Camp Battles

Let's see, the Washington Redskins enter training camp with: a new coach, potential trouble at quarterback, problems along the interior of the line and questions about the receivers. What a difference a year hasn't made.

But at least there are new faces. The Redskins will have at least six new starters on offense and at least four on defense. Not to mention an all-new coaching staff, save for returnees Mike Stock (special teams) and Hue Jackson (running backs).

 

And those new faces make for interesting storylines, as well as positional battles. Some will be decided early in camp when it's obvious, at least to the coaches, who can and can't play. That's especially true along the offensive line. Some, like quarterback, will take a while -- maybe into the fourth preseason game.

 

Here is a training camp primer, including position battles and some lingering questions.

 

Quarterback: It's a three-man competition between Sage Rosenfels, Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. Rookie Patrick Ramsey likely won't join this group, unless he shines in preseason games. With his arm and intelligence -- and the lack of proven success of the others -- that's a possibility.

 

The safest pick among this group is Matthews, who has started 15 games the past three years. But the last thing Steve Spurrier will ever do is make the safe choice. Remember, in 1990 at Florida, Spurrier once leapfrogged the No. 5 quarterback on the depth chart ahead of everyone else. That also happened to be Matthews.

 

Guard: The Redskins must find a starter from yet another group of unproven players (barring any last-minute signings). Rod Jones is experienced, but not at right guard. He's mostly played tackle in his career and line coach Kim Helton freely admits he's not sure if Jones can make the switch.

 

If he can't, then Kipp Vickers is the next logical choice. He'll also compete at left guard with David Loverne, obtained in a trade with the Jets this past spring. Two youngsters to watch: Ross Tucker and Alex Sulfsted. The Redskins like them, but they haven't seen enough of them to be convinced they can play.

 

Receiver: The Redskins top three receivers appear to be set as Rod Gardner, Jacquez Green and Kevin Lockett received the bulk of time during offseason workouts. Of course, that can change. But each of these players would be a longshot to be cut.

 

Rookie Cliff Russell is expected to be the fourth receiver, leaving several players battling for one, maybe two, spots: Justin Skaggs, Darnerian McCants, Chris Doering, Derrius Thompson and Reidel Anthony. It'll come down to special teams and remember this: Thompson was an excellent coverman last year and Skaggs' future is as a special teams ace. He has the mentality.

 

 

Now for the questions. Some are addressed elsewhere in the new Warpath; those are the big ones. But here are a few others to consider throughout the summer--and the season.

 

 

  1. How good is Ladell Betts?

 

  If the rookie second-round pick shows anything, then this could be the end for running back Stephen Davis. Betts' style fits this offense better: he's an elusive runner, adept at finding running lanes, with good hands. In a system that wants to spread the defense, that style is a must. Besides, Davis' cap number next season is $8.9 million -- before $2.5 million in incentives that must be paid on April 1, 2003. That would make four years of heavy pounding--how much would he have left?


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