So, how’re they doing?
The Redskins completed a week of OTA workouts. During the sessions many plays from Coach Zorn’s new West Coast Offense were introduced to the team and practiced. But the sessions also gave the coaches an opportunity to measure the progress of the team and individual players as the Redskins go through a transition.
Some players were absent including Shawn Springs, Antwaan Randle El and LaRon Landry. Not aware why Springs and Landry stayed away from the workouts, Zorn said that he intended to contact them to see what was up. “I am going to call them and try to get a feel for why they decided not to come,” said Zorn. “They have participated in the first eight practices. So it is not something that I am going to make a huge spectacle of. We will just see what happens. I can’t really comment because if I said I was really disappointed, and they had a legitimate reason for not coming, then I would misspeak. So I’m going to try not to do that.”
Offensive guard Jason Fabini and running back Clinton Portis missed practice on Thursday, June 5. But Zorn was aware that they would be missing. “Fabini had an issue that he had to get home for so he left,” said Zorn. “Portis did everything he needed to do today. We talked about this a couple of days ago. I already knew he was going to be gone today. What he did, to his and our benefit, was that he came in and got his treatment, he came in and listened to all the installation, he got his workout in and then he had to leave. He went over and above what I thought he was going to do so I am very pleased.”
According to Zorn, about 70 percent of the plays have been introduced. “Maybe 70 to 75 percent of the passing game concepts are definitely in. There are still a few little things that we have touched on that we will get to at training camp. we haven’t even touched the two minute offense yet. I don’t want to because that will come in training camp when we have these special categories, but I just want to get the offensive concept down. We will have enough concepts installed to take us into pre-season. We will then work through the concepts during pre-season and our guys should be easily in a place where we can introduce a new concept and they know what it is even during the middle of the season. That is what we are trying to do, get them familiar with the terminology. Everybody is communicating and moving in a good direction.”
The two top rookies, Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas, participated in the week’s activity. And Zorn found their progress to be good. “They are doing very well,” he said. “If you watched Kelly today, he beat our corners twice for go routes and did a nice job concentrating on the ball and coming down with the ball. That is really why he is here. As for Devin, a couple of times he did a really nice job concentrating on the ball in traffic. I am very pleased with what they are doing. Devin made a couple of mental errors on routes. It is the matter of being on one side and the next snap being on the other. It’s the same position, we call them the same route, but we flip the formation over and it feels and looks different. He just needs to keep after it. I am not disappointed at all.”
For a rookie, making a quick transition from college to pro can be daunting. But Zorn asserts that both Kelly and Thomas are doing well overall. “They are making great strides in getting to know the offense,” he said. “I would say one of the biggest things that I am looking for is how fast they get comfortable with it. Right now, I can see them thinking about doing the right thing, instead of feeling comfortable exploding off the line of scrimmage and gaining leverage on a defender and then coming out of his break. They are doing it, but it is a little bit mechanical right now. They shine when we go into a one-on-one situation. When there is not a pattern involved, and it’s just a matter of a one-on-one situation you can see their speed, their explosion and their desire to catch the ball. It’s pretty good.”
And Zorn has liked what he’s seen of veteran receiver James Thrash. “I think he figures prominently in my plans,” he said. “He is making it known just by the execution and the heads up play. He is really a true veteran. Because Antwaan (Randle El) is not here, he is taking some of those plays and positions in which Antwaan would be getting the ball. He is the guy getting himself open. The quarterbacks aren’t necessarily favoring him, but he is running disciplined routes because he is freed up to do it.”
He also gave a nod toward Rocky McIntosh who is recovering from an injury suffered at the end of last season. “I think he is getting very close, especially in his drill work,” said Zorn. “We don’t have any contact during practice, which allows him to participate even more. I think he is gaining more confidence as the off-season progresses.”
This is Zorn’s first season as head coach. He never served as a coordinator before taking the job. So, you could say that he is learning the job as he goes along. He is also seeking the help of veteran Redskins coaches like Joe Bugel. “The thing about Joe is that he is willing to tell it as it is, so I don’t have to try to draw from him how he feels about a situation. But he is such a professional because he stays within his realm and does not talk about guys at other positions because he has enough to be concerned about. He speaks out about his guys and is vocal in the meeting room and on the field, so you know where he stands.”
Zorn hopes to have all the rookies under contract by the time training camp begins. “It is important to us, but really it is important to them to not lose a day. In recent history and even in past history, the guys that try to sit out and dicker over dollars, they have a very difficult time participating that first year.”
So like building a house brick by brick, the 2008 version of the Washington Redskins is under construction. Phase II…. training camp.