A look at the Redskins entering training camp:

The skinny: The starting lineup is set with LT Trent Williams, LG Derrick Dockery, C Casey Rabach, RG Artis Hicks and RT Jammal Brown. Depth is a question mark, particularly with Mike Williams now lost for the season. That’s a decent amount of experience, save for Williams. Brown missed last season with a sports hernia, but was a two-time Pro Bowler on the left side.

Cause for optimism: Williams and Brown – potentially – are an excellent tackle combination. Because of the heavy reliance on zone blocking (and cut-blocking), having two athletic tackles is a must. The Redskins haven’t opened enough cutback lanes lately, in part because of the tackle play (save for when Chris Samuels was healthy). Williams showed his athleticism this spring and reacted well to pass rushers. If the tackles come through, the other linemen will be more effective. The other three should be steady.

Cause for concern: It’s hard to say how much rust Brown has after last season, and if his injury will cause a dropoff in performance. Plus he’s never worked with this group. The pass protection is predicated on communication and familiarity with the guy next to you. That takes time. Also, Williams is a rookie and, though he shows signs of being an excellent player, that, too, takes time. The depth should be improved from last year, but by how much? I wasn’t sold on Selvish Capers at all, but you could do worse with a seventh-round choice. Stephon Heyer is best as a fourth tackle; he might be the No. 3.

The verdict: Better. They’re certainly better than the group that ended last season simply because they now have legitimate players at tackle. But are they better than the group that started out last season? On paper, no. Williams is not better than Samuels nor is Hicks better than Randy Thomas. However, we also knew at the start of last season that injuries would be an issue for Samuels and Thomas. So the future of this line is brighter than the one start began the season in 2009. I loved the trade for Brown. Mike Shanahan’s offenses have fared well in the past because of his lines – and the tackles in particular.  

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