So with training camp beginning this week, we thought it was a good idea to kick off the first round table of the year with opinions on player position battles.
Which position battles do you guys think will be the most competitive and the best to keep on eye on this year? Who do you see winning those battles?
I think that, obviously, the best battles will be the secondary and at wide receiver. I really have no idea how to handicap the secondary beyond what we know right now. One "battle" I'm actually interested in watching this pre-season is that of quarterback. We know it's going to be Griffin, Grossman, and Cousins. But I'm interested to see how Cousins looks in comparison to Grossman and Crompton.
I think the most competitive part of camp will be the TE position. The fan base is still very emotionally tied to Chris Cooley, but his knees have gone through so many procedures over the years. How much more can a 30 year old take? Does he still have any burst in his routes and blocking? The transition of Niles Paul to TE quietly took place last season. Chris will certainly be pushed by all the younger talent and his role is diminishing given his health the last three years (two on IR) and his salary ($3.8 million). Making it through training camp is a big "if" for Cooley...certainly one I hope that happens, but the Shanahan's have done what they needed to position the transition if it's time.
I think one of the most interesting positional battles will be for the back-up offensive line spots. Ideally you don't want your back-up offensive linemen to play a single snap (outside of Special Teams), since teams don't rotate linemen. While it is what you hope will happen, many teams (including the Redskins the last few years) have gotten in trouble by keeping just 3 reserves and not ensuring quality depth. This year the Redskins can improve on the number, and keep at least four back-ups. Which could be needed given the injury and suspension concerns of Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger and Jammal Brown. The four guys I'd look to keep would be the following:
Tyler Polumbus- A veteran, versatile, and knows the system back from when he was a UDFA on Shanahan's 2008 Broncos team.
Josh LeRibeus- 3rd round pick, team has high expectations for him, should be the top interior back-up, and could step in for Licht if he can't go.
Adam Gettis- 5th round pick, really promising interior prospect, may even have a higher upside than LeRibeus
Tom Compton- 6th round pick, a promising prospect who could develop into the starting RT in a couple years if things go right.
I think the best and most competitive roster battle heading into camp will come from the WR unit. Like many years before this one, the Redskins still don't have a "go to" number one type of guy. But, they do have an on-the-brink type of guy in Pierre Garcon who will be gunning for the top spot this season. After that, things are a little more complicated as Joshua Morgan and Leonard Hankerson are coming off injuries, and Santana Moss is another year older, but reportedly, a little lighter and more directed this year.
I don't see the Skins keeping more than six or at the most, seven receivers so I believe the competition could get interesting between Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks, Terrence Austin and Aldrick Robinson for the last couple of roster positions. I think the six the team will keep will be Garcon, Morgan, Hank, Moss, Armstrong and Robinson.
I think there are probably more important position battles than the tight end spot, but if Chris Cooley is healthy, this could be one of the more competitive position battles of the summer. While I don't think many people expect #47 to give Fred Davis a serious fight for the #1 tight end spot, whomever emerges between Niles Paul and Chris Cooley as the higher man on the depth chart is likely going to be on the field a TON. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Cooley's health is the whole story here.
I think Niles will successfully make the transition to tight end and be a factor for the Redskins there, but if Cooley hits the ground running hard this August, I can see him really becoming a security blanket for RG3. At one time, we thought it was a young Fred Davis that would benefit from Cooley's presence. Now, we are hoping that an aged Cooley will benefit from Davis' presence, and as a result, give RG3 a regular target underneath. After all, defenses are going to focus way more on Sleepy than they would on the battered Cooley.