The Washington Redskins open training camp on July 30 at Bon Secours in Richmond, Virginia. Here’s a closer look at the Redskins camp, which wraps up on Aug. 16.
Top storyline: There are a few, but the biggest one involves quarterback Robert Griffin III. He enters training camp as the starter, but will he hold onto the position? After all, he was benched last season amid plenty of criticism from his coach, Jay Gruden. Griffin must prove that he’s worthy of the $16.2 million option the Redskins picked up for 2016 (they can still cut him without penalty if he’s healthy and does not play well). Griffin is coming off two down years; you can blame them on whatever you want, but the fact remains there is doubt within the organization and in the league about what he can do. The defensive staff was overhauled, as was the defense; the Redskins won’t improve unless this unit does. They will have five new starters and a new coordinator. Finally, Gruden presided over a four-win team last season and needs to prove he’s a quality NFL head coach. He couldn’t solve the quarterback situation and his, at times, brutal honesty didn’t always sit well with his bosses. But he seemed energized by the offseason.
Position battles to watch: Right outside linebacker between Trent Murphy and Preston Smith. My guess is that Smith will open the season as the starter, but he still must win the job first. Murphy must improve as a pass-rusher. Also, at strong safety between Duke Ihenacho and Jeron Johnson. The latter was signed as a free agent, presumably to start, but throughout the spring he and Ihenacho rotated at the position. They want someone who can make plays at this position.
Veterans to watch: This team is full of such players, starting with receiver Pierre Garcon, who went from 113 catches in 2013 to 68 this past season. The Redskins say they want to get him more involved, which also is what they said a handful of times in 2014. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall will turn 32 in November and is coming off an Achilles injury. What does he have left? The same question can be asked about safety Dashon Goldson, who was traded by Tampa Bay after two seasons. And we’ve already mentioned Griffin. Also, running back Alfred Morris is entering a contract season -- he would be helped if the Redskins are as committed to the run game as they have said.
Rookies to watch: Smith, obviously, will be one to watch considering there’s a good chance he will start. The same is true of right tackle Brandon Scherff, who was selected fifth overall and was inserted with the first group on Day 1. But there are two others to watch: running back Matt Jones and receiver/returner Jamison Crowder. Jones will relieve starter Morris and have a chance to contribute on third downs. Crowder should provide big help in the return game, and his quickness makes him an intriguing receiver.
Bubble watch: Defensive lineman Kedric Golston has stuck around since 2006, but it could get difficult this summer. Golston remains a terrific pro in his approach, but the fact is the Redskins have restocked their defensive line. The plus is that he can play both end and nose tackle, and it also will depend on how many linemen the Redskins keep. Last season they kept seven on the 53-man roster; if that’s the case, Golston likely would be fine. Strong safety Phillip Thomas was too often working with the third defense, if at all, this spring. The former fourth-round pick started four games last season. The Redskins like that former third-round pick Josh LeRibeus is athletic and I’d lean to him being on the roster, but he’s a backup who still must show he can help.
Backup battle: This won’t generate headlines as the focus will be on Griffin, but it will be interesting to see who emerges as the No. 2 quarterback -- Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy. If the organization is uncertain about Griffin, the winner of this battle could get a shot early in the season. It would be big for each player: Cousins and McCoy both will be free agents after the season. Of course, if Griffin plays well, it’s a moot point.
For daily updates at camp, check out the Washington Redskins clubhouse page.