Depth Chart Update, 7/31/12

ASHBURN, VA - JULY 26: Robert Griffin III #10 hands the ball off to Evan Royster #35 of the Washington Redskins during training camp at Redskins Park on July 26, 2012 in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Training camp is just barely a week old, but plenty has already happened around camp to warrant depth chart updates. The battles at right tackle and in the secondary are alive and well, and no one is quite sure what is happening at the running back position-- although for a Mike Shanahan coached team, that isn’t really news.

Seemingly for the first time in years, the Redskins don’t have a million question marks regarding who will be starting at what position (that number's probably around the thousands now), but better yet, that question has all but vanished from the most important position now that Robert Griffin III is in the mix. But the Redskins aren’t out of the woods yet elsewhere, and under a head coach who loves creating competition whenever possible, it’s no shock to see these battles developing:

Running Back

1a. Evan Royster

1b. Tim Hightower

1c. Roy Helu, Jr.

I refuse to assign a clear-cut “starting” label to any running back in this offense because what’s the point? But right now, it’s time to start talking seriously about Evan Royster being heavily involved in the mix despite early predictions of it being a two-horse race between Tim Hightower and Roy Helu, Jr.

People loved what Helu flashed in his rookie season, but according to Sports Illustrated's Don Banks, indications are that Helu is being viewed as more of a change-of-pace back than anything else. Tim Hightower is the most experienced of the group, but his recovery from a torn ACL seems to be keeping him from taking the feature back role away from his young competition as of right now.

Meanwhile, Shanahan has praised Royster to no end while giving him first-team reps from the first day of practice. Tarik El-Bashir of RealRedskins.com interviewed the coach, and he confirmed these sentiments:

Asked what he likes about Royster, Shanahan didn’t hesitate.

“You can’t tackle him,” the coach said. “He makes people miss. He knows how to cut [and] and he knows when to cut.”

Though it was a small sample size, Royster performed very well in the time he was given last season, and that momentum appears to have kept going throughout the spring and summer. Hightower's health is certainly a factor in this decision, but if the season started tomorrow I wouldn't be surprised if Royster was called upon the most.

Right Tackle

1. Tyler Polumbus

2. Willie Smith

3. James Lee

4. Jordan Black

Well, the top spot would normally belong to Jammal Brown, but now that he suffered a setback, that is no longer the case. Though it’s to the surprise of absolutely no one that Brown is down for the time being, not a lot was done in the offseason to address the depth at the position behind him. The cap penalties may have had something to do with that, but the draft did not provide a lot of insurance either, as sixth-rounder Tom Compton was the only tackle the Redskins selected. So far, he’s been taking reps at left tackle behind Trent Williams, though he does remain an option on the opposite side of the line.

Tyler Polumbus is getting the majority of reps on the right side, and that probably isn’t to the comfort of any Redskins fan. The silver lining is that Brown’s injury gives Willie Smith a much better chance of making the roster, which would be well-deserved after performing admirably versus four of the league's best pass rushers last season. Smith twisted his knee during Monday's practice, but it does not appear to be anything serious enough to jeopardize a roster spot.

Maurice Hurt had been seeing some time at the right tackle position, but it looks like that will have been a short-lived experiment now that Kory Lichtensteiger will be missing the entire preseason. Hurt's experience at left guard will be needed to provide depth, and that should make the road to a roster spot for James Lee a bit clearer. At the very least, a full camp for Polumbus, Smith and Lee will give Kyle Shanahan something to work with until a long-term answer is found at the position.

Free Safety

1. Tanard Jackson

2. Madieu Williams

3. DeJon Gomes

Strong Safety

1. Brandon Meriweather

2. Reed Doughty

3. Jordan Bernstine

The biggest headache of all. In past years, this position was approached with cautious optimism. Maybe everything will be OK. LaRon Landry’s had so much time to recover, so he’ll be good again, right? OJ Atogwe brings a veteran presence and a playmaking ability that they’ve needed for so long on defense. Maybe if they can just stay healthy...

Well, they aren’t here anymore, and even the best case scenario is looking grim very early. Tanard Jackson is coming off of a torn rotator cuff injury, and was placed on the team’s physically unable to perform list last week due to a calf injury. He has since been medically cleared to return to practice, but his health is something that will be monitored closely.

Brandon Meriweather appears to have a grip on the starting strong safety position, but he is a guy with a history of boneheaded decisions, and he is one more of those away from a suspension by the league if one isn’t already looming from his recent DUI.

Even with Jackson and Meriweather atop the depth chart, Redskins fans should just take the precaution and prepare themselves for another season of Reed Doughty, with either Madieu Williams or DeJon Gomes alongside him. Williams has barely seen the field in recent years although he, along with Gomes, has gotten off to a nice enough start in camp to warrant playing time consideration. Though the names of the safeties who receive the bulk of the playing time this year are not certain, one thing is likely: It ain’t gonna be pretty.

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