Redskins trying to find their role

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,John Keim
Some remaining issues and questions for the Redskins:

Who will start at running back? As long as Tim Hightower is healthy, it has to be him. Coach Mike Shanahan loves what Hightower adds to the offense. He's not a budding Pro Bowler -- 25 percent of his runs last season and nearly half in the preseason were for two yards or less -- but he fits in with what they want him to do. Also, he's more decisive in his cuts than Roy Helu and faster than Evan Royster.

Is the secondary fixed? Not at all. The starting corners will be the same with Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall. You could do worse (and yes, better). But there's still doubt about who will handle the slot corner duties -- Cedric Griffin? Leigh Torrence? Kevin Barnes?

But corner is more settled than safety, which now has a collection of spare parts and starting candidates who were mostly unwanted by their previous teams. The good: They have something to prove. The bad: They have a lot to prove. All of the candidates have flaws. Unfortunately, the way the NFL is headed with more spread passing attacks and empty backfields, having safeties that can cover is a must.

Will Chris Cooley and Santana Moss be in training camp? If Moss truly is in excellent shape, as Shanahan says, then he would still be a viable option in the slot, and a rookie quarterback can always use a dependable veteran route-runner. But the Redskins have three other receivers they like a lot ahead of him, two of whom can play in the slot as well (Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson).

As for Cooley, the key is how his left knee responds during organized team activity workouts. If he has issues, his spot is in jeopardy. And it's still hard to imagine the Redskins paying him $6.2 million to be the No. 2 tight end.

Who will emerge as the placekicker? Graham Gano is younger and has a stronger leg than Neil Rackers. But the latter is more accurate. Gano needs to stop overanalyzing each kick. Still, if he has a good summer, he'll win the job.

- John Keim

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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