Commentary| The Washington Redskins are returning 21 of 22 starters from last season, meaning this training camp will be without a lot of the normal intrigue of seeing how new players adjust to their new team. With very few new key players coming in, there will be fewer questions on how free agents are fitting in or how well they are adapting to their new system. Still, there are plenty of things to watch for when the players report to training camp on July 24.
Robert Griffin's Knee
Surprise surprise, Robert Griffin III's health remains the biggest question mark for this team and he is the guy everyone will want to see at camp. He has not been officially cleared to practice as of yet, but doctors will evaluate him at camp and possibly before. Based on all the positive things we have heard about his rehab, even if Griffin is not initially cleared it seems likely he will be cleared to play at some point during camp.
There's only so much he will be able to do at camp as Mike Shanahan is not likely to push his young quarterback too hard, but it will be another glimpse at the most famous knee in Washington. Whether he is playing with the first team offense or working out on the sidelines, all eyes will be glued to Griffin and his knee. How is he cutting? How explosive does he look? Does he appear mobile in the pocket? Etc.
Training camp will not tell us everything we need to know, but it will offer an important glimpse as to just how close Griffin is to being the superstar we saw last year.
The development of the young safeties
Pass defense was a major weakness for the Redskins last season largely due to their deficiencies at safety. To address this, the team drafted safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo and will need serious production out of both players this season.
The only starter not returning to the Redskins in 2013 is free safety Madieu Williams. Veteran safety Reed Doughty will likely be thrust into the starting role to start camp, but as defensive coordinator Jim Haslett indicated, one of the rookies could very well start in Williams' place. Strong safety Brandon Meriweather missed almost the entirety of last season with injuries and while he is expected to be ready for 2013, his health remains a question mark.
Haslett's comments indicate to me that the Redskins are hoping for both rookies to contribute sooner rather than later. Doughty was the backup free safety in a weak secondary last season so if the Redskins hope to upgrade at that position, they will need one of their rookies to begin establish himself at camp. At the very least I think Haslett needs them to take some playing time from Meriweather and Doughty, and while Week 1 may be too soon, if either rookie can impress the coaching staff at camp you can bet he will have the inside track on taking the starting job at free safety some point this season.
It is important to remember, however, that most rookie players need time to develop before they are ready to compete at the NFL level. The Redskins are really depending on two rookies drafted in the later rounds; Thomas was drafted in the fourth round and Rambo in the sixth. If they do not develop as the team hopes they will, the Redskins could find themselves in a lot of trouble defensively.
The move to Richmond
Training camp this year will take place at the brand new Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center located in Richmond, Virginia. The move is about two hours away from the normal training site in Ashburn meaning the players will be staying in Richmond.
You may be asking who cares about whether the players can go home at the end of the day, but as Joe Theismann pointed out at the Center's grand opening, going away to camp can help teams come closer together.
"You really get a chance to be around your own players," Theismann said. "Coaches get a chance to control the environment. Instead of having the guys go off home…you can totally focus on building camaraderie."
For the younger players, this will be the first time in their NFL careers that they will be going away to camp. Is all the talk of camaraderie and team building just grandstanding or will this team indeed come closer together? Will any of that be reflected on the field? It will be interesting to see just how the team responds to their new surroundings and if there is any tangible affect.
JJ Regan lives in the DC area and is a current freelancer for Comcast Sportsnet Mid-Atlantic.
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