Although the real battle for starting jobs won’t begin in earnest until training camp, a player’s performance during offseason activities can be important, particularly if there are questions at his position.
Who's in shape? Who's been studying up? And, just as important, who hasn't? The answer to those questions--and more--will be revealed in the coming weeks as things ramp up at Redskins Park ahead of camp.
With all that in mind, here are six position battles we’ll be monitoring as OTA’s get underway Tuesday:
- Inside linebacker
Right now, it appears as though Darryl Sharpton, Keenan Robinson, Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward are in the mix for the starting job alongside Perry Riley. But who will emerge? Sharpton’s age (26) and contract value ($1.86 million) suggests he’s the player the team expects to prevail. But I wouldn’t rule out Robinson. Before injuries cut short his 2012 season and ended his 2013 campaign in training camp, the 24-year-old was considered a potential successor to London Fletcher.
- Right guard
The job belongs to Chris Chester--for now. But the Redskins used a third-round pick on Spencer Long for a reason. Long also showed Jay Gruden a thing or two in rookie minicamp. "He's going to be competitive right away," Gruden said. And let’s not forget about Mike McGlynn, who started at right guard the past two seasons in Indianapolis. This competition could get fierce. Chester could also find his hefty contract working against him.
- Right tackle
Tyler Polumbus fended off the competition last summer and it’s possible he’ll have to do it again. The Redskins drafted Morgan Moses in the third round in the hopes that he’ll eventually become the starter at this position, though it would be mildly surprising if he challenged Polumbus out of the gate. Tom Compton, last year’s swing tackle, could get into the mix.
- Kickoff and punt returner
Where to begin? Running backs Chris Thompson and Lache Seastrunk figure to get a look. So do wide receivers Andre Roberts, Nick Williams and Cody Hoffman as well as cornerback Richard Crawford (assuming he’s recovered from a bad knee injury). It’s unclear who, if anyone, has an inside track here. But one player to keep an eye on is Roberts, who returned both punts and kicks as a member of the Cardinals.
- Wide receiver
Here’s what we know: Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson and Roberts are assured of roster spots. What about the nine others? They’ll spend the next few weeks jockeying for position. One player to monitor is Hoffman, a 6 foot 4, 210-pound prospect out of BYU. He was signed as a college free agent and made a strong impression during rookie minicamp. We’ll also find out how Leonard Hankerson is doing as he works his way back from serious knee injury.
This could be a good one—and one that lasts long into the summer. Rookie Zach Hocker’s got the stronger leg, sending 34 of his 50 kickoffs last season at Arkansas into the end zone for a touchback. Kai Forbath, however, is just a year removed from being the league’s most accurate field goal kicker. It’s always possible Gruden will elect to keep both, but given the roster constraints, it would be tough to justify it.
Thursday’s practice session is open to the media, so we’ll get the chance to watch practice and talk to the players and Gruden afterward.