Jason Campbell's progress. It's nice that Albert Haynesworth is on board, but as one GM told me recently, ‘'It's still about the quarterback.'' And that means Campbell. The movie side of me has the script for his season ready: unwanted QB delivers big things for team; leads them to glory. That's how it should go, right? But this isn't the movies. Campbell needs to become more aggressive (it helps to have talent that allows you to do so). And his instincts need to sharpen. We really won't see that in camp, but we can see it once the games begin.
Albert Haynesworth's motor. After getting the big money and telling everyone that it wouldn't affect him in a negative way, we'll finally get to see if that's right. Words are one thing; actions are another. We did hear that Haynesworth attended more offseason workouts than he had in the past for Tennessee. He was told by people close to him to make sure he lives up to the contract. And the responsibility that comes with making so much money. Certainly he won't go hard every single play – not sure what linemen do – but you will be able to tell how serious he is about dominating.
Phillip Daniels' health. He should be good as new. But he's also 36 coming off knee surgery (albeit a year ago). Daniels was in terrific shape last summer and ready for a good year. Until he got hurt. Now he's even stronger, having spent another offseason power lifting. He's also over 300 pounds. The Redskins only need him to stop the run. If he can't they're in trouble on the left side.
Mike Williams' waistline. He weighed more than 400 pounds in April, but continued to shed weight through June. Has he gotten down to, say, 350 pounds? If he has, then it's worth watching to see if he can play. Don't doubt his desire to lose the weight. But be skeptical about his ability to play at a moderately high level after missing three years. That may be asking too much, at least initially.
Brian Orakpo's transition to the NFL. The rookie first-round pick looked a little more comfortable at the strongside linebacker spot in the spring. However, there was still some questions among the veterans if he could really handle the role. We'll start to see in camp, especially when the games are played. He did look good as a rush end, where he has a natural burst to the outside. But what sort of counter moves does he have? Can he set up an NFL lineman yet? He could be a real good player, but he has a lot to learn.
How Fred Smoot plays. He's ‘'just'' a third corner, but in this league a third corner plays a lot. And he did not play well last season. The Redskins want to move DeAngelo Hall inside on occasion, which means Smoot must be solid on the outside. Was 2008 just an off year or the start of the decline? With Justin Tryon remaining unproven, at best, and Kevin Barnes being a rookie, Smoot's play is meaningful. They just don't have great alternatives. One reason the Redskins' defense has been so good the past few years is strong corner play.
Chad Rinehart's development. Teammates were not high on him last season, some saying he would never be more than a backup. They didn't think he was athletic enough to ever start. But the Redskins need him to get to that level. With Randy Thomas coming off two surgeries and being 33 years old, it would not be surprising to see another guard play a decent amount this season. Jeremy Bridges' experience probably gives him the edge, but Rinehart was a third-round pick last season. At the time, some analysts considered him a steal, saying he could be starting within a year or two. If that's the case then he'd better show some legitimate progress this summer.
The Colt Brennan Show. And I don't just mean on the field. It's safe to say he's the most popular third string QB in the NFL. Try to write something critical of him and see what they say on the University of Hawaii message boards. It's hard to say who Hawaiians would defend more: Brennan or President Obama. Brennan also is one of the most intriguing players on the roster. Too many players have said too many good things about him for Brennan to be ignored. They like how he is on the field. They like that he can make things happen. But the coaches seem to be much more wary of him. While they like him, they understand how far he is from being able to produce against top-line talent. Is that because he's not ready or because he's rather unorthodox? Considering his coach, Jim Zorn, is unorthodox, I'd have to say it's the former. He's a good deal better than Chase Daniel, but he still lags behind Todd Collins – at least entering camp. Yes, he can take that job. But it will take a lot, more than just a couple nice drives in preseason games, too.
Who emerges as the summer star. There's always one player who becomes a fan favorite who is unlikely to ever play during the season. Brennan and Marcus Mason were those guys last year. Who will it be this year? My money is on one of the smaller, faster running backs Dominique Dorsey or Anthony Alridge. Mason is back, but his time might have passed. He had a productive summer last year, but couldn't win a job. Why? Because coaches weren't confident of his football smarts. Has that changed? We'll see. And remember Billy McMullen? He had a strong camp, too, yet was still cut. Why? Speed. Not enough of it. So guys who become fan favorites have to do more than just show production.
- LaRon Landry. He irked safeties coach Steve Jackson by missing almost all of the offseason work. Landry is as sculpted as they come, so he'll be in shape. But he needs to improve on the mental aspects of the game. He's not a dumb player by any means, but to become a Pro Bowler, which the team expects him to be someday, he has to improve as a playmaker. That comes, in part, from recognition. Landry also needs to get a little tougher mentally. For example, when Brandon Jacobs ran him over in the 2008 opener, Landry seemed stunned that it happened and did not respond in the way some coaches would have liked. Landry is capable of being a big-time safety. He has shown flashes of being that guy. Will he show even more this summer? Can't wait to find out.
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