre Garcon, Joshua Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson, Lance Lewis
Analysis: This will be a fun position in camp this year. After Pierre Garcon, Joshua Morgan and Santana Moss, the group drops off a bit, leading to a hard battle for others looking to stick.
Plenty of eyes will be on Leonard Hankerson as he enters his third professional season. While showing flashes last year, Hankerson has yet to put it all together, and most will expect that out of the 24-year-old this season.
Shanahan and the Redskins have invested some in Aldrick Robinson, and it wouldn't be a surprise for them to keep him on the roster as a burner and field-stretcher.
Meanwhile, Lance Lewis has become my offseason crush of 2013, and I like him to put together a good enough camp to beat out Dezmon Briscoe and veteran Donte Stallworth.
(8): Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Tom Compton, Josh LeRibeus, Tyler Polumbus, Maurice Hurt
Analysis: The offensive line seems set in terms of starters, although a battle could erupt at right tackle.
I like Tom Compton as an early favorite to win the job, joining Williams, 'Steiger, Monty and Chester on the front line.
Tyler Polumbus then serves as the swing tackle, with Josh LeRibeus and Maurice Hurt adding versatile depth on the back end.
(6): Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield, Chris Baker, Adam Carriker, Jarvis Jenkins, Kedric Golston
Analysis: A lot hinges on the return and health of Adam Carriker. If he can return to full strength by the start of the season, then the defensive line is in solid shape.
If not, we could see a mix-up at the position.
Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield are anchors on the line, while Jarvis Jenkins may be called on again to start the season. Recently re-signed veteran Kedric Golston provides reliable backup.
(8): London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson, Rob Jackson, Brandon Jenkins, Bryan Kehl
Analysis: Returning after missing most of last year with torn pectorals, Brian Orakpo should help the overall effectiveness of the defense by way of a solid pass rush opposite Ryan Kerrigan.
And not to say that he is or isn't a certain type of guy, but Orakpo is set to become a free agent next season.
Holding down the middle in what some believe is his final NFL season is the ageless London Fletcher, with Perry Riley working to his side and Kennan Robinson continuing to learn behind solid veterans at the position.
Remember that Rob Jackson will miss the first four games of the season following a failed drug test.
Rookie Brandon Jenkins could get some early looks this year, especially with his combination of speed and athleticism.
Bryan Kehl is a great locker room presence as well as a dependable backup and regular special teams contributor.
(6): DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, David Amerson, E.J. Biggers, Richard Crawford, Chase Minnifield
Analysis: I wouldn't be surprised to see the Redskins go with five cornerbacks this season. But for the sake of this training camp edition prediction, six make the final cut.
DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson are the clear starters. Hall is the best at the position on this team, while Wilson looks to improve from an unimpressive 2012 campaign following surgery this offseason.
Keep an eye on E.J. Biggers—arguably the Redskins' largest free agent signing this offseason.
Biggers is a former seventh-round pick in Tampa Bay who played under defensive backs coach Raheem Morris when Morris served as head coach of the Buccaneers.
If there's a positive reconnect in D.C. and Biggers can help himself become more consistent on the field, this particular move could look more like a small splash than a subtle drip by Washington in the free agent pool.
Meanwhile, Richard Crawford looks to build on his solid play from the end of last season, and top draft pick David Amerson will see time.
Chase Minnifield, albeit fighting for it, lands a spot on this roster if he's healthy. I'm banking that he will be, and the Redskins coaching staff would seemingly hold out hope for the same. The young man has great instincts and natural football ability, but his durability is a concern.
(4): Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty, Bacarri Rambo, Phillip Thomas
Analysis: The defense seemed to receive a spark when Brandon Meriweather finally found his way onto the field following bothersome injuries last year.
But no sooner did he get on the field, and another injury (this time a torn ACL) made sure to keep him off of it.
Meriweather returns as the team's top safety, while two rookies contend for the remaining safety spot.
Both Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo join the Redskins as ball-hawking centerfield types. They can come down in run support but seem to operate best when they have the field in front of them and time to make a play in coverage.
And if you saw the Redskins deep coverage last season, that sort of safety is just what the doctor ordered.
Look for a nice battle in camp for the spot.
Left is Reed Doughty, who finds a way to make the Redskins roster every year, regardless of coach, coordinator or scheme. He's a reliable tackler and a good guy to have on special teams, ultimately landing him a roster spot over a guy like DeJon Gomes.
(4): Kai Forbath, Sav Rocca, Nick Sundberg, John Potter
Analysis: Could the most interesting roster position this offseason be the kicker spot?
Kai Forbath was nothing but net for Washington last season after the Redskins signed him in early October. He nailed all but one of his field goal attempts on the year and showed Redskins fans what it means to have a clutch kicker.
His kickoffs, however, weren't nearly as pretty.
Enter John Potter.
Potter is a big-legged kicker who was drafted in the seventh round last year by the Buffalo Bills. After serving as a kickoff specialist in Buffalo to start the season, the Bills eventually cut him in early November.
If Shanahan is comfortable at other areas on the roster (most notably quarterback), then keeping two kickers on the roster—one to nail field goals and one to pin opponents—is a move that could prove valuable.
(5): Chase Minnifield, Bryan Kehl, Kedric Golston, John Potter, Lance Lewis
Analysis: There are a lot of individuals to root for this summer, all of them deserving.
These last five in are on the list.
Minnifield and Lewis are young guys who were denied their chance last season due to injury. Everyone knows they have talent, but now it's time to see them at full speed with a job on the line.
Kehl is somewhat of a fan favorite. Not a flashy guy but a worker who's willing to do whatever is asked. He's a valuable player both on and off the field.
And who doesn't root for kickers?
(5): Ron Brace, Rex Grossman, Donte Stallworth, Keiland Williams, Jeremy Trueblood
Analysis: I believe Keiland Williams is a name to watch this summer, due in large part to his versatility on offense and his contributions on special teams. If Shanahan is comfortable with the rookie Jamison, Williams is in line for one of the last five out.
Jeremy Trueblood could make a run for both the swing and right tackle spots, but Polumbus seems to be held in high graces, and Trueblood was benched for ineffectiveness last season. Until proven otherwise, guys like Polumbus and Compton should have the edge.
Depending on how the Redskins think they can move around a guy like Ron Brace, I think he's a bubble guy. On the other hand, the team is familiar with Golston.
Donte Stallworth is an under-the-radar guy. The wide receiver position isn't a deep one heading into camp, and Shanahan seems to be a fan of the veteran.
I'll keep him here for now, though, opting for youth and size over Stallworth's veteran presence.