Adam Cheek Staff Writer
The 2018 NFL season began anew Sept. 6, with the close-to-hometown Washington professional football team emerging victorious in Glendale, Arizona, against the Arizona Cardinals in the first game of their schedule. Washington concluded their training camp in Richmond, Virginia in mid-August.
After a 7-9 effort last season that caused the team to miss the playoffs, the Washington Redskins have built a solid foundation going forward. One of the biggest stories heading into the team’s visit to Virginia was the acquisition of veteran quarterback Alex Smith. Smith — who has played for the San Francisco 49ers and, most recently, the Kansas City Chiefs — was picked up as former quarterback Kirk Cousins’ replacement. Cousins played for Washington from 2012-2017, becoming their go-to passer in recent years. At 34 years old, Smith took a large number of the snaps at camp, with veteran backup Colt McCoy controlling a number of plays as well. Smith appeared solid behind center, coolly managing plays and consistently hitting his receivers.
The offensive side also saw standouts on the running and receiving ends. Running backs Derrius Guice, a draftee, and Chris Thompson, a roster staple since 2013, took handoff after handoff and recorded hundreds of yards. Although veteran Adrian Peterson was signed to replace Guice — who is out for the year with a torn ACL — about a week after the camp’s closing, the team showed their resilience and depth in the running department.
Wide receivers Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson Jr. tallied a number of catches over the course of the training camp. Along with several other wideouts, they worked closely with Smith to plan routes and organize plays. Doctson and Richardson made spectacular catches day after day, including a Smith-to-Richardson pass that the receiver caught in midair before touching down, in-bounds, in the end zone.
The team also possesses strong depth at the tight end position with Vernon Davis, Jordan Reed and Jeremy Sprinkle all returning for another season in Washington. The receivers all have varying amounts of experience, but appear to be one of the team’s strongest positions, displaying sure hands throughout training camp and solidifying their place on the roster.
The training camp concluded with a visit from the New York Jets for scrimmages, a matchup that led to some skirmishes among players and several all-out brawls in the first day of their meeting.
Tre McBride, although later cut by the Jets, ran plays as a wide receiver during the team’s visit. The College of William & Mary graduate expanded on what it meant to return to Virginia as a Jet, having continued his college career into the pros.
“Virginia’s like a second home to me,” McBride said. “I spent four good years out here playing ball, and it feels good to be back.”
Virginia colleges also have heavy representation on the Redskins roster. Morgan Moses hails from the University of Virginia, as did Quin Blanding — later released by the team — and three other members played for Virginia Tech.
Moses is a staple of the team’s defense, and this side of the team showed its worth as well. Cornerback Josh Norman continues to be one of the most notable defensive players, hauling in interceptions and making play after play, including a pick that saw the cornerback leap into the air, catch a pass headed straight toward him and land nearly flat on his back. Norman, safety D.J. Swearinger, draftee Daron Payne, linebacker Zach Brown and a host of other talents make up the defense.
Richmonders and fans from all around flocked to see their favorite players suit up and take the field. The training camp first hosted the team in 2016 and thousands of fans have attend each year, with some of the biggest crowds arriving on Fan Appreciation Day. The event not only included on-field action, but also Washington legends, the team’s cheerleaders and an influx of food trucks and other vendors for attendees.
Fans were also treated to time with the players, as they ventured over to the sidelines to sign memorabilia, take photos and talk with fans.
Many fans look forward now to the 2019 offseason, when the team will make the return trip to Virginia for their stint at training camp. Set to enter its fourth year hosting the camp, the event has become a landmark in Richmond, providing the Washington faithful, and even football fans in general, with a direct link to the NFL.
The fans and team look forward to a solid season on both sides of the ball, with projections favoring a winning season for the organization. Fans also seem confident with the team adding depth in all facets during the offseason. Washington will look to improve on last year’s performance and utilize these additions over the course of this season, hoping to finish with a winning record and a possible playoff berth.
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