Practice observations and analysis: 8/15

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Breaking down what I saw at Monday’s practice, the final session open to the public:

QBs John Beck and Rex Grossman shared reps with the first-string offense. Beck’s timing seemed off, and he generally wasn’t as accurate as Grossman. Perhaps that’s because his groin injury kept him out of team drills from Aug. 6 until Sunday.

And this is where I mention Grossman threw interceptions in quick succession early in practice. (LOLB Ryan Kerrigan and CB Josh Wilson got him.)

Beck provided one of the morning’s highlights. During situational drills, he rolled right on a bootleg and threw deep down the left sideline to TE Logan Paulsen. ILB Rocky McIntosh was only a half step behind Paulsen, but Beck placed the throw perfectly. Paulsen, who isn’t known for his hands, jumped and caught it over McIntosh.

I think you’ll notice a big difference between Beck’s mobility and Rex’s on Friday night against Indianapolis. Most notably, Beck is faster. I’m eager to see how Beck plays against the pass rush, whether he’s quick to tuck and run, throw it away or whether he tries to extend the play. I mentioned in the offensive review of Friday’s game Grossman’s tendency to drift and fade from where pressure is coming. We need a basis for comparison to Beck.

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Rookie WR Leonard Hankerson had his best practice in a while. First of all, he didn’t drop anything. That’s a good start. There were other positives, too. He went up the ladder to catch QB Rex Grossman’s high throw over the middle, displaying the length that makes him an available target. He also broke his long strides down smoothly and stayed low in and out of a break to the sideline. That freed him from rookie CB Brandyn Thompson for a catch. He wasn’t explosive out the cut, but he did get the necessary separation.

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Running backs squared off against linebackers in one-on-one pass protection drills. LOLB Ryan Kerrigan was too quick for RB Tim Hightower, ripping under Hightower’s hands to get through. Hightower later stayed square against OLB Rob Jackson’s spin move. Hightower was sound in pass protection Friday against Pittsburgh. His awareness and technique were good.

RB Roy Helu stopped ILB Rocky McIntosh by squaring his shoulders. RB Evan Royster got his hands inside LB Obi Ezeh to win that battle. Both rookies did well enough pass blocking against the Steelers, but we need to see that consistently. Also, it’d help our cause if teams test them more with multiple blitzers, but I’m not sure teams are willing to show those kind of rushes in the preseason.

Undrafted rookie RB Shaun Draughn had a terrible time. OLBs Lorenzo Alexander and Markus White each beat him when Draughn ducked his head and lunged. Later, ILB Horatio Blades ran straight through Draughn, pushing him into the quarterback.

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Seventh-round rookie OLB Markus White set the edge on a running play in team drills by locking up with RT Willie Smith and holding his ground while Smith tried to run him out of the play. White kept his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and kept his feet moving. This type of run defense shouldn’t be foreign to him after playing defensive end at Florida State.

QB Kellen Clemens got the better of White later in team drills. During his drop back, Clemens led White into the flat by staring down RB Darrel Young. When White moved toward the sideline, Clemens took advantage of the window by throwing back inside to WR Leonard Hankerson. White’s task this preseason is similar to Ryan Kerrigan’s: learn to play in space. But as a seventh-rounder, his roster spot is at stake.

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Speaking of Kerrigan, let’s go back to his interception. QB Rex Grossman threw it directly to him near the right sideline about 12 yards downfield. Perhaps it’s a sign of progress in Kerrigan’s understanding of his coverage responsibilities. After practice, he explained what happened:

“I was out on the No. 2 receiver and dropped back, and the ball happened to find me,” he said. “It was pretty simple. I was a little bit out of position, so I think that’s what drew Rex’s throw there. Then I kind of got back into position to catch it.”

Kerrigan at least recognized he was not where he was supposed to be and corrected it. He agreed that’s progress.

And during one pass rush in team drills, he freed himself from RG Chris Chester’s hands with a hard downward swipe and got into Chester’s body.

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Chester hasn’t anchored particularly well in the one-on-one blocking drills against defensive linemen, and that pretty much fits with the rest of the Redskins’ small-ish interior linemen. LDE Adam Carriker overpowered him on Monday.

Judging by how well the line run blocked against Pittsburgh, it’s becoming clear that this unit is constructed primarily for running the ball outside. There’s a tradeoff, though, with athletic linemen regarding strength deficiencies (because they’re often smaller). The Redskins hope to mask those in pass protection with the bootlegs, rollouts and quick passes. This apparently is a long-standing Mike Shanahan philosophy and not new ground, but its application to this team is becoming evident from watching practices and Friday’s game.

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ILB Keyaron Fox replaced London Fletcher (groin/hamstring) with the first string during team drills. He is Fletcher’s backup, while Rocky McIntosh and Perry Riley are competing for playing time at the other ILB spot.

Fox bit on QB Rex Grossman’s play-action fake during team drills, and that opened up the middle of the field for an easy completion to WR Jabar Gaffney.

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DL Doug Worthington repeatedly beat G Selvish Capers during one-on-one drills. Capers problems are consistent: sluggish feet, shoulders turned to the line, not strong enough. Worthington was intriguing against Pittsburgh, and he worked with the second-string in the nickel package during team drills on Monday. I’m eager to see him against tougher competition than Capers.

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