– The Washington Training Camp Report –
It’s that time of year, boys and girls! Training camps from across the Red Zone have opened up in preparation for the 54th season in our historical league. This time around, we’re looking at the Washington Redskins, who opened up the affair by signing former head coach Ricky Chapstick for the upcoming cycle. Chapstick was the head coach of the team way back between seasons 13-19. While only achieving a single playoff appearance back then (a 13-19 loss to the Green Bay Packers), Chapstick has refined his skills, his team building, and his decision making through hearty runs with Detroit, New England, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
By far Chapstick’s most impressive run came in Chicago, where he amassed 2 championship game appearances, 3 division titles, and over 70 wins in 7 seasons. While still not able to bring home an elusive RZ Championship, he proved to himself he could compete with the best the Red Zone has to offer…
Going in, I had low expectations. I didn’t want to return to my home here in DC until I was ready. After New England, it was starting to look like I’d never get that chance. The last 20 seasons have been so important to me to reach the level that the people of DC deserve. I’m home.
-Ricky Chapstick, signing press conference.
Let’s first take a look at the present… What Washington has to look forward to in Season 54.
There are several looming questions coach Chapstick has to answer going into Season 54 –
- Go with established talent in Alex Smith at QB or play for the future in Haskins?
- How to manage a multi-faceted and talented backfield?
- How much does this defense have to offer?
- What are your chances in year 1?
I think I’m prepared to answer all of these and more.
Question 1: Alex Smith or Dwayne Haskins (or Case Keenum?!)
There are 3 quarterbacks on the roster who are competent – that is not to say they are all high quality starters. To begin with, Alex Smith’s health will be in question as the savvy veteran is going into his 35th birthday. Along with health concerns, Alex Smith has never been one to put unheard of zip on the football, really limited the effectiveness of deep threat WRs. Despite this, he boasts the best accuracy and game management of the 3.
Case Keenum is a solid backup who has shown shocking promise in the past… For this conversation, I’m likely to slot him with Alex Smith in the – solid, but not mind blowing arm.
That leaves 1 Dwayne Haskins… The first round pick of last years draft. Despite being the youngest player, (doesn’t even turn 23 until next season) he has the strongest arm of the 3 by far. Haskins really impressed with his leadership and ability to make good decisions at Ohio State. He has some sneaky athleticism as well, although I wouldn’t expect him to be running all over the field.
For the question itself, it is difficult. We saw the birth of Mahomes after he sat behind Alex Smith for a full season… That mentorship is there and we know Haskins is young enough to take a year to improve… The answer here might rely on timing. How does Washington look going into week 8? For now, I am slotting Haskins into the starting role. I just believe he’s the right answer early to get as much experience as possible, and he’s actually not a bad option for the current team so long as he gets support from the running game.
Question 2: Peterson, Guice, Thompson… A Chapstick backfield?
Adrian Peterson returns to Washington, reuniting with Ricky Chapstick for the first time in nearly 50 seasons. Chapstick knows AP well from his time in Minnesota, although the then-rookie coach wasn’t really in a position to take full advantage of it. With AP still having very impressive skills at his age, he can be the Joique Bell to Thompson’s Ameer Abdullah.
That duo, while not as impressive as the Frank Gore, Aflred Morris pairing Chapstick had in his last Washington run, will be very well complimented with the young Derrius Guice. Guice is an absolute beast, one of the strongest running backs in the entire NFC East. He’s not a pure bully like teammate Semaje Perine (who will undoubtedly be fighting Bryce Love for that signature 4th RB slot on a Chapstick team.), but he makes up for it in quickness and surprising pass blocking ability.
This is a perfect fit for Ricky Chapstick, who loves his versatile backfields. He can protect all 4 guys that end up on the final 53 and while there are no stars, I would not be surprised if all 4 men played a pivotal role in supporting Dwayne Haskins in year 1.
Question 3: Defense… Can they hold up their end of the deal?
Defense has always been tricky for Chapstick led teams. Early in his coaching career, it was very conservative. The last 2 teams, LA and Chicago, Ricky has found a new aggression that carried a rookie QB (Miles Bush) to a super bowl appearance. The athleticism and pass rush of the Rams defense gave them the name LAPD (Los Angeles Pass Defense) and in Chicago we’re all familiar with Roquan Smith and the White Wave.
This is where this question gets tricky. This current Washington team does not have a Roquan Smith. It does not have an Aaron Donald. These are central players that are needed on any great defense. A key on this defense will be the management of older contracts such as Ryan Kerrigan, Josh Norman, Dr. Cromartie, and others. Deciding when to move on from these talented, yet aging stars will be a deciding factor.
At times, teams in the Red Zone opt for flashy players and big names to decide their fate. There needs to be a lock-down decision to build a
supportive defense through the draft and commit money to this side of the ball. For the first year, I think Washington has just enough star power to bring them to a playoff berth or a division title. How it looks going forward though, that could be a different story.
For now, Washington will undoubtedly rely on the breakout star Da’Ron Payne and his tag team partner Johnathan Allen. Combining their (very young) significant ability to plug running holes and cause problems for interior offensive lineman with outside rushers Montez Sweat and team captain Ryan Kerrigan. There are some glaring issues at the other LB positions at this moment, with the release of reliable tackler Mason Foster, but the current iteration of this defense is much stronger than in past years… Especially on the defensive line.
Question 4: Final chances?
And the real question is this: Just how long will it take for Washington to be competitive under head coach Ricky Chapstick?
The answer: 0 days. The “Haskins” are competitive now! From a picture perfect offensive set up that should take no time to get used to combined with a defense that boasts very talented players in key positions, Chapstick’s greatest concern lies in his greatest rival… The Dallas Cowboys. Dallas is another team (and in my estimation, the biggest threat) that can win the NFC East in year 1. Those games are going to be incredibly competitive, hearkening back to the days of Detroit/Green Bay between these coaching staffs.
Assuming the team is managed correctly and the young players develop, this will not be the only chance for Washington, either… Which brings me to my final point:
We talked about today’s team… But what of the team of tomorrow?
Unavoidably, we had to mention QB Dwayne Haskins before, but he still takes all the headlines in this section. How can he not? A young 22 year old quarterback with tremendous upside, one of the most RZ-ready QBs coming into the league. With the future of Red Zone possibly relying on Quarterback development more than any previous period.
Haskins is not the only young player ready to shine, though.
As you can see, there are several players 24 years and younger who are certainly going to have a huge impact on the Skins success going forward.
Names to watch out for:
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford – As some NCAA fans might recall, Bryce Love was an unbelievable talent at Stanford his Junior season, even being named a Heisman finalist with over 2,000 rushing yards. He assuredly would have been a first round pick had he came out last year… Unfortunately he did not. I should say, unfortunately for everyone but Washington… His senior season was marred by injuries and he wasn’t able to recapture the magic, but something tells me this 4th round pick is going to get back to the success he found running the ball for Washington in the near future.
Montez Sweat, OLB/Edge, Mississippi St. – Montez Sweat wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines in a very competitive SEC. We have seen this type of talent before… Comparison to former edge rusher Brian Orakpo have been made regarding Sweat as he hit Washington’s board. At 260 lbs, Sweat boasts FREAK speed at the outside backer position. He does lack some fundamental skill, but in terms of future value, it doesn’t get much higher defensively than Montez Sweat.
Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State – Dwayne Haskins gets one of his favorite targets from his college days in Terry McLaurin. Terry is a bit raw and will need some time to improve before he sees much action over the likes of Paul Richardson and Josh Doctson, but keep an eye on “T-Mac” as the seasons progress and as he finds himself a comfortable 2nd or 3rd option on a future playoff team.
Shaun Dion Hamilton, MLB, Alabama – While not a rookie as the other 3 are, with the latest news that leading tackler Mason Foster will not be returning for the Red Zone’s 54th season, Shaun Dion Hamilton immediately finds himself in what some what call an uncomfortable position… I don’t think coach Ricky Chapstick would agree. Perhaps a catalyst in the decision to get rid of Foster, SDH has been fast, instinctive and very impressive for a kid his age – no surprise from a big Alabama Linebacker. It means something that such a reliable force like Foster was released with just SDH backing him up. The coaches are confident in his development and so are we. With Da’Ron Payne and Johnathan Allen firmly solidifying a 3-4 offensive front, it will fall on the broad, manly shoulders of SDH to prove to doubters he is ready to become that leading sideline to sideline tackler a 3-4 defense needs.
Well that’s going to just about do it for this very lengthy training camp breakdown.
I hope you Washington Haskins fans are as excited as I am… Not just for Season 54, but for the very promising years to come!