RICHMOND, Va. -- It is an annual tradition at the Washington Redskins training camp. A group of largely anonymous defensive linemen compete to see who can grab a roster spot and once and for all stabilize a position that seems to get scrambled every offseason.
Washington hopes this is the year it finally gets results, but if it does it won't be because of household names. As of Monday's practice, former Baylor lineman Phil Taylor registered three consecutive days as the starting nose tackle. That's been about the only consistent aspect of the defensive line competition so far.
A first-round pick in 2011 by Cleveland with a career derailed by injuries ever since, Taylor is competing with journeymen like Ziggy Hood, Joey Mbu and A.J. Francis, among others. Washington drafted Jonathan Allen No. 17 overall this past spring and has high hopes for him after a stellar college career at Alabama.
Matt Ioannidis, a 2016 fifth-round pick, has had a nice camp and Anthony Lanier, a second-year pro who was hurt much of last season, is again flashing potential. Free agents Stacy McGee (Oakland) and Terrell McClain (Dallas) will also push for starting roles at defensive end.
But while there's been a lot of mixing and matching so far by defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, nothing is set in stone yet as the first preseason game approaches this Thursday at Baltimore.
"Hopefully there's a method for coach Tomsula's madness right now," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "We're trying to find the right pieces in the right places and it's going to be a process. We have a long time to get it done and get a good look at all these guys with ones, with twos - at three (technique), five (technique), shade. We've got a lot of good pieces. We've just got to figure out the right ones."
Gruden said similar things last summer and the year before that. Washington just can't seem to get the formula right dating back to the days of Albert Haynesworth early in the decade. Defensive end Chris Baker had six sacks two years ago, but dropped to 3.5 last season and was allowed to leave via free agency. The group left behind has a limited track record, but plenty of playing time to fight for.
"The only competition's with yourself," said Mbu, a practice-squad player with Washington last year. "You've got to get yourself better and let the chips fall where they may. We don't look at, 'Oh, this guy's doing this, this guy's doing that.' It's more about how we're doing as a group collectively."
Notes: Wide receiver Josh Doctson underwent an MRI exam and was diagnosed with a strained right hamstring. He missed Monday's practice after sustaining the injury on Sunday. Doctson is listed as day-to-day ... Wide receiver Jamison Crowder missed eight practices in a row (hamstring) and remains day-to-day. He is not expected to play in Thursday's preseason opener vs. Baltimore ... Cornerback Josh Norman did not participate Monday, but his absence was for rest and not an injury, according to the Redskins ... Tight end Jordan Reed remains sidelined with a toe injury. He has yet to participate in practice during training camp and will not play Thursday vs. Baltimore in the preseason opener.