With the 2004 offseason now in the latter stages, the Redskins are set to host their third and final mini-camp June 4-6 at Redskins Park. For players, it'll be all business, as they begin to focus more on assignments, understanding play calls and winning starting jobs.
The mini-camp is expected to be similar to the OTA (organized team activity) practice sessions the team has hosted the last few weeks. For example, there'll be afternoon practice sessions, workouts and positional meetings, except that they'll be crammed into three days.
For head coach Joe Gibbs and the coaching staff, it will be their last opportunity to evaluate the entire team on the practice fields prior to training camp.
"We'll just have to see as we go how good we're going to be," Gibbs said. "But we have willing workers, which I think is very important."
Among the storylines to watch this weekend:
Mark Brunell & Patrick Ramsey
With Ramsey's foot nearly healed, the competition for the starting quarterback job should start to take shape this weekend. Of course, the real competition won't start until training camp and the pre-season games. For now, the focus could be on the little things, like understanding the play calls and developing rapport with the receivers.
Brunell, Ramsey and Tim Hasselbeck were each challenged in the previous mini-camps when defensive coaches occasionally sent pressure during 9-on-11 drills. Expect more of the same this weekend.
When Gibran Hamdan returns from NFL Europe in mid-June, there could be another battle between him and Hasselbeck for the third quarterback position.
How much have draft picks Sean Taylor, Chris Cooley, Mark Wilson and Jim Molinaro progressed in a couple weeks? The rookies returned to Redskins Park in mid-May following college graduation (as required under NFL rules) and they have been immersed in the playbook ever since.
In particular, the development of Taylor and Cooley is key because both could be counted on in their rookie seasons.
This mini-camp will also be the first real opportunity for some of the undrafted rookie pickups to make a solid impression on coaches. Defensive tackles Ryan Boschetti and Norman Heuer, cornerbacks Garnell Wilds and Rufus Brown, safety Dennard Wilson and wide receivers John Standeford, Jonathan Brewer and Jafar Williams are among that group.
As the roster now stands, it's a crowded field among tight ends and H-backs. Who will emerge?
Walter Rasby, Brian Kozlowski, Cooley, Robert Royal and Leonard Stephens are all listed as tight ends on the roster. (Stephens is returning from a stint in NFL Europe.) Mike Sellers, who is listed as fullback, also could be in the mix, likely as an H-back.
The Redskins added veteran tight end Fred Baxter to the mix on Wednesday.
Rasby, Baxter and Kozlowski are the veterans of the bunch, so it stands to reason they would have the inside track for playing time. But this is a position that could be one of the more intriguing to watch as training camp approaches.
Third/Fourth Wide Receivers
Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner are expected to return as starters, but there could be a competition emerging at the backup slots among Darnerien McCants, James Thrash and Taylor Jacobs.
McCants recently signed a contract extension and his size and speed make him particularly effective in the red zone.
Thrash returned to Washington after three years as a starter with the Philadelphia Eagles.
And Jacobs is a former second-round draft pick who hopes to rebound after an injury-plagued rookie season.
The Redskins have kept six wide receivers on the roster each of the last two seasons. If Gibbs decides to go that route, Scott Cloman and Cliff Russell would likely compete for the job. But don't be surprised if an undrafted free agent emerges as a competitor.
The Redskins' defense managed only 27 sacks last year and improving the defensive line was the first priority in free agency. The additions of Phillip Daniels and Cornelius Griffin added veteran experience to the line.
Gregg Williams could employ a series of linebacker and safety blitzes to help pressure opposing quarterbacks. But he knows that consistent pressure must come from the defensive line.
Daniels had nine sacks as recently as 2001. He'll team with Renaldo Wynn and Regan Upshaw as the Redskins' most experienced pass rushers. Youngsters Greg White, Ron Warner and Nic Clemons will also get a look.