With Washington training camp set to start Tuesday in Richmond, we can officially welcome football back!
With our Washington Football Team, now is the time fans start to get really excited - especially after what felt like an incredibly long offseason.
What should be very exciting to follow are some key position battles for both starting, and reserve roles on this football team.
The following 10 storylines are certainly ones I’ll be watching this preseason.
Who will win the quarterback “open competition”?
Unlike some out there, I really don’t feel like this is an open competition. Essentially, Ryan Fitzpatrick has to do something REALLY bad, and do it over a consistent basis during camp, to not be named the starter.
Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen may both FEEL like they are being given every opportunity to WIN this so called “competition”, but I feel like it’s just a formality that Fitz gets handed the reigns during the final week of camp... and his leash will be long throughout the season.
The more interesting story to me, is who will win the primary backup spot.
How many running backs will Washington keep?
I’ve said all along this number will be four. To me, it’s not about how many we keep, but who we keep.
The candidates are as follows:
- Antonio Gibson (Lock)
- J.D. McKissic (Lock)
- Lamar Miller
- Peyton Barber
- Jaret Patterson
I have a feeling the staff will try and stash Patterson on the practice squad, but that may be a bit of a risk if he performs well in the preseason. The play here could be to move on from one of the veterans in favor of the youngster.
Who will emerge as WR3 and WR4?
The top two wide receivers on this team will be Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel. The pecking order after that will be determined in the following weeks.
Make no mistake - the third and fourth receives in this offense will be very important to the success of this football team.
The house money for next on the pecking order is on the rookie speedster from North Carolina, Dyami Brown. Some think Adam Humphries can be that guy from the slot. There is another camp who feels Cam Sims will keep building on his solid 2020 season, and lock in a bigger role in this offense. There are even a few who believe Kelvin Harmon will return from injury and have a monster season in that bigger-bodied wideout role the team is lacking.
Here is where most of us can agree - the meter is VERY low on second year receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden and the diminutive Steven Sims Jr.
The battle for snaps after McLaurin and Samuel will be an intriguing one this camp.
Can Sammis Reyes make the team?
The early money is on rookie tight end Sammis Reyes being stashed on the practice squad to begin his career. Many fear he wouldn’t even clear waivers if he was cut, as some tight end-needy team would snatch him up before he could revert to the PS, and turn him into a future Hall of Famer.
One thing I know - you can’t teach that size and athleticism. What you can teach is technique, and Sammis will have one of the best coaches in the league (Pete Hoener), as his teacher. In a TE room that is lacking a mismatch threat from the slot or in-line, can Reyes rise to the occasion and provide The Football Team with that coveted threat?
Who wins the right tackle battle?
This one is going to be really fun to watch, and one of the most polarizing camp battles.
The staff went into the offseason needing to improve both the starting quality, and depth, of the offensive tackles. They ended up signing former Bears tackle Charles Leno Jr. to play on the left side, and drafted Samuel Cosmi in the second round to come in and compete for a starting job - potentially on the right side.
In Cosmi, the staff sees an uber-athletic big man in the mold of Eagles’ Pro Bowler Lane Johnson. Just like Johnson, Cosmi may get his shot on the right side of the line after playing both right and left tackle in college.
Cosmi will be battling veteran journeyman Cornelius Lucas and possibly even second year pro Saahdiq Charles, for the starting right tackle spot - assuming Leno locks down the left side. It has been my take that if Cosmi is even close, the spot is his; as I feel Lucas is best suited as a swing tackle.
Who will start at left guard?
Left guard was a bit of a mess to start the season last year. Wes Martin was given every opportunity to lock down the job, but he was absolutely HORRIFIC!
This year will be much different as the staff has some great starting options to look at.
- Ereck Flowers
- Wes Schweitzer
- Saahdiq Charles
- Keith Ismael/Wes Martin
I think Flowers comes out of this competition on top, and Schweitzer is the primary backup to both he and Scherff. I’m not ready to count out Charles on this one though, as the staff apparently likes his short area power and quickness.
Who will wear the green dot as the MIKE linebacker?
I did an article a few weeks ago, on the evolution of today’s MIKE linebacker in the NFL. It is my feeling that MIKE linebackers in this league need to be versatile, smart defenders, capable of going sideline-to-sideline against the run, and dropping seamlessly into coverage or carrying a tight end vertically up the seam.
Washington has not had this type of player in the middle for what seems like forever.
Enter rookie Jamin Davis...
Davis is the definition of today’s new NFL MIKE linebacker. The biggest question will be to see if he can handle making the calls at the line and getting the defense into the best situations pre-snap. Many feel he’ll start his career as a WILL linebacker due to his athleticism and ability to play in space.
We can even take this one a step further and monitor who mans all three linebacker positions in our base 4-3 look.
My money on this one is:
MIKE - Davis
SAM - Holcomb
WILL - Hudson
MIKE - Davis
SAM - Toney
WILL - Holcomb
As you can probably tell, it’s my preference to NOT have Jon Bostic on the field much in 2021.
These will both be fun battles to watch during camp!
Who will be Del Rio’s “Buffalo Nickel”?
Much discussion has centered around the Buffalo Nickel role, and who should play it in 2021, in Jack Del Rio’s defense. I have said many times that the nickel defense is really today’s base look for teams.
With the Buffalo Nickel, you get the luxury of a savvy defender who excels against the run AND pass.
The candidates for this role are:
- Landon Collins
- Kam Curl
- Khaleke Hudson
- Darrick Forrest
Whoever isn’t the starting strong safety between Collins and Curl seems to make the most sense, but don’t count out the former Michigan safety-turned-linebacker Hudson.
Who will be Washington’s third corner?
The mini-camp hype that rookie Benjamin St-Juste generated last month was very encouraging to many fans. So encouraging, in fact, that some surmised that the long, rangy, uber-quick Canadian could see time on the outside with Fuller kicking into the slot or even back to free safety.
The idea is to have Fuller opposite free agent acquisition William Jackson III in base looks, but who will be the first to check in, in sub packages?
Last year it was Jimmy Moreland, but there are some more viable options this year with the aforementioned St-Juste, Bobby McCain, Darryl Roberts, Greg Stroman and Danny Johnson.
Depth is certainly a good thing to have...
Who will start at free safety?
Free safety has been an Achilles Heal of this team for years. Last year we saw the Troy Apke experiment crash and burn. Before that it was the Montae Nicholson trial.
To say the position has been an underwhelming revolving door would be a massive understatement!
This year, the staff has done a good job identifying a need to upgrade, and bringing in competition to achieve that goal.
- Kam Curl (yes, I think he could play here)
- Bobby McCain
- Deshazor Everett
- Jeremy Reaves
- Derrick Forrest
My money goes on McCain, with Everett being the primary backup, but I’m not ready to count Curl out if Collins is fully healthy and reclaims the SS role.
It’s going to be a fun training camp. Buckle up for the ride!