ASHBURN, Va. -- The Redskins opened camp on July 26 with a shaky offensive line, serious questions at the safeties, and very unsure of their starting running back. Five weeks later, not much has changed in those areas.
Right tackle Jammal Brown, who re-injured his chronically ailing left hip running gassers on the eve of camp and went on the physically unable to perform list, isn't coming off it any time soon. Brown, 31, just had surgery on the hip and will spend at least the first six weeks of the season on PUP. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, who missed the final 11 games of 2011 with a torn right ACL, lasted all of two days of camp before he needed to get scoped. He hasn't been back in team drills since although he's expected to start the Sept. 9 opener at New Orleans. And right guard Chris Chester missed the first two preseason games with a sprained left ankle.
An offensive line that included 2011 street free agent Tyler Polumbus at right tackle, 2011 seventh-round draft pick Maurice Hurt at left guard and 2012 fifth-rounder Adam Gettis at right guard for the first two presewason games could have convinced rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III to forsake his millions and return to Baylor in search of a second Heisman Trophy. However, the line actually kept Griffin pretty well protected except for breakdowns at Chicago.
As for the safeties, Brandon Meriweather's preseason ended with a knee injury in the first quarter against the Bears. The Redskins hope he'll be ready to face the Saints. Fellow free agent pickup Tanard Jackson filled in for Meriweather against Indianapolis but was due to rest along with the rest of the starters in the preseason finale against Tampa Bay. Yet another free agent signee, Madieu Williams, has been the regular at free safety, but although he has been credited with 11 tackles, tied for the team lead, this preseason, his most notable moment came when he was beaten for a touchdown by the Colts' rookie tandem of quarterback Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton.
Sixth-rounder Alfred Morris, who opened camp as the No. 4 running back, has made that competition very interesting. So interesting that he won't face the Buccaneers as coach Mike Shanahan now considers him a starter. Morris ran for 107 yards on 14 carries against the Colts. Meanwhile, Evan Royster, who finished 2011 as the regular after fellow rookie Roy Helu got banged-up and veteran Tim Hightower tore an ACL, didn't play that night because of an ailing right knee after playing OK in the first two games. Helu missed the past two games with a tender left Achilles after gaining 20 yards on five touches at Buffalo. And Hightower's 29 yards on six touches (18 on his first sweet carry) came in his first action in more than 10 months. So this battle is far from resolved.
Of course that's not the case at quarterback despite fourth-rounder Kirk Cousins' spectacular second half against the Bears and 2011 starter Rex Grossman's perfect second half against the Colts. Griffin has yet to take a snap that counts, but he has been entrenched as the first-stringer since coach Mike shanahan named him the starter on May 6, more than two weeks before the veterans even hit the field for the first time in 2012.
Griffin played just 31 snaps in the first three preseason games and will be rested against the Bucs, but he and Shanahan both believe he's ready to hit the ground running at New Orleans after compiling a 103.3 passer rating on 20 of 31 accuracy for 193 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"The thing about preseason is that you just want to get out there, get a feel for the game and go out and do what you practice on," Griffin said. "Coach says it all the time, the best way to judge yourself is through game tape. I went out, put some footage out there for myself to go out and learn from. You want to stay healthy, have fun and make sure you get better. We did all those things."
It's also unclear whether Leonard Hankerson, a third-rounder in 2011, or free agent signee Josh Morgan will start opposite Pierre Garcon, who was signed from Indianapolis to be the No. 1 receiver. Santana Moss, who filled that role the past seven seasons, is now in the slot.
The defense, other than the safeties, is much more settled. The front seven returns intact. No. 1 cornerback DeAngelo Hall moves to the slot with free agent Cedric Griffin seemingly ahead of seventh-rounders Richard Crawford (2012) and Brandyn Thompson (2011) and July signee David Jones in Hall's former spot outside.
On Aug. 27, incumbent Graham Gano beat out veteran challenger Neil Rackers to remain the kicker, Gano's hold on the job lasted all of 24 hours. He was cut on Aug. 28 when the Redskins signed Billy Cundiff, the 2010 All-Pro who had just been waived by Baltimore.
And the same day that Cundiff arrived, two-time Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley, who lost his job to injury and to the fine play of former backup Fred Davis in 2011, was waived, ending the eight-year Washington career of the most popular Redskin of his era. Cooley, 30, exits with 428 catches, the most by a Redskkins tight end and fifth-most in franchise history behind Hall of Famers Art Monk and Charley Taylor, four-time Pro Bowl receiver Gary Clark and longtime teammate Santana Moss.