Battlefield Ashburn: Redskins Training Camp
By: Les Barnhart 
Posted: 2005-07-29
Category: Washington Redskins News
As the Washington Redskins ready for their second training camp under Hall of Fame coach, Joe Gibbs, we here at THN will be highlighting what we feel are the battles to watch at camp. Position battles are to be expected on a team that is still looking to transform itself into a team that Redskins fans have yearned for since Coach Gibbs last tenure ended, some twelve years ago.

The Undercard

Kicker: Jeff Chandler v. John Hall
This battle may not be determined on the field, as it appears that the Chandler may be the one asked to put the ball between the pipes when called upon. Accuracy may be a push, but Hall holds a slight advantage on leg strength, making this an intriguing battle. The dark horse in this battle could be Hall’s recovery from his injury-plagued 2004 season. If his leg is even questionable, Hall may find himself following his “Jetskins” brothers (Coles and Morton) out of Redskins Park.

Punter: Tom Tupa v. Andy Groom
Despite the differences in age and experience, these two punters have much in common. One could call this competition the “Battle of the Buckeyes”, as both Tupa and Groom played at Ohio State. Both punters also came into the NFL during a Bush Administration; George Bush Sr. was coming into office when Tupa came into the NFL while Groom is in his third year. Groom, known for his booming leg in college, has found out just how difficult it is to make it as a punter in the NFL, no matter how talented he may be. Tupa is a grizzled veteran, and can also serve as the emergency quarterback.

TE/H-back: Robert Royal v. Chris Cooley v. Mike Sellers
This is the first of our battles in which all involved could remain on the roster after camp unless their play is such that the team’s hand is forced. Royal (a Spurrier holdover) needs to step up his play and show that his potential can be realized. Injuries have slowed him early in his career and now is the time for him to bring it all to the table. Cooley did nothing but impress last season (as a rookie), whether it be his soft hands or his blocking, he may have exceeded even his own lofty expectations. More of the same will be expected from him this season. Sellers returns for another season and could be used as the H-back and in short yardage situations.

Quarterback: Jason Campbell v. Mark Brunell
With Coach Gibbs naming Ramsey as the starter (and providing that Ramsey gives him no reason to change) the Redskins should have some stability in a position that hasn’t seen it in years. Campbell comes into his first NFL camp with a great deal of focus on him after being taken by the team with their second first round pick. A pick that cost the team future draft picks. The team has made no secrets about how high they are on the Auburn grad and some have questioned how soon he will unseat the incumbent as the starter. Brunell will need to return to Pro Bowl form to keep his spot as backup but it appears to be just a matter of time before Campbell passes him on the depth chart. Brunell’s greatest contribution to the team could be his tutelage of the young quarterbacks.

Feature Bouts

Linebacker: LaVar Arrington v. Redskins F.O. v. Knee
Arrington is expected to return from the knee injury that cost him the 2004 season. The question remains as to how well he will play on that knee as well as how he performs under the Gregg Williams system that excelled last season without Arrington. Arrington also has entrenched himself in a battle with the front office over the grievance filed regarding the signing bonus he feels he is due. How that plays out may be an underlying factor for Arrington’s performance, attitude and role on the team.

Tackle: Jon Jansen v. Achilles Tendon
The Rock is back. He has reported that the tendon is healed and he had no problems following a physical mini-camp that provided an excellent test for the injured area. Jansen’s return to the line could be bigger than any of the free agent signings or drafted players. Both Clinton Portis and Patrick Ramsey should be the immediate benefactors to Jansen’s return to work.

Center: Cory Raymer v. Casey Rabach
On the surface, this battle may not in fact be one. While Raymer performed well last season after replacing Lennie Friedman in the starting line-up in week 3, there’s no denying that Rabach was brought in from Baltimore to strengthen the center position. With the loss of Jansen at the beginning of last season, the entire line played at least one man bigger to try and cope with that loss. This season -- provided they stay healthy -- the line should be the strongest in years and both Raymer and Rabach will be integral parts of the line.

Wide receivers: Kevin Dyson v. Taylor Jacobs v. Santana Moss v. David Patten
With Rod Gardner out of the mix, the duties of catching passes and spreading the field falls on the second coming of the “Smurfs”. It remains to be seen how this group will adjust to the new offense being brought in by Gibbs and Musgrave, especially considering that there is no true-cut number 1 on the roster. The biggest issue last season was the lack of separation and the team’s inability to spread the field. This season could be the same as well as lack of a physical receiver. It could end up being a wide out by committee but then again, Moss and Patten have the experience and could play themselves into the starting role.

Editor’s Note: Following the posting of this story, a thread will be started in the Training Camp forum to extract feedback from theHogs.net members as too which battles said members would like the staff to take specific interest in while reporting from camp.
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