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Seven Storylines to Follow At Mini-Camp

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Call it the unofficial start of the 2008 season, as nearly 100 players arrive at Redskins Park for the club's full-squad mini-camp May 2-4.

Veterans have already been filtering into Redskins Park this week. By Thursday evening, 23 rookies will join them.

Of course, all eyes will be on Jim Zorn as he conducts his first series of Redskins practices.

It all promises to be a weekend chock full of storylines.

Here are five to keep an eye on as mini-camp unfolds:

-- JIM ZORN'S NEW OFFENSE

Jim Zorn brings the West Coast offense to Redskins Park. It's an offense predicated on a short, horizontal passing attack to help spread out defenses and open up running lanes.

Zorn said the offensive players will have an abbreviated playbook for mini-camp. He is expected to expand the playbook once Organized Team Activity sessions, or OTAs, start on May 5.

Several Redskins veterans have played in versions of the West Coast offense.

Running back Clinton Portis played in Mike Shanahan's version of the offense in Denver from 2002-03. Santana Moss began his NFL career in Paul Hackett's West Coast offense with the New York Jets.

Long-time Redskins Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen even played in a version of the West Coast offense in 2001. That one was run by then-offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye.

So it should be an easy transition for most veterans.

The passing game will be under scrutiny, as players adjust from Al Saunders' rhythm-based, downfield passing offense to Zorn's offense. Meantime, Zorn has said his offense will feature a strong rushing attack similar to last year.

-- JASON CAMPBELL

New year, new offense for Jason Campbell. He enters the 2008 season learning his seventh offense in the last eight years.

Campbell played in a West Coast offense as a senior at Auburn. He had his most productive season that year, throwing for 2,700 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Since February, Jim Zorn has been working with Campbell, making adjustments in his footwork and fine-tuning his technique to better fit the West Coast offense.

Now Campbell will begin to delve into the playbook and adjust to different pass routes and different check-downs.

This season promises to be a big one for Campbell. In three NFL seasons, he has been solid, but his won-loss record is 8-12. He has also struggled at times in the red zone and in leading game-winning drives.

Team officials invested three top draft picks in tall, rangy pass-catchers. They should help Campbell take the next step.

-- BRING ON THE ROOKIES

A whopping 23 rookies--from top draft pick Devin Thomas to undrafted rookie Bryan Wilson--will be on hand for mini-camp this weekend.

Focus will be on the draft picks, of course.

Wide receivers Thomas and Malcolm Kelly and tight end Fred Davis, all second-round picks, are among rookies who have plenty to absorb as their NFL careers kick off this weekend.

From the sound of it, they're ready.

"I will get my nose in the books and use my coaches as mentors so I can learn as fast as possible," Thomas said this week. "If I have questions, I will ask them. If I make mistakes, I will learn from them. I want to get moving as fast as possible."

Added Kelly: "We are going to push each other to be better. We were all kind of ?the guy' at our universities, and now we are the pups coming in. We know where we stand and we know we have to come in and compete."

-- OTHER ROOKIES TO WATCH

Third-round pick Chad Rinehart is expected to get the bulk of work at right tackle, but offensive line coach Joe Bugel may work him at right guard and center as well. Rinehart could get an extended look should coaches decide to limit reps for Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas, who are both coming off injuries.

Fourth-round cornerback Justin "J.T." Tryon had a touch of brashness to him during a conference call with reporters on Sunday. His adjustment to the NFL--as well as his new teammates--should be interesting to watch.

Defensive back Chris Horton, a seventh-round draft pick, could have a legitimate shot at earning a roster spot. The Redskins have just three safeties on the roster with NFL experience in LaRon Landry, Reed Doughty and Vernon Fox.

(Safety Kareem Moore, the Redskins' sixth-round draft pick, recently had knee surgery and will sit out mini-camp.)

Among undrafted rookies, offensive lineman Shannon Boatman and defensive end Alonzo Dotson are intriguing prospects.

Boatman, 6-5 and 315 pounds, is a two-year starter at Florida State. He is noteworthy because he plays despite having Type 1 diabetes. Dotson's father Santana and grandfather Alphonse played in the NFL, so he comes from good lineage.

-- ON THE DEFENSIVE LINE

The Redskins drafted just one defensive lineman in the NFL Draft, using a seventh-round pick on Kansas State defensive end Rob Jackson. The team also added defensive ends Alonzo Dotson and Dorian Smith as undrafted rookies.

Even so, it appears the Redskins will head into the 2008 season with a similar defensive line as last year. That means the starting foursome of Andre Carter, Cornelius Griffin, Anthony Montgomery and Phillip Daniels should be back.

On passing downs, Marcus Washington or Chris Wilson could replace Daniels at left defensive end. Daniels could move inside to play tackle on those downs.

The Redskins' defense logged 33 sacks last year, tied for 16th best in the NFL. The top two teams in sacks, the New York Giants with 53 and the New England Patriots with 47, were Super Bowl representatives.

Pressuring the quarterback remains a key for the defense. But defensive coordinator Greg Blache has maintained there is no need for a change in scheme.

"There are some areas we need to clean up, but that's not about scheme," Blache said. "That's us doing a better job."

One area of improvement that team officials have cited is the need for increased pressure up the middle. Defensive tackles to keep an eye on during mini-camp: Griffin and Golston.

-- IS PORTIS READY?

Most of this decade, Shaun Alexander has been the do-it-all running back for the Seattle Seahawks. He was the league's MVP in 2005, compiling a career-high 1,880 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns on 370 carries.

If Jim Zorn's offense resembles the Seahawks' offense, then Clinton Portis could be the Shaun Alexander of the Redskins.

After an injury plagued 2006 season, Portis ended last season healthy. He compiled 1,262 yards and 11 touchdowns on 325 carries, plus he caught a career-high 47 passes for 389 yards.

Zorn's offense could find ways for Portis to be even more productive.

Portis has already proven he can rush for 1,500-plus yards, something he did three of his first four seasons in the NFL.

Portis has been a regular at the Redskins' off-season strength and conditioning program this offseason, so he should be in fine physical shape heading into mini-camp.

-- PUNTING COMPETITION BEGINS

Since 2005, the Redskins have emphasized stability at punter, settling on Derrick Frost. He was the only punter on the Redskins' roster all of last year, and he was also the holder on field goal attempts.

Frost's NFL career has been marked by bouts of inconsistency, though. He has steadily improved and grown into the job.

He had a 41-yard punting average last year, good enough for 18th best in the league. His 36.4 average net yards was 21st in the league.

This offseason, team officials decided to bring in competition in the form of sixth-round draft choice Durant Brooks.

Brooks is a promising prospect. In two years at Georgia Tech, he shattered school and conference records. He logged 144 punts for a 45-yard average, with a long 77 yards. He had 20 punts go for touchbacks and 68 downed inside the 20.

Brooks was the recipient of the Ray Guy Award in 2007 as the nation's top punter. Coincidentally, Guy has been Brooks's mentor and a family friend.

"He has ability and he has a [strong] leg," executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said. "It should be a good competition."

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