As the 2010 Washington Redskins prepare for their opening pre-season game against the Buffalo Bills, I had the opportunity to visit training camp on Tuesday, August 10th. As Skins’ fans patiently waited for the players to make their way onto the field, the sense of excitement and anticipation was present on this hot summer morning. The heat was in full effect.
At 8:15 am, the players made their way to the field. The offensive players wore white jerseys, the defensive players wore burgundy and the quarterbacks had on the typical yellow jerseys. By 8:40am, the entire team was on the field warming up before starting the first session of 11(offensive) on 11 (defense) drills.
Donovan McNabb looked sharp; throwing deep passes mainly to wide out Santana Moss. McNabb and tight end Chris Cooley hooked up a few times; most notable was a 20 yard touchdown pass. Cooley also caught a TD pass from backup quarterback Rex Grossman during red zone work, an area where the team struggled tremendously in 2009. Third string quarterback John Beck looked reasonably sharp with quick passes against the pressure of the first defense.
At the running back position, Larry Johnson, along with Ryan Torian, got in some good work. Both backs had rushing touchdowns. Clinton Portis was involved in a couple of plays before mildly straining his groin that sidelined him for the rest of the day.
On the defensive side, Albert Haynesworth lined up at nose tackle and caused havoc by penetrating the line of scrimmage and batting away passes. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall displayed his athleticism by making a diving interception after Beck’s pass was deflected.
These aren’t your typical Washington Redskins. This year, fans can truly breathe a sigh of relief knowing that this team has a real coach in Mike Shanahan and a proven field general in Donovan McNabb. Coach Shanahan, along with general manager Bruce Allen, have done a good job addressing the team’s needs. They added depth to the offensive line, backfield, wide receiver, and of course the quarterback position. If the offense can stay relatively healthy, the Skins should be able to move the ball successfully.
Keys for success on offense
Donovan McNabb needs to take his receivers to another level. We know that Santana Moss will flourish this year but it’s time for Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas to step their games up. Currently both players are listed as third stringers. In all likelihood, veteran wide out Joey Galloway will be heavily involved in the passing game this year. Tight ends Chris Cooley and Fred Davis will offer huge targets for McNabb.
According to several teammates, running back Clinton Portis is in the best shape of his career and his production will be needed in order for the offense to be productive this season. Larry Johnson, Willie Parker and Ryan Torain will compete for the number two spot. Right now, it seems Johnson is the favorite to get it. The dynamic duo of Portis and Johnson is going to be key for McNabb, especially in third down and short situations. In Philly, McNabb threw a lot in short yardage situations as a result of not having a power back.
The season really hinges on the offensive line. If the o-line is unable to protect McNabb and create forward movement for the running game, the team will not win much in 2010. The Skins are hoping that rookie left tackle Trent Williams will play a major role in protection along with veterans left guard Derrick Dockery, center Casey Rabach, right guard Artis Hicks, and right tackle Stephon Heyer.
Keys for success on defense
If defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth can stay healthy and that’s a big “IF”, the Redskins will make a big push at being the number one rushing defense in the NFL this season. According to team sources, he will be working as a backup defensive tackle as well as nose tackle and eventually work his way into the defensive end position. Haynesworth had some knee issues that hampered his ability to complete the team’s mandatory conditioning test. Now that he’s passed the test, the knee may or may not be a concern as the season progresses. For now, Haynesworth is participating in full practice and so far, he looks good.
The linebacker corps of Brian Orakpo, Rocky McIntosh, Andre Carter and London Fletcher will remain solid. The secondary will be the area to watch for the defense. Can cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall finally man up and play to their potential? Will safety LaRon Landry dominate now that he’s positioned more as a strong safety? Is Chris Horton going to be the dynamic player Skins’ fans came to love during his rookie season?
The biggest key on Defense: Will the team succeed in Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett’s 3-4 defense? So far, the players have embraced it.
By Keith Madyun