7 Biggest Areas of Concern for Washington Redskins Heading into Training Camp
All good things must come to an end, and as the offseason draws to a close for the Washington Redskins and the NFL at large, the warm fuzzy feelings of new coaches, exciting additions and roster improvements fall by the wayside.
Heading into training camp, the Redskins have more than a few areas of concern to face before the season begins.
Robert Griffin III is healthy, DeSean Jackson will be burning the Eagles in 2014 instead of the Redskins and Jay Gruden is a great addition as head coach. That's all well and good, but there are problems across the board for the Redskins, who are coming off a 3-13 season that was a complete franchise failure.
Here are the biggest areas of concern for the Redskins as they enter training camp.
As a whole, the Redskins defense is a bit of a mystery. The parts that make up the unit appear strong and capable of being elite, but plenty of things have looked great on paper.
The secondary is working with a second-year starting corner in David Amerson, an over-the-hill free safety in Ryan Clark and a strong safety under constant surveillance for unnecessary roughness in Brandon Meriweather.
The front seven has the makings of a tremendous pass-rushing group, but injuries along the line and inconsistency at the linebacker level are concerns.
In the middle of the defense, Keenan Robinson, who has missed the better part of his first two NFL seasons, is tasked with replacing future Hall of Famer London Fletcher, who retired at the end of the 2013 season.
On top of it all, Jim Haslett is still in charge, and he could either mold the defense into a devastating sack- and turnover-producing machine or coach it into an upper-middle defense that is good at most things but doesn't really change the game.
There are too many doubts and questions across the board to count the defense as an asset heading into training camp.
The entire right side of the Redskins offensive line was a liability last season. Right guard Chris Chester, though excellent as a run-blocker, was mediocre in pass protection. Washington drafted Spencer Long, a bigger, nastier guard to replace Chester.
What should concern you about this changing of the guard is the delicacy of the situation.
Long is a rookie and should be eased into the starting role when he proves he is capable of handling the duties without falter. You expect rookie mistakes, but it is possible, and expected, for Long to step into the starting lineup this season and be a solid contributor.
Chester, however, is owed $9.1 million over the next two seasons. For the Redskins to promote Long, they will have to part ways with Chester, but doing so puts them at risk of having no reliable depth behind Long should he fail to perform or he gets injured.
Adam Gettis is still on the roster, and Mike McGlynn was added for his versatility, but the former is inexperienced and the latter is a proven liability.
There a ton of questions surrounding the entire special teams contingent. Is Robert Malone capable of locking down the punter position long term?
Can Kai Forbath beat out Zach Hocker for the kicking job? Is he the answer at kicker the Redskins have been missing for the last decade?
And who is returning kicks and punts? Is Andre Roberts going to be pulling double-duty, or will Lache Seastrunk prove his complete lack of experience in the return game can't prevent him from making an impact on special teams?
Washington's special teams have been among the worst in the NFL over the last few seasons, and this offseason has not proven those issues are things of the past.
Leonard Hankerson was considered a bubble player even before the Redskins signed DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts in free agency. Now that he's on the shelf, recovering from a torn ACL and LCL, Hankerson's hold on a roster spot is tentative at best.
In his three seasons, Hankerson has yet to realize his potential, still displaying inconsistent focus and proving to be injury-prone.
With Roberts and Jackson ahead of him on the depth chart, Hankerson is immediately dispensable since he has not shown long-term viability, nor has he lived up to the third-round pick the Redskins spent on him.
Hankerson has plenty of talent and skill, but it might not be worth keeping him around for another year with rookies Ryan Grant and Cody Hoffman champing at the bit to catch on and make a mark with the Redskins.
Until further notice, Tyler Polumbus is the starting right tackle for the Redskins. He may have improved in 2013, proving to be average as opposed to horrendous, but he didn't set the bar high with his season-long impression of a turnstile in 2012.
Morgan Moses was drafted to replace Polumbus, but the Redskins are in a bit of a bind because of that fact.
Polumbus is not the answer at right tackle—that much is certain. However, Moses played left tackle for his final two seasons at Virginia, which he is not equipped to do at the NFL level, nor do the Redskins need him to do that.
The transition will take time, and the team can't risk rushing Moses into the starting lineup and running into issues of hurting his confidence or development.
On the flip side, the Redskins can't expect Polumbus to be adequate in pass protection to keep their franchise quarterback out of danger and off the turf while they ease Moses along.
Barry Cofield is recovering from hernia surgery, Jason Hatcher had arthroscopic surgery on his knee back in June and Stephen Bowen underwent microfracture surgery in December. The Redskins have plenty of bodies along the line with Jarvis Jenkins, Chris Baker, Kedric Golston, Clifton Geathers and Chris Neild.
But bodies alone will not help the Redskins stop opposing offenses from running all over them in 2014.
In 2013, the Redskins gave up 23 rushing touchdowns, the most in the NFL, while allowing a middling 110.6 yards per game, including 263 yards in their season opener against Philadelphia and 192 against Kansas City in December.
Cofield was playing with a broken hand, Bowen was battling knee problems and Jenkins was serving a four-game suspension, making for a mixed bag of performances throughout the season.
Bowen is a candidate for the PUP list, while Hatcher and Cofield should be recovered before the start of the season. As it stands, the Redskins look to be building a rotation for their line as opposed to cementing starters for the season.
Baker is a candidate to rotate at either defensive end or nose tackle, allowing Cofield to slide outside or Hatcher to move inside as a change of pace. It will require some creativity to utilize the potential amassed along the line, injuries notwithstanding.
While it falls firmly under the umbrella of defense, the secondary is a definite concern heading into training camp. Sure, the Redskins added Ryan Clark, who is a reliable veteran at free safety—better than any of the other players they've had at the position in the last several years—but he'll be 35 in October.
David Amerson, talented though he may be, is making the jump from third corner/rotation cornerback to the second starter alongside DeAngelo Hall. It is sink or swim for Amerson, and the Redskins can't afford to see him flounder.
At strong safety, Brandon Meriweather returns to his natural position, but he has incurred penalties throughout his career and served a one-game suspension for his aggressive play last season.
If the Redskins are to get the most out of him, they can't see him on the sidelines or out of games for playing out of control.
Depth is a concern because behind Amerson is only Tracy Porter, who runs hot and cold when it comes to consistency. Behind him is rookie Bashaud Breeland, which means after Porter, there is not a proven safety net.
Chase Minnifield and Richard Crawford are battling for roster spots as opposed to playing time, and neither one is particularly experienced.
Bacarri Rambo was a train wreck at free safety as a rookie, and Phillip Thomas has yet to see the field for a regular-season game.
While it is good to have so much young talent on the roster, it does not bode well for substitutions due to injury or fatigue, nor does it give a clear picture of what the unit can or will do during the season.