Camp Opens: Work To Do

Training camp means back to work for NFL players after a six-week vacation. Besides the general things that they will work on such as conditioning and honing rusty fundamentals, each unit on the field will have its own agenda that will need to be addressed and worked on over the next six weeks. Here's a look at what the players will be focusing on to prepare for the September 11 season opener.

Offensive Line: The starting lineup will change by 40% from last year with Casey Rabach taking over at center and Jon Jansen returning so they must work to develop some cohesion as a group. One who will have a particularly challenging time doing this is right guard Randy Thomas, who plays in between Rabach and Jansen. They will have to do this while learning blocking schemes designed to better accommodate the new emphasis on the deep passing game and outside running plays.

Quarterbacks: During his first run in DC, Gibbs always said that he changed about 40% of the offense from season to season. If what we've heard about with the installation of the shotgun formation and the aforementioned vertical emphasis on the offense is to be believed, that percentage may be much higher this year. Patrick Ramsey will have to learn to execute this new offense after working in one that was relatively shackled last year with a short passing game.

Receivers: With more running to the edge, the receivers will have to run block and stick with their blocks long enough for Clinton Portis to break some big plays. With the switch to smaller receivers Santana Moss and David Patten, this will be particularly challenging.

Running backs: A legitimate deep passing threat opens up draws and screens, plays that the Redskins ran ineffectively last year. Portis and Ladell Betts will need to work on the timing and technique on these plays that need to be sold to the defense if they are to be effective.

Defensive line: This group saw very little change in the offseason and will simply work on continuing its outstanding performance from last year. If they would work on something it would be generating some more pass rush from the edge, although the return of Philip Daniels to health will go a long way towards helping that aspect of the game.

Linebackers: In Gregg Williams' defense, replacing the middle linebacker is huge and the Redskins will have to do that after Antonio Pierce's departure via free agency. Since the MLB is the signal caller in the defense, the effects there reach far beyond that area of the field. Lemar Marshall will get the first crack at winning the job and he will be working overtime with the playbook and films. After missing most of last season with a knee injury, LaVar Arrington needs to continue to work on internalizing the defensive scheme, which will be the same in consecutive seasons for the first time in his six-year NFL career.

Defensive backs: The one area that the defense would like to improve in over last year is in takeaways; they ranked in the bottom third in the league in that category. In particular, they would like to increase the number of interceptions from 18. That's a middle of the pack performance and the backs will be working on ball hawking techniques and on catching the ball when the opportunity for a pick is created.


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