Key players: LT Chris Samuels, LG Dave Fiore, C Larry Moore, RG Randy Thomas, RT Jon Jansen.
Others to watch: Rookie G/T Derrick Dockery.
Camp battle: Dockery vs. Moore. They don't play the same position, but their play will be measured against one another. If Dockery looks like he can handle LG, then the Redskins would consider shifting Fiore to C, bumping Moore. Dockery looked pretty good in minicamp, showing solid footwork and athleticism. And I'm not a big fan of the exceptionally average Moore--he's easily replaceable. Moore struggled at times with line calls last year. That said, I'd be surprised if the starting lineup changes. Moore should be better with two veteran guards around him, players who have seen a lot and can help with the calls. Also, Fiore signed here with the promise of playing LG. Also, he hasn't worked much at C since signing here. But I also know he's the type of player who will play wherever needed. If Dockery truly excels, that position could be center.
The Redskins will also try Dockery at tackle, to see if he can add depth there. His versatility is one reason he was drafted. In minicamp, Dockery looked a bit slow at tackle against the so-called big boys. His footwork was a bit off, but that's compared to the starters. And it was his first camp. I want to see more of him there, but my hunch is that his future is at guard.
Strengths: Quickness. Watch Fiore and Thomas pull in the preseason games and you'll understand why they were signed. Both waste no movements and their footwork is awesome, making them seem even quicker than they are. It'll make a big difference. Both are excellent in pass protection, giving QB Patrick Ramsey comfort in the pocket. Then there are the tackles and you already know how good they are. Neither had their best years in 2002, but Samuels played much better as he recovered from a nagging knee injury. His second half was very good. Jansen is driven to reach the Pro Bowl (he apparently hired his own PR person to help in that quest). One thing neither tackle will have to do is constantly clean up messes caused by inexperienced or below-average guards.
I also like that Fiore could help at tackle if needed, giving the Redskins better depth there. And guards Lennie Friedman and Tre Johnson add depth inside. Consider this: both would have opened last year as starters.
Weakness: Inexperience together. Once again the Redskins must wonder how quickly their line can mesh. I'll guess it won't be as long as in the past. This group did a nice job getting to know one another in the offseason, often going out to lunch together after workouts, etc. Little things like that go a long way toward improving on-field chemistry. But they still must get to a point where they can know without speaking how the person next to them will handle a situation. And, given the schedule, they must get there quick.
Others: Rod Jones is trying to recover from an injury last year. He rarely looked comfortable at any position last year, looking woefully slow at tackle. Can he help this year? I have my doubts.
Outlook: Excellent, regardless of who plays center. I love the players' attitudes, especially the starters. They're hardworking blue-collar types, the kind of unit that sets the tempo for an offense. Others on this offense will garner more publicity. But this group will make it tick.
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