A look at the Redskins entering training camp, which starts today:

The skinny: The same cast largely returns, with Phillip Buchanon replacing Fred Smoot. I’ll miss Smoot’s energy and his humor – loved seeing players laughing across the field; you knew who cracked them up. But Buchanon should be a solid replacement. Carlos Rogers’ stock has increased under Jim Haslett, who praised him often during the offseason. Is it a ruse to repair his confidence or legit praise? Maybe a combo of both. DeAngelo Hall will start on the other side and the focus on zone and off-man coverage should benefit him. But he’ll have to play more physical vs. the run. Justin Tryon is a decent No. 4 and showed that he could help cover in the slot. Kevin Barnes also returns; I need to see more because I saw very little in him last year to get excited about. At safety, LaRon Landry will play closer to the line while Reed Doughty, Chris Horton and Kareem Moore will battle for time at the other safety spot. Put their names in a hat and pull one out; I like parts of each of their games, but they have different strengths and all can be used.

Cause for optimism: The change to a 3-4 won’t matter to the secondary, but a more aggressive approach will. Landry and Doughty blitz well; so they’ll blitz more. What a concept. The corners also will come, too. If Rogers plays more in the slot, as expected, he’ll be a weapon as a rusher, too. Also, if this group plays a little more zone it gives them the ability to read opposing quarterbacks longer and puts them in a better position for turnovers. Having a coordinator who believes in him should help Rogers, who was not always happy with Greg Blache. Moving Landry closer to the line is necessary. Between the other three safeties the Redskins should be able to handle the position. They have good depth.

Cause for concern: None of the free safeties is a complete player and only Moore is a natural in deep coverage. Will that matter? Maybe not because the key is making offenses wonder who will be deep on a particular play. Still, Doughty is better closer to the line, but might need to play deep. Horton needs to be better prepared; Moore's durability has always been an issue. While Landry is tough vs. the run near the line, he does not cover well, especially in a man defense. The corners could be good, but Hall must play a little more physical to please Haslett.

The verdict: Better. It’s largely the same group, but I like how they’ll be used this season. Every single coach tries to put their players in the best position and it’s hard to quibble with the success of the defense the past few years. However, they weren’t an elite defense because of the lack of turnovers. If this group is used more aggressively, those turnovers should increase (um, touchdown passes might as well). But I like the talent in the secondary. Landry must finally become an impact player; he’s that good of an athlete. I think he’ll be more visible in the defense and that’s a good thing.

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