Practice observations and analysis: 8/16

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Breaking down what I saw at practice on Tuesday morning, the last official day of training camp:

I guess the best place to start is the skirmish between CB DeAngelo Hall and S Chris Horton. It happened after a short throw underneath during 7-on-7 drills. Neither Hall nor Horton was near where the ball ended up, but they exchanged words after the play was over. Horton proceeded to run at Hall, and they ended up tangled on the ground. No punches were thrown. Players came over to separate them. And when Hall and Horton unlocked and stood up, they went after each other again.

“We can’t give up plays like we did last year,” Hall said. “We can’t be 31st in the league on defense and think we’re going to win ballgames. You’ve got to correct it out on the field. If that involves somebody getting smacked around a little bit, then that’s what we’ve got to do. But we’re going to get it fixed.”

Horton’s turn: “It’s camp. [Stuff] happens. It’s over. Moving on.”

Hall is known to get emotional when he believes the secondary is not playing up to par. Remember what he said the day after Houston’s Andre Johnson caught the game-tying touchdown against CB Phillip Buchanon and S Reed Doughty in Week 2 last season?

Here’s a refresher: “I’m going wherever the [freaking] ball is going. Wherever the receiver is going, that’s where the [freak] I’m going.”

There was a lot more, but you get the idea.

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Real football stuff now: QB John Beck had his best practice since returning from a groin injury. He said he has felt more in-rhythm each practice since coming back on Sunday, and that was evident in his accuracy Tuesday.

When WR Santana Moss beat CB Reggie Jones on go route down the right sideline, Beck’s deep throw hit Moss perfectly in stride. Later, Beck anticipated WR Leonard Hankerson’s out cut to the sideline against CB Byron Westbrook and threw it before Hankerson broke. That allowed Hankerson to catch it and get two feet in bounds.

QB Rex Grossman had a similarly nice deep ball to TE Fred Davis, who beat S Anderson Russell and S Chris Horton. In 11-on-11 team drills, Grossman connected deep with WR Terrence Austin for a touchdown. Austin beat Jones on the play.

As training camp officially comes to a close today, my opinion is that neither Beck nor Grossman has distinguished himself. Both have been inconsistent with their accuracy. Both can operate the offense. Beck is more mobile and can extend the play better than Grossman. Both, however, still have to prove they can manage the offense in those breakdown scenarios and not turn the ball over. We have a lot left to learn about Beck over the final three preseason games, but my guess is that neither player will run away with it. That’s just my guess.

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Saw a couple of communication breakdowns or missed assignments among the defensive reserves. During 11-on-11, LBs Rob Jackson and Horatio Blades both followed a receiver to the flat, leaving WR Jabar Gaffney acres of space to run free over the middle. Jackson, Blades and LB Perry Riley huddled after the play.

Safeties DeJon Gomes and Anderson Russell heard from defensive backs coach Bob Slowik after no one covered WR Santana Moss in the left flat. Moss caught a pass that you’d expect would go for no more than five yards, but he had nothing but open field in front of him when he caught he ball near the sideline.

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WR Donte’ Stallworth was upset with himself after dropping a low pass from QB Kellen Clemens across the middle. Stallworth was open in traffic, and Clemens’ throw was about knee high. Stallworth went to the ground to catch it, and it went through his hands.

Stallworth is fast, as coaches advertised, but the fact he doesn’t play special teams ostensibly hurts his chances of making the roster. He needs to do that much more on offense to prove himself worthy of a spot.

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OLB Ryan Kerrigan used an inside rip move to beat RT Jammal Brown in team drills. Brown would have been flagged for holding. I mention it because it’s the first time I’ve seen Kerrigan use an inside move. To this point, everything has been outside and quite wide.

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QB Rex Grossman threw behind TE Fred Davis on an intermediate cross, but Davis reached back, caught the ball and kept running in one fluid spin move. There’s no question that he’s moving better at 15 pounds lighter than last season. (Shameless plug time: My story on Davis’s and TE Logan Paulsen’s blocking in today’s paper.)

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And just when I toot my own horn, OLB Brian Orakpo shed Paulsen’s block during team drills to stop the run. Let’s stick to Orakpo here, though. He disengaged and got inside with quicker hands than Paulsen’s. Orakpo later got off FB Keiland Williams’ block to stop RB Roy Helu for no gain in situational drills.

One of Orakpo’s biggest deficiencies as a linebacker last season was shedding blocks in the run game. Too often a lineman or tight end would engage him and he’d be done. Perhaps he has turned the corner, although we’d have to see it against better competition.

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