Redskins: 16 new starters since Shanahan's arrival

By Joseph White

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 2 2011 2:20 p.m. MDT

New Washington Redskins wide receiver Jabar Gaffney takes off his jersey after the NFL football team's training camp practice on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, in Ashburn, Va.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. — Free agent receiver Santana Moss opted to re-sign with the Washington Redskins instead of going somewhere else. Such a decision usually comes with the benefit of maintaining friendships and camaraderie established over the years in the locker room.

Instead, Moss probably should consider wearing a name tag in the dining hall. His longtime friend Clinton Portis is gone. So is Phillip Daniels. Plus Andre Carter, Rocky McIntosh, Casey Rabach, Derrick Dockery, Donovan McNabb, Albert Haynesworth and a host of other familiar faces.

"It's different," Moss said. "But it would have felt even weirder if I went somewhere else and didn't see those guys."

That's one way to look at it. Besides, change has been a constant for the Redskins over the last decade, with coaches and quarterbacks coming and going with revolving door regularity. Sixteen of 22 starters have been replaced since Mike Shanahan was hired last year. Moss is one of the six still atop the depth chart from the Jim Zorn days, along with tight end Chris Cooley, linebackers London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and safety LaRon Landry.

The Redskins have signed players with such breathtaking speed since the end of the lockout that players, fans, pundits and fantasy football addicts have hardly had time to take a breath and assess the roster. The early reviews aren't favorable — oddsmakers generally have Washington finishing last again in the NFC East — but the team is still being assembled and is having to work around the unusual post-lockout rules.

The first few days of training camp have been more like a minicamp — a learning period without full pads. One might consider that the real first day of training camp is Thursday, when Moss and the other free agents can start practicing.

"It is for everybody, that's for sure," Shanahan said. "You've got a lot of free agents, and even though they're out there kind of getting a feel for the system — that always helps — you've got to get back in football shape."

Still, enough has taken place to get an idea of how the Redskins will look. As usual, it all starts with the quarterback, the position that m akes the team's prospects look so tenuous.

John Beck (no starts since 2007) and Rex Grossman (four starts since 2007) will compete for the starting job, but Beck has been the only one of the two in camp because Grossman was a free agent. Beck has been inconsistent so far, not surprising given the lack of offseason practices.

"His arm was a little sore today," Shanahan said Tuesday. "I could see it. He didn't quite have the zip on it that he normally has."

Grossman was expected to arrive later Tuesday to sign a new contract and will begin practice Thursday.

Ryan Torain (742 yards in 2010) emerged last year as a possible successor to Portis at running back, but a hamstring injury kept Torain out of four games last year and added to questions about his durability. Tim Hightower, acquired in a trade with Arizona, could give Torain a break on third down and step in if Torain gets hurt again.

The offensive line has its five starters, but no one's calling it a fearsome fivesome. Trent Williams needs to put his rookie growing pains behind him and establish himself as a left tackle worthy of his status as a No. 4 overall draft pick in 2010. Right tackle Jammal Brown needs to stay healthy. Free agent Chris Chester fills a need at right guard and appears a good fit for the zone blocking scheme. Kory Lichtensteiger (left guard) and Will Montgomery (center) need to have a good camp to establish themselves.

The reliable Moss, who had a career-high 93 catches last season, is back at receiver, but who's the other starter? New Donte' Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney will push Anthony Armstrong for the job in what should be a compelling competition throughout the preseason.

Many passes will also go to Cooley, who remains one of the best tight ends around. The Redskins also need to find a way to get his backup, Fred Davis, into the game more often.

There are fewer question marks on defense. Barry Cofield is an upgrade at nose tackle, the position Haynesworth refused to play. The Redskins might have overpaid a bit for defensive end Stephen Bowen, but it's a spot that needed addressing. Adam Carriker returns as the other defensive end.

Pro Bowl linebacker Orakpo will now have first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan on the other side to spread the pass rush around, although Kerrigan could've used a regular non-lockout offseason to make the adjustment from defensive end. Fletcher captains the defense again, and second-year Perry Riley has the inside track to be the other inside linebacker.

Hall and free agent signing Josh Wilson are a serviceable starting duo at cornerback. Landry and another new face, O.J. Atogwe, should make the Redskins strong at safety.

But there's still a long way to go before the regular season opener Sept. 11. No telling what the depth chart will look like then.

"I feel like we've done a fantastic job rebuilding," Cooley said. "This is a new face, a completely, completely new face of this team."

Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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