For the first time since Dan Snyder bought the Washington Redskins a decade ago, the buzz at minicamp, which runs Friday through Sunday, is about the defensive line.
Not since then-team president John Kent Cooke showered newly acquired defensive tackles Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson with $57.4 million worth of contracts in 1998 have the Redskins hit the field for the first time in spring with all eyes on the defensive side of the trenches.
In signing All-Pro tackle Albert Haynesworth away from the Tennessee Titans for $100 million ($41.5 million guaranteed) during the first hours of free agency and choosing award-winning defensive end Brian Orakpo 13th overall in last weekend's draft, the Redskins have turned an Achilles' heel into a strength.
Washington's 24 sacks were the third fewest in the league, but no other tackle had more sacks than Haynesworth's 8.5 and only five Football Bowl Subdivision players had more sacks than Orakpo's 11.5. The players who got the most time at those positions for the Redskins last season - Kedric Golston and Demetric Evans, now with the San Francisco 49ers - combined for 5.5 sacks.
While the new defensive linemen will be the center of attention, there will be plenty of other hot topics as the Redskins put on their uniforms for the first time since they concluded a once-promising season with an 8-8 record four months ago.
c How will quarterback Jason Campbell look in his first action since Snyder and executive vice president Vinny Cerrato tried to replace him twice in April? The front office was rebuffed in its attempts to acquire Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez, leaving Campbell in what he rightly termed an "awkward" situation and coach Jim Zorn in the difficult position of trying to support his quarterback and his boss. A big season from Campbell should earn a big payday from the Redskins or another team in 2010.
c Receiver Malcolm Kelly won't be on the field as he rehabs from another knee surgery, but receiver Devin Thomas and tight end Fred Davis, the other two-thirds of the disappointing trio of 2008 second-rounders, will be. All three need to step up in 2009 if Zorn's offense is going to click. Minicamp will be especially meaningful for Davis, who was ridiculed for oversleeping and missing one day of last year's session.
c Safety Chris Horton was the Redskins' most pleasant surprise in 2008, rising from seventh-rounder to starter before September was finished. Now Horton needs to sustain his ballhawking and tackling to prevent Reed Doughty, who will be limited this weekend as he winds up his recovery from back surgery, from reclaiming the starting spot next to LaRon Landry.
c The linebacking corps will have a different look. Marcus Washington, a five-year starter on the strong side, was cut because of his rising salary, age and infirmity. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache will give Rocky McIntosh, the weakside starter the past two years, a look at Washington's spot because the other top candidates, undersized holdover H.B. Blades and journeyman Robert Thomas, seem better suited for the weak side.
c There's not much chance rookie linebacker Cody Glenn will start, but the fifth-rounder is off to a troubling start after admitting this week that he had lied about the reason for his suspension for his final three college games.
c It won't be possible to tell this weekend how the aging starting offensive line looks as a unit; left tackle Chris Samuels won't practice as he rehabs his triceps, and right guard Randy Thomas will be limited after neck surgery. However, their absences will give line coach Joe Bugel the chance to try various combinations of hopefuls alongside bedrock center Casey Rabach, left guard Derrick Dockery - who is back after two years in Buffalo - and holdover right tackles Jon Jansen and Stephon Heyer.
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