Postcard from camp: Redskins

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At Redskin Park in Ashburn, Va. I've made no bones about it: This is a poor place to have training camp, the team's practice facility. It bakes in the sun and there's no communal feel to it. On this day, the Redskins practiced in the morning on the practice field abutting some Virginia woods and get mostly shut down by lightning in the afternoon. Not a great day to observe the 'Skins.

1. It'll be a surprise if John Beck doesn't win the starting quarterback job. It's pretty clear Mike and Kyle Shanahan favor him over Rex Grossman -- as long as Beck isn't clearly outplayed this summer by Grossman. Kyle Shanahan, as a Houston assistant coach, told Texan brass when Beck was coming out of college that he was the best quarterback in that draft, so clearly the Redskins offensive coordinator loves him and pushed for him here.

2. Tim Hightower is the kind of back Mike Shanahan will use, and use often. Remember Olandis Gary? The 5-11, 220-pound Gary gained 1,100 yards for Shanahan in Denver 12 years ago, a one-cut-and-get-upfield back who fit well in the Denver system. Hightower's the same kind of upfield runner. He's 6-foot and 222, without great quickness but an inside-the-tackle power runner made expendable in Arizona by Beanie Wells and rookie Ryan Williams. I see Hightower starting at some point early in the season.

3. Washington still pines, slightly, over the one that got away. The Redskins helped their secondary in the past week, acquiring safety O.J. Atogwe (Rams) and underrated cornerback Josh Wilson (Ravens), helped their backfield with the acquisition of Hightower and improved their locker room by trading Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth. But Washington wanted to build its offensive line around Baltimore guard-tackle Marshal Yanda ... and Yanda stayed in Baltimore. Look for Shanahan and Bruce Allen to keep tweaking the roster.

Quarterback John Beck doesn't read the papers or listen to the omnipresent electronic media that covers the Redskins, because he knows it can't help him play any better. But he understands the you've-got-to-be-kidding-me attitude that has accompanied reports he may wrest the starting job from Rex Grossman.

"That doesn't surprise me,'' he told me after the morning practice Monday. "I haven't done much in the NFL for fans to have faith in me. But that's OK. If I'm the guy, I'm confident I'll prove myself.''

You'll want to read my longer dispatch coming up in the Aug. 8 Monday Morning Quarterback column, but what interests me the most about the Beck story is how integral a part Kyle Shanahan has played in it ... and how much Mike Shanahan believes in him.

Cornerback Josh Wilson was the No. 1 target on Washington's reasonably priced cornerback hit-list, and he got a three-year, $13.5-million deal to play opposite DeAngelo Hall. Washington could use him in the slot in nickel downs or on the outside, a bit of versatility the defensive staff loves. The Redskins didn't get all the free agents they targeted, but Wilson upgrades a seriously suspect position -- especially with Tuesday's news that Philip Buchanon was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

The marquee matchup is the emotional Sunday opener, when the Giants and Redskins remember 9/11 on 9/11. Most of the players in the game were playing high school football (or maybe Pop Warner) when the attacks happened, but it'll be a weird day to play a football game. And in one of the league's schedule oddities: Washington plays one home game between Sept. 19 and Nov. 5. That's not good.