Finally, the summertime blues are over and football is back! Camps are opening up this week and big personnel questions loom over all NFL teams.
The Washington Redskins are no exception, after finishing in last place in the NFC East last season, they have several holes to fill. Along with some juicy melodrama carrying over from the offseason.
This story is going to attempt to analyze preseason plots, that will affect the 2009 regular season. There will not be a slide on Jason Campbell's feelings, or Dan Snyder's inability to save draft picks. We will not discuss Jim Zorn's butt roasting on the hot seat.
These slides are dedicated to things that will play out on the football field in the preseason. You know when the games don't count for anything. The wins and losses may not mean much but completion percentage, injuries, field goal percentage, pass blocking and special teams sure as hell mean a lot.
Here we go; five preseason story lines for the Washington Redskins
Let's start with the special teams, where the Redskins seem to always struggle. Especially in the kicking game where Sean Suisham was 26 for 36 in field goals, a whopping 72%. Good enough for a C-. This will not cut it in the NFL.
All Redskins fans know that pretty much every game we play is decided by a single possession. Five games last season by three points or less to be exact.
Suisham also began his career playing in Dallas, another red flag for all us loyal fans.
His counterpart in camp, is the journeymen Dave Rayner who unfortunately has a 71 percent career mark on field goals and doesn't seem like he is a long term answer at the position either.
So we have Suisham and Rayner battling for one of the most underrated positions in the whole NFL and neither is anything to be excited about.
As we all remember last season, Antwan Randel El is not the answer any longer as our primary punt returner. In 2008 he had 21 fair catches, two fumbles, zero touchdowns, zero 40+ yard returns and only two of over 20 yards.
Randle El spent most of the time on his returns dancing in the same spot until he went down rather easily after a defender got near him. Zorn and company eventually gave starter Santana Moss more chances as the season wore on.
Moss averaged over 20 yards a return and had a touchdown in only six returns in 2008. Without Moss the Redskins very well might have lost to the Lions, how easy it is to forget.
Realistically, Santana is the Redskins number one receiver, and having him back every time the offense punts is not going to happen, so where does that leave the position?
Devin Thomas, Anthony Aldridge and Dominique Dorsey are the three remaining candidates.
Thomas is coming off a slow rookie season, but showed flashes of his running abilities last year. He returned kicks and punts in college at Michigan State, showing a knack for making big plays. If he can't get on the field every down as receiver then he will definitely get a chance at returns.
Aldirdge and Dorsey are both relative unknowns in the NFL but both possess great speed. Aldridge ran a 4.37 40 yard dash at the NFL combine, but a foot injury ended his rookie season in Denver. Check him out on YouTube to see his game changing ability.
Dorsey is a former CFL player, who in 2008 won the award for most outstanding special teams player in the league.
I like the front office's attempts at finding diamonds in the rough, here's hoping one or both of these players will make the team and make an impact in the punt return game.
This is the most talked about battle enter Redskins training camp. The position of right tackle has been a weak position on the team since Jon Jansen began his decline a few years ago. Jansen was released this past offseason and now third year veteran Stephon Heyer looks to claim the starting spot.
Heyer, has made 12 career starts for Washington and won the job initially last season until an injury forced him out of the game. Jansen replaced him and remained the starter for the remainder of the season. He is relatively solid in pass protection, but struggles in the running game.
Look for Heyer to be the starter come week one unless some of his competition makes a huge push during the preseason.
The men battling Heyer are two NFL journeymen, Mike Williams and Jeremy Bridges.
Williams, a former fourth overall pick was retired from football last season, but is making a comeback from being huge. He has reportedly lost 107 lbs in the last four and a half months. He now weighs in at 343 lbs, that’s right, he weighed 450 in January.
Regardless of whether or not Williams even makes the team his story is a fantastic tale of perseverance and resiliency. Providing depth at the tackle position is something that would help Washington tremendously.
Bridges is a long shot to crack the starting lineup, after only starting four games for Carolina last season. He has had some issues with the law in his past and making the team at this point would be a great achievement for him.
As long as Heyer continues to improve I will assume we should see him most of the season protecting Jason Campbell.
This is the player who can really make a difference for this team this season. He was a beast at USC, he barely even saw the field last season.
If the Redskins' red zone woes are going to be fixed, Davis seems like a great solution. He only caught three passes last year, so this year he needs to be on the field with Chris Cooley in plenty of two tight-end packages.
Can you imagine a red zone package with Sellers, Portis, Cooley, Davis and Moss. The possibilities are endless for this offense if they can get players like Davis to contribute the way he should be able to.
Look this preseason for Cooley to get a lot of rest and for Davis to show off his skills.
Everyone knows about Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas, they will show up this year. At least one of them will contribute significantly, now Davis needs to validate the entire draft class from last year.
WIth their second pick of the draft this year, Cerrato went and drafted another cornerback, Kevin Barnes out of Maryland. With obvious needs along the lines the front office ignored the issue and picked the local product. Why?
Its obvious that management is either losing faith in Fred Smoot or believe their fourth round pick from last year, Justin Tyron is not an NFL caliber player.
With Carlos Rogers and Deangelo Hall entrenched as starters, the nickel position is wide open. Between Smoot, Tyron and Barnes look for one of them to emerge as the clear nickel back.
Smoot will probably receive less reps in the preseason since he is a seasoned veteran, and because he tends to injure himself every time he makes a tackle.
Fans will also see some of Byron Westbrook, a member of the practice squad the past two seasons. He is the brother of Eagles star Brian Westbrook and a former division III All-America from Salisbury University (my alma mater).
It will be tough for Westbrook to crack the roster but anything is possible in the preseason.
My prediction is 1. Rogers, 2. Hall, 3. Barnes, 4. Smoot, 5. Tyron.