- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FIVE POSITION BATTLES

RIGHT TACKLE

The candidates: Stephon Heyer, Mike Williams and Jeremy Bridges

The favorite: Heyer. He won the job in training camp last year but got injured. He resurfaced during the season and started the final three games at left tackle.

Analysis: Williams has 47 NFL starts - but none since 2005. He’s been out of football for two years and is just now getting into playing condition. He’s worked his way down to 337 pounds, but it’s uncertain how he will handle the rigors of camp.

Bridges has 39 starts, but most of his regular playing time has come at guard. Williams eventually might seize the position, but Heyer likely will be the Week 1 starter.

KICKER

The candidates: Shaun Suisham and newcomer Dave Rayner

The favorite: We give a slight edge to the challenger. The Redskins signed Rayner because they weren’t happy with Suisham’s performance last season - he led the NFL with 10 missed field goals.

Analysis: Rayner has made 42 of 59 field goals in four seasons with five different teams. Suisham has been the Redskins’ kicker since late in the 2006 season. The club faces a tough decision if Suisham and Rayner finish in a tie: Do the Redskins go with the player they know well or keep the new guy? This competition should go down to the final preseason game.

NO. 2 RECEIVER

The candidates: Antwaan Randle El and second-year players Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly

The favorite: Randle El by default. He’ll remain the second receiver until Thomas proves he has a grasp of the system or Kelly proves he’s fully recovered from offseason knee surgery.

Analysis: Finding a reliable third option is vital to the success of the passing game. Santana Moss and tight end Chris Cooley combined for 162 of the team’s 318 catches last year (50.9 percent). Randle El, who played nearly 900 snaps, finished with 53 catches and four touchdowns. The Redskins need a wideout who can stretch the field so opponents can’t shade coverage toward one side (Moss) or area (Cooley down the middle). Kelly, if healthy, could be a good addition in the red zone.

NO. 2 QUARTERBACK

The candidates: Todd Collins and Colt Brennan

The favorite: Collins. The 15th-year veteran should be more comfortable with Jim Zorn’s passing game, and his experience (651 passes compared with none for Brennan) gives Zorn a higher comfort level.

Analysis: Brennan will play more than Collins in preseason games. But if Collins remains functional as a backup, he’ll hang on to the No. 2 job because, in a bind, a coach naturally trusts a veteran more. If Brennan flashes potential during camp, Collins could serve as No. 1 if Jason Campbell is injured during a game and Brennan as No. 1 if Campbell misses multiple games.

NO. 4 CORNERBACK

The candidates: Justin Tryon and Kevin Barnes

The favorite: Barnes. The third-round pick from Maryland was selected in part because Tryon, a fifth-round pick in 2008, struggled in the preseason last year and couldn’t crack the rotation in the regular season.

Analysis: The 53-man roster probably has room for both players. But Barnes is a lock, and Tryon had better perform well or risk getting edged out by Byron Westbrook. The Redskins are set for starting corners (DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers), and Fred Smoot likely will get the nickel spot. Winning the No. 4 job means the player is at least in the rotation and not limited to only special teams.

KEY DATES

Thursday: First practice, 8:30 a.m.

Aug. 8: Fan Appreciation Day/intrasquad scrimmage, 2 p.m.

Aug. 13: Redskins at Baltimore, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 22: Pittsburgh at Redskins, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 28: New England at Redskins, 8 p.m.

Sept. 1: Roster reduced to 75 players by 4 p.m.

Sept. 3: Redskins at Jacksonville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 5: Roster reduced to final 53 by 4 p.m.

Sept. 6: Eight-player practice squad can be established.

Sept. 13: Season opener, Redskins at New York Giants, 4:15 p.m.

OPEN PRACTICES

Thursday: 8:30 a.m.

Friday: 8:30 a.m.

Saturday: 8:30 a.m.

Sunday: 8:30 a.m.

Tuesday: 8:30 a.m.

Aug. 5: 8:30 a.m.

Aug. 6: 8:30 a.m.

Aug. 8: 1:20 p.m.