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The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va., Steve DeShazo column

By Steve DeShazo, The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 09--LANDOVER, Md. -- Aside from a potential coup at kicker, there's little position intrigue at the Washington Redskins' camp. That's rare for a team coming off a 3-13 debacle of a season.

Barring injury, most of the team's starters are practically set. That's especially true of the offensive skill positions that are near and dear to new coach Jay Gruden's heart.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III is finally healthy. Alfred Morris gained more rushing yards in his first two seasons than all but eight players in NFL history. Newcomer DeSean Jackson joins Pierre Garçon and second-year tight end Jordan Reed to form a potentially explosive receiving corps.

No one's going to usurp their roles if they stay healthy. For the first time in a while, though, there seem to be qualified candidates behind them as well.

"When the starters are out, the coaches want to see that the game remains the same," Aldrick Robinson said Thursday night.

"I think that's what we showed tonight."

Robinson certainly did his part in a 23-6 preseason win over New England. The third-year receiver scored Washington's only touchdown on a nifty 10-yard slant pattern from backup quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Robinson (three catches for 45 yards) and impressive rookie Ryan Grant (three for 37) could be fighting for what likely will be the fifth and final receiver spot on the 53-man roster. Or, if they continue to play the way they did Thursday, they could nudge out Santana Moss, the longest-tenured Redskin at nine seasons.

Robinson's reputation is as a speed demon who does little well except run fly patterns. Thursday's performance may help change that perception.

He nearly hauled in a touchdown pass from Griffin on Washington's first series, but his left arm landed out of bounds before both feet hit the ground. He made up for that with his touchdown catch and looked more like a complete receiver than in years past.

"I was known as fast guy," Robinson said. "As you can see tonight, I can run routes and catch the ball. Consistency is key and I'm still trying to work on that."

At the very least, Robinson and Grant (who caught 196 passes at Tulane) give the Redskins some insurance--and the ability to use four or five wideouts at once.

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There's a similar dynamic at running back: Morris is the unquestioned starter and Roy Helu Jr. a solid backup. But for the first time in years, there's quantity and quality behind them.

Rookies Lache Seastrunk (12 carries, 63 yards) and Silas Redd (nine for 45) showed speed and elusiveness, albeit against the Patriots' backups. Redd also caught two passes for 18 yards.

"Yeah, I was impressed with both of them," Gruden said. "You know, Redd between the tackles, he's a good power runner. He's got great vision. He's shown [that] in practice so far and we want to see him carry it over into the game and it did today. Lache is obviously known for his big play ability."

Again, neither is a threat to start. But they'll push Helu--who also looked fast and shifty--for the backup spot and third-down duty.

"We'd like to have thunder and lightning, so to speak, or just have a couple thunders--it doesn't matter," Gruden said. "I think Alfred is going to get his bulk of carries and he's going to need to have a rest every now and then, and whoever that guy is--whether it's Roy, whether it's Silas, whether it's Lache, whether it's Chris Thompson--that is to be determined."

There's still three weeks of practice and three more exhibition games before Gruden has to make that call. It may be a little more difficult a choice than previous Redskins coaches have had to make--and that's a good thing.

"There's definitely a lot of competition," said Redd, an undrafted free agent from Southern Cal. "It's going to come down to consistency. Lache, Chris and I are all competing, and we'll let the chips fall where they may."

Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443

[email protected]


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