Training camp is just a few days away, so here's our next installment of some position battles that Washington Redskins' fans can look for at camp:
Todd Wade vs. Will Whitticker
The gap left in the offensive line after left guard Derrick Dockery's departure has become one of the most intriguing position battles for the Redskins' training camp.
Todd Wade, who tested the free agent waters in early March but eventually inked a multi-year contract with the Redskins, has been working hard throughout offseason to convert from tackle to guard. Wade performed admirably when stepping in for an injured Jansen, but it has yet to be seen how he can handle the interior of the line. Coach Joe Bugel has noted that Wade has struggled to adapt to the new style of play – notably in keeping a low enough center of gravity – but that he was progressing steadily.
Into the picture comes Will Whitticker, a young guard who's very promising career with the Packers was cut short by injury. Whitticker, a seventh round pick in the 2005 draft, started for 14 contests in his rookie season. A hamstring injury sent him from team to team, but the Redskins have had an eye on him since he worked out for the team during last season. "I don't like this kid; I love him," says Bugel, who has been very impressed by Whitticker's offseason work. "He belongs here."
In many ways, Whitticker's story is similar to Todd Wade's own career before coming to D.C. Like Wade in '06, 'Big Will' is looking to bounce back from an injury and show that he still has the potential to start in the NFL. Getting through Wade, however, will be his first challenge.
Carlos Rogers vs. Fred Smoot
Carlos Rogers seemed to bear much of the criticism that was directed at the 2006 Redskins defense. Several catchable balls were dropped by the former first round draft pick, and he seemed to give too much of a cushion to opposing receivers. After the season was over, Rogers commented that "I probably had a chance for five, six, maybe seven interceptions last year ... There were a lot of plays left out there on the field." Sophomore slumps are understandable, but it is clear that Rogers will need to step up his game if he expects to keep his starting spot.
Fred Smoot, who left Washington for greener pastures in Minnesota, has returned to D.C. on somewhat humbler terms. After a disastrous couple of seasons with the Vikings – both on and off the field – Smoot is looking to resurrect his career and make a significant impact for his once former, now current team.
Smoot certainly has the edge in experience, and in his original stint in Washington he displayed a lot of heart and toughness. He has shown the ability to snatch interceptions, but has suffered at times from being a bit undersized, although it has been reported that he has gained weight. Carlos has shown good tackling skills and flashes of clever pass defending, but he will need to show greater confidence by playing receivers closer to the line of scrimmage and by holding onto those balls that he tends to drop.
In reality, this is Rogers' place on the roster, and his play will determine whether he keeps it or loses it. A strong showing in camp will probably result in Gregg Williams giving Carlos the nod in week one. Yet, with all of the defensive schemes and personnel changes that Williams is known for, it is likely that Smoot will be seeing plenty of playing time, as well.
Stay tuned for another installment of Camp Battles later on this week.