Like many teams around the NFL, the Washington Redskins enter training camp at the Bon Secours Training Center in Richmond, Virginia with plenty of reasons to be optimistic about their upcoming season.
With less than five weeks until the start of training camp, the Redskins have already had to deal with yet another round of injury adversity to a player who was expected to play a key role for the Burgundy and Gold in 2019. Linebacker Reuben Foster – who the team signed last year after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers following a domestic violence charge – was injured during an OTA session at the team’s Inova Sports Performance Center (Redskins Park) in Ashburn, Virginia. Foster tore his ACL and will miss the season.
That development will be crucial as Washington will try to bounce back from two consecutive injury-derailed seasons and quiet the naysayers who have pegged them to finish at the bottom of the NFC East.
Here are six storylines for the Redskins entering training camp:
1. What’s the Long-Term Prognosis for Jay Gruden?
Gruden enters his sixth season as the longest tenured coach under team owner Dan Snyder. Gruden still faces uncertainty about his job status after signing a two-year extension in 2017. Some think Gruden needs to win and make the playoffs this year in order to be offered a new contract.
Since his arrival in 2014, Gruden has a record of 35-44-1. He does have a 2015 NFC East title to his resume and has had success with his quarterback-friendly offense. He is a big reason why Pro Bowl quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 4,000 yards in three-consecutive seasons that led to the former Michigan State star signing the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history with the Minnesota Vikings.
If Haskins succeeds in his rookie campaign and shows signs of becoming the true franchise signal caller the team has been searching for, will that be enough to give Gruden longevity in Washington?
2. Who Will Be the Starting QB to Start the Season?
Gruden has said that there will be a competition for the teams starting signal caller position. Haskins and veteran Case Keenum will battle it out to see who the team will go with when they face the Philadelphia Eagles to start the regular season.
As a veteran, Keenum is the safe bet to win the job. Last year in Denver, Keenum led the Broncos with 3,890 passing yards to go with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Those numbers won’t wow anyone into thinking he is the long term fix at QB for the Redskins.
Haskins has the superior physical tools and if he plays moderately well through training camp and the preseason, will Snyder and the Redskins fanbase want him under center immediately?
The team may wait until the week of the regular season opener to name a starter even if they already know who it is to keep the media and fans alike guessing.
3. Will ‘Silverback’ Be Back in Burgundy & Gold?
Another major offseason development for the Redskins is the status of their most recognized and respected player around the league in Trent Williams.
Williams has been one of the few consistent bright spots for Washington since he was selected as the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Despite missing several games with various injuries over the past several seasons, Williams has still made seven consecutive Pro Bowls proving his value around league circles.
Unfortunately for Williams and the Redskins, there seems to be a disconnect regarding how his surgery for a growth (non-cancerous tumor) on his head was handled. Several people close to the situation and even Coach Jay Gruden himself have said Williams was not too happy with the way the team’s medical staff “diagnosed” the injury.
“I think where the frustration might lie is in the timing of a diagnosis; maybe he wished the diagnosis had come a little sooner,” Gruden said after a team minicamp practice where Williams was absent.
Whether the former Oklahoma star has demanded a trade or not, the development will be closely watched by Redskins fans.
Williams importance can’t be understated especially with two new quarterbacks on the roster and one being a promising rookie in Haskins.
4. Defense Will Have to Be the Redskins’Calling Card
Over the past four seasons, the Redskins have built up their defensive line and added other key pieces to a defense that appears ready to inflict damage on opposing offenses. The unit is still young but with the additions of free agent Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins and the selection of linebacker Montez Sweat with their second first-round pick, the Redskins have reason to feel good about their defense.
The loss of Foster is a blow but the former Alabama star would have been a key piece to the whole sum. That sum has talent albeit young talent that needs to grow together.
In 2018, the defense under coordinator Greg Manusky improved. The unit was also hit with injuries to key players and played inconsistently. If the latter two can be addressed, the Redskins despite the loss of Foster can still field one the NFL’s best units on that side of the ball.
5. How will the Redskins use their crowded backfield?
Last year, the Redskins thought their running game was scheduled for a significant boost when they drafted former LSU star Derrius Guice in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Guice withstood a season-ending ACL tear in just his first preseason game against the New England Patriots.
The Redskins still received a major contribution in their run game in the form of veteran running back and future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson. Peterson was signed basically off of the street and turned in one of the Redskins better backfield performances in recent memory by rushing for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns. The 34-year old signed a two-year contract to stay with Washington and now will find himself, Guice, and all-purpose RB Chris Thompson looking for touches. This is a good problem to have as all three backs can bring a different element to the field when their number is called.
It will be interesting to see if the Redskins bring Guice along slowly after his injury or will they let him and Peterson battle it out for the starting RB position throughout the preseason?
6. Have the Redskins Done Enough to Quiet a Disgruntled Fanbase?
The 2018 season saw the Redskins once proud fanbase at a fever pitch of dissatisfaction with the team’s front office and coaching staff. Loyal fans took to social media to voice their displeasure and the teams home FedEx Field Stadium was empty throughout the campaign.
Despite having decent success over their last four NFL Drafts, the Redskins still have supporters who feel that the team is about making money at their expense more than caring about winning games. That can be debated, but the fact that the Redskins have some of the highest ticket prices and one of the poorer fan experiences from a stadium location standpoint makes for a tough sell to fans.
The team did sign Collins at a position of need and also drafted Haskins and Sweat which appears to have given the team a momentary reprieve with fans. There is excitement in the air again surrounding the team that they will have maintain with success to start the regular season despite a tough slate of September games.