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'Skins' roster remodeling reaches deep

May 7, 2010 12:36 am

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Rocky McIntosh (left) and Carlos Rogers will be at minicamp, even though they haven't signed their tender offers. spgrossman0507.jpg

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With Jason Campbell traded and many familiar veteran Redskins released, Donovan McNabb is now front and center as the on-field face of the franchise. McNabb (5) and the Redskins will begin their second minicamp tomorrow. spgalloway0507.jpg

The Redskins brought in Joey Galloway (above) and Rex Grossman for depth at the skilled positions.

BY RICH CAMPBELL

ASHBURN

--When reporters are welcomed onto the practice field sideline tomorrow morning to watch the Washington Redskins take part in their second minicamp under new coach Mike Shanahan, it will feel like walking into the remodeled kitchen of a familiar house.

You know the structure, but the look has changed. What was once recognizable is distinctly new.

That's because Shanahan and new general manager Bruce Allen have spent the last four months on their own sort of renovation project. They've made wide-ranging changes to a team that produced only four wins last season, all with the intent to intensify competition for roster spots and improve the Redskins' level of play.

"I think when [the Redskins] brought in Bruce Allen, that was sending the team in a different direction, saying to the team, 'OK, we're ready to start winning,'" veteran running back Clinton Portis said recently. "Then you go out and get Coach Shanahan, and it just solidified that you were tired of being the laughingstock of the NFC East. I think you're going to add that kind of personnel, and you see the power of moves they make. I think they're just loading up our roster, which is a good thing because it makes everybody compete."

After two months of unrestricted free agency and the completion of last month's draft, the group of 80 players that Washington will take to training camp this summer is almost set. Expect a few tweaks between now and late July--and player evaluations continue in earnest at this weekend's voluntary minicamp--but the bulk of Shanahan and Allen's work is finished.

With the three-day session set to begin this morning, the Redskins have protected the rights of 83 players--including their six unsigned draft picks and veterans Rocky McIntosh and Carlos Rogers, neither of whom has signed his restricted free agent tender offer from the team.

Of those 83, 34 (41 percent) were not with the team in any capacity at the end of last season. The total includes 22 veteran free agents.

Such extensive additions are balanced by the 16 players--many of whom were high-profile contributors--that the Redskins have either released or traded away in the last two months.

"There's a reason why we won four games last year, and my job is to improve on our roster each day," Shanahan said. "We got to get better at practicing, we got to get better personnel, we need more competition, and we'll constantly strive to do that."

Through the draft, free agency and trades, Shanahan and Allen have added both youth and experience to the offense, defense and special teams--an indication of how extensive they perceived Washington's personnel shortcomings to be after the franchise's worst season in 15 years.

Consider this: Six of the 10 players who caught a pass in last season's finale were released or not retained this offseason. The Redskins' quarterback in that game, Jason Campbell, was traded to Oakland last month.

"There's really not a position where we're not going to try to add competition," Allen said recently.

Most of the turnover, however, has occurred at the lower levels of the Redskins' depth chart--the April trade for starting quarterback Donovan McNabb notwithstanding.

Only three first-stringers from last year's team are no longer with the club--Campbell was traded, left tackle Chris Samuels retired and defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin was released--so the newcomers' collective impact on the Redskins this season is in doubt.

The team was limited in its efforts to acquire impact players because of new free agency rules stipulated by the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players' union. Players needed six seasons of NFL experience to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason instead of the four required in past years.

And the Redskins refrained from signing the big-money free agents that were available. Instead, they pursued veterans who were once considered among the best players in the league, such as running back Larry Johnson and wide receiver Joey Galloway, or unheralded players that with past connections to Allen or members of the coaching staff, such as quarterback Rex Grossman and defensive linemen Darrion Scott, Greg Peterson and Anthony Bryant.

Shanahan and Allen's preference for veterans over inexperienced players is obvious, though. They have signed 22 free agents with some NFL experience this offseason, compared to the five that Jim Zorn brought to training camp after he became the Redskins' head coach in 2008.

Even if the additions don't result in a drastically revamped starting lineup, though, the new faces provide an air of change. They arrive believing that they can earn the approval of the new regime, and that should result in the increased level of competition that so many around Redskins Park have mentioned this offseason.

"Whether you're creating competition, that's the way this game is played anyways," veteran receiver Santana Moss said. "You're not going to sit back and say, 'Hey I got it all made.' Bring the guys in. Have a battle. That's the way you win games anyways. You have the best guys out there on the field. Whatever [Shanahan] is doing, I think he's doing a good job."

The new guys seem to appreciate the freshness, as well. Whether the changes produce substantial improvements is unknown for now, so optimism currently stands in place of results.

"All of us feel like we're just starting class and learning a new system, but it's fun," McNabb said after the team's first minicamp last month. "It's fun to think that we've shown signs of a lot of positive plays, both running and passing. It makes it more exciting each time we step out on the field."

Rich Campbell: 540/735-1974
Email: rcampbell@freelancestar.com





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