2007 season recap
Tragedy strikes: The Redskins were rolling along at the season's midpoint, sporting a 5-3 record and well positioned for a playoff run. That is when everything seemed to fall apart. Two straight nailbiters against division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas ended in defeat and then the Redskins fell to Tampa Bay in the final minute. The day after their third consecutive loss, Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor was the victim of a break-in and was shot. He ultimately died and the team had to attend his funeral the day after an emotional last-second loss to Buffalo. Three days after the funeral, the Redskins wrapped up a tough week by beating the Bears and that started a four-game winning streak that carried Washington into the playoffs before it squandered a fourth-quarter lead in a 35-14 loss at Seattle.
Key camp questions
How will Zorn handle his first camp?
Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs often got criticized for being too easy on the players during training camp in his second stint with the team. It remains to be seen how Jim Zorn will operate camp. One thing that is known is that the Redskins are starting full training camp (veterans and rookies) earlier than any other team. In the offseason camps, Zorn's practice plan was somewhat unusual in that it often involved rigorous back-to-back days of practicing followed by periods of off days. Most camps usually have fewer consecutive training days with the off days interspersed. Zorn will set the tone for his regime in training camp and the process of getting the players to buy into his system is a vital objective.
Can McIntosh, Rogers return from injuries?
The two young starters both suffered season-ending ligament tears last year. According to reports, Rocky McIntosh's has responded better than Carlos Rogers' and he is apparently on track to be cleared in time for training camp. Rogers, on the other hand, has not come back from his knee injury as quickly and could be placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp. Both players are key cogs in the Redskins' defense and are among the club's youngest starters on that side of the ball. The status of those two players could have a huge effect on the Redskins' defense that has been bolstered by the addition of veteran defensive end Jason Taylor. Taylor was picked up after Phillip Daniels got hurt in the team's first traiing camp practice.
How quickly will rookies pick up offense?
Starting receivers Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-El are coming off of injury-plagued seasons and backups James Thrash and Anthony Mix are primarily special teams players. That leaves rookies Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly as potentially needing to fill huge roles should Moss or Randle-El get banged up again. Even if Moss and Randle-El manage to stay healthy, Zorn's west-coast offense relies on a balanced offensive attack in which a variety of players catch passes. Thomas and Kelly have a lot to learn in a short space of time at training camp to prove that they will be able to handle the responsibility the Redskins would like to entrust them with.
Key position battle
S Stuart Schweigert vs. S Reed Doughty: The void left in the secondary by Taylor's passing is massive. Neither Schweigert nor Doughty possess the immense playmaking ability of Taylor, but both are hard-nosed competitors. Doughty, a former sixth-round pick, took over for Taylor last season and performed admirably, if unspectacularly, finishing with 48 tackles and two passes defensed in the team's final seven games. Schweigert, meanwhile, tallied 69 tackles, four passes defensed and two interceptions in 15 games with Oakland (10 starts). The winner of the battle will start opposite second-year player LaRon Landry, who showcased his vast potential in his rookie campaign last year.
OL Chad Rhinehart: The Redskins did not to go after a veteran offensive lineman in free agency, instead choosing to go with the same group that they had last season. Given that starters Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas missed nearly the entire year and have been hit hard by injuries in recent seasons, the decision to bypass signing a veteran puts Rhinehart in a position where he could have to step into the lineup quickly. The third-round pick was a stalwart at Northern Iowa and will see plenty of action in training camp.
Player on the spot
QB Jason Campbell: The Redskins' young signal-caller enters the season having started 20 games in the last two years after sitting his entire rookie season. He has yet another new offensive system to learn after having had two different schemes in his first three years. Training camp will be extremely important for Campbell as he continues to familiarize himself with Zorn's playbook. Having drafted three offensive players in the second round to surround Campbell with what was already a solid offensive supporting cast, the onus is now on the QB to orchestrate the game plan.