The Tuesday Nickel

Leading up to the season opener, the Redskins have questions. We have some answers. We think.

1. Are they better? Yes, they are. But the real question is by how much? It's hard to imagine the running game being that much better considering how well it was at the end of the year. The receivers are the same and the running backs are the same. Unless, that is, Clinton Portis can deliver a healthy season. Then the potential for an explosive ground game exists. The Redskins have confidence in Ladell Betts; they still prefer Portis.

Defensively, they're better at linebacker and in the secondary. The line is unproven in some areas and still must prove it can rush the passer. But the Redskins have improved enough to contend for the playoffs. Making them will be harder.

2. Is Clinton ready? We can't see how he could be. At least not for a fulltime role – not after missing almost all of training camp. But Ladell Betts' performance last year bought Portis time to fully heal. The Redskins know if Portis can't go, then Betts can power the ground game. It's still hard to imagine Portis staying healthy all season.

3. The left side of the line will be fine. Pete Kendall and Chris Samuels have not worked together in a game, but both are proven veterans. Kendall is small for a guard, but perhaps he could give Washington what Dave Szott did long ago, when Samuels was first starting. Szott helped Samuels' confidence. Clearly, Samuels should be a confident player now, but having a proven guy next to him will only help his performance.

4. Jason Campbell's demeanor. When Campbell first arrived in Washington, he stayed quiet and just went about his work. Now that this has become his team, he's revealed much more of his personality. Campbell has a good sense of humor, which is coming through in interviews. Considering he's only started seven games, it's a good sign for the Redskins that he's so relaxed heading into the season. His poise and confidence are equally high.

5. Sluggish start. One game does not make or break a season, especially in an opener. Too many teams have recovered from ugly-season losses to make the playoffs. Last year's opener vs. Minnesota did not set a tone, it merely continued a trend. Still, for a team coming off a 5-11 season, the Redskins must beat a team coming off a 6-10 mark and is playing on the road. If the Redskins harbor any postseason dreams, a 4-2 or 5-1 start is almost necessary.

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