The Kirk Cousins contract drama will dominate all other storylines until proven otherwise. Well, that is unless the quarterback and the Washington Redskins agree on a long-term deal before Monday’s league deadline. Ha, right.
Anyway, training camp in Richmond, Va., is just a tick over two weeks away. Other parts of the depth chart have some interesting competition for starters and backups. My colleague Wes McElroy already examined three battles on the defensive side. Let’s do the same with the offense.
Running back – There’s the starter race between 2016 leading rusher Robert Kelley and fourth-round pick Samaje Perine. Folks are overlooking just how much good Kelley produced during his rookie season after making the squad as an undrafted free agent. They’re also sleeping on just how much coach Jay Gruden likes “Fat Rob.” Perine is crazy strong and offers all kinds of potential, which is why this race exists even if the other guy has a deserving lead.
There’s the fourth running back slot with three contenders, but really just two. Mack Brown worked his way into the role last season thanks to a strong preseason and special teams contributions. Keith Marshall, the fastest prospect at the 2016 combine, is a fun physical specimen whose RB instincts were rudimentary entering the league. Then there’s disgruntled veteran Matt Jones. He reportedly wants out after going from starter to inactive over the course of last season. The Redskins seem willing to make that happen, but why let him walk for free early in case Kelley or Perine go down?
The one scenario we know for sure is Chris Thompson as the primary third-down option. No way can the Redskins risk letting the strong,but diminutive Thompson take on lead-back duties. There’s also no threat to challenge him for his pass-catching duties.
Starting left guard – This battle is Shawn Lauvao vs. his body and the salary cap. Lauvao, who turns 30 in October, only missed two games in 2016 with an ankle injury, but he’s not so far removed from a bushel of surgeries after the 2015 season that we can slot him in the durable camp. Then there’s the money. His $5 million cap hit — $1 million dead money — is the eighth highest on the team, falling in between Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Reed and recent addition Terrell McClain. When he has been right, Lauvao has shown he can hammer opponents along the line and provide the run game with a true ally. He’ll need to be stout enough with Arie Kouandijo looming and the ever-present salary cap consideration.
The odds are in Lauvao’s favor, though Kouandijo held his own filling in last season. If Kouandijo goes next level with his game and the Redskins feel comfortable with their guard depth (Isaiah Williams? Chase Rouiller? Tyler Catalina?), things could get interesting. They wouldn’t want to pay a backup all that, right?
Backup wide receivers – Jamison Crowder and Terrelle Pryor are the top two. Josh Doctson should eventually start as the outside receiver opposite Pryor. In terms of potential, Washington should feel rather nice about the trio even after losing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. In terms of the next 2-3 slots, the Redskins should feel intrigued and uncertain with their potential candidates.
The constant praise for Ryan Grant, a blocking threat, from Gruden continues to baffle fans who don’t see the practice hype translating on the field. Brian Quick joined Washington during free agency following five underwhelming seasons with the Rams. He didn’t exactly wow folks during spring practices. Maurice Harris provides another red-zone target and there’s some legitimate juice behind his fourth receiver candidacy. There are other interesting options ready to battle for the flavor of the month honors, namely sixth-round pick Robert Davis and 2016 practice squad player Kendal Thompson.
Receivers 4-6 will play on special teams if nothing else, but maybe plenty more. Considering Doctson’s injury struggles as a rookie, we can’t pen him in for 14-plus games just yet. Grant, Harris and Quick have the inside track – assuming three reserves make the 53-man roster – but that’s written in pencil.