Josh Norman helps secondary, but Redskins' run D remains a question

ASHBURN, Virginia -- With the Washington Redskins now in full shutdown mode until reporting to training camp on July 27, here’s a look at some lingering questions:

Will the safety play be improved? The Redskins strengthened their corner situation with the addition of Josh Norman, the continued development of Bashaud Breeland and Quinton Dunbar, the drafting of Kendall Fuller and the surprising rise of Dashaun Phillips. There are still questions at this spot because only Norman and Breeland are proven, but there’s much more hope. At safety, it’s been such a turnstile of players over the years that it’s hard to do anything but cross your fingers if you’re a fan. DeAngelo Hall looks comfortable there and faster than last year when he had multiple leg issues, and David Bruton is a smart leader. But Hall has to prove he’s an effective safety, and Bruton must show he’s a capable starter. But two things can make or break safeties: a pass rush and corner play. If the Redskins are better in both areas, the safety play won’t be an issue. If the corners and safeties develop a strong trust, that, too, will help. It hasn’t always been there.

Who will play left guard? It’s the one true offensive position battle entering camp. But a lot of that has to do with Shawn Lauvao’s health. If he’s healthy, he’ll likely end up as the starter, but he’s coming off multiple foot surgeries since September and it’s uncertain at what point he’ll be fully recovered. If it’s not him, then Spencer Long and Arie Kouandjio will battle for the job. Long improved in the 13 games he started in place of Lauvao last season; Kouandjio blocks with as much attitude as anyone on the roster and, if he develops, could be a big help.

Are they better against the run? There wasn’t a lot of change in this area to suggest grand improvement after ranking 31st in yards per carry against in 2015. That doesn’t mean they won’t get better, but it does mean any improvement has to come via other ways: more disciplined run fits, better tackling, better third-down play to limit possessions. All of that is possible, but will it all that happen? The Redskins have harped on the word "versatility," and one reason is they know they'll need it to stop the run out of their nickel package. It’s why linemen who can play in base and nickel are valuable and it’s why rookie linebacker Su’a Cravens has an important role even if he doesn’t start.

Did they do enough along the line? The Redskins do like their depth up front (that helps, if it’s what they hope it is). Still, there are questions along the line -- will Stephen Paea play as he did in his final year with Chicago? Will Kendall Reyes or Ziggy Hood reach back a few years to re-establish themselves? How long will Trent Murphy’s transition take? Will rookie Matt Ioannidis contribute -- and when? The coaches can rely on what they’ll get from Kedric Golston, and Chris Baker’s play the past year and a half has been solid. But others must provide positive answers. The Redskins had chances each of the last two drafts to take linemen early and opted not to; those on the roster must show that wasn’t a bad decision.

Will a deal get done before July 15? You know who I’m talking about: quarterback Kirk Cousins. If he’s not signed by that date, he’ll have to play under the franchise tag because no deal could then be signed until after the season. They can still talk, but nothing official can get done. There’s little incentive for Cousins to sign an extension, unless the Redskins meet his asking price. And the Redskins have preferred to wait, wanting to see if he can duplicate 2015’s success before giving Cousins the sort of deal he feels he deserves.

How explosive is Junior Galette? He was sidelined this spring, though always working off to the side as others practiced. So it’s hard to know how much of his explosiveness he regained after his Achilles’ injury. But he’s optimistic, as is the organization (that’s partly why I’ve predicted double-digit sack totals for him). Still, training camp will be his first chance to show what he can still do. If he’s recovered, the Redskins have a potentially strong pass-rushing group among the outside linebackers with him, Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith.

Will center be a problem? The big question for Washington involved whether Kory Lichtensteiger would regain his strength after the nerve damage in his shoulder. He’s undersized, so losing strength would be an issue. But he’s firmly in place as the starter -- the Redskins love his smarts and quickness. They would have upgraded here if possible, but felt OK if they couldn’t. It’s wrong to think that center will somehow hold this offense back.

Is Matt Jones capable of being a starting running back? This one won’t be answered until after the season; it’s about doing it for 16 games (and then some) and not just over the short term. The Redskins liked what they saw from him this spring. He needs to show that in December, when his body is worn down, he can run with the same consistency. He has the talent.