Practice observations and analysis: 8/5

← return to Redskins Watch

Breaking down what I saw at Friday morning’s practice:

After watching WR Santana Moss go through a full session for the first time since last season, I have a renewed appreciation for how smoothly and quickly he gets in and out of cuts. Not that I expected that to diminish, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen him play. As Moss zig-zagged between cones faster and smoother than the other guys during position drills, I thought: Oh yeah, that’s why this guy has been the Redskins’ leading receiver for the last six seasons.

It’s clear why receivers coach Keenan McCardell said earlier in the week that Moss is “naturally built to play slot.” Moss’ legs are very strong, and his short strides help him control his body in tight spaces. It’s no coincidence that Moss caught a career-high 93 passes last season after offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan deployed him out of the slot more often than Moss had played there in previous seasons. Good health was another key for him in 2010. Moss needs to keep his knees and hamstrings in good shape to maximize his skill set.

***

New CB Josh Wilson had a nice pass breakup early in 11-on-11 drills. He ran alongside WR Donte’ Stallworth deep down the left sideline. As the long pass descended Wilson used his left hand to feel for Stallworth, remaining close but not illegally interfering. He then swiped the ball away with his right hand.

We’ll know whether Wilson is an upgrade over Carlos Rogers once he gets his hands on some interceptions. Rogers’ inability to hold onto picks resulted in his cover skills being underappreciated, in my opinion. Wilson couldn’t have picked off the pass described above, but he was technically sound.

***

Neither QB John Beck nor Rex Grossman looked particularly good today. I’m generalizing here. Both guys had some good moments. I’m thinking of the out that Grossman through to rookie Aldrick Robinson near the right sideline. The timing was right—the throw was on its way before Robinson came out of his break—and the ball was in the necessary spot.

But Grossman fluttered a deep ball that came out of his hand wrong. Fluttered is probably too kind a verb. The play worked out because S Anderson Russell interfered with WR Anthony Armstrong, who had to come back about 10 yards for the ball, but it was a really bad throw. Beck in 11-on-11 badly overthrew WR Leonard Hankerson after he had to step up in the pocket and reset his feet. He didn’t reset them properly, and the throw sailed.

The ability to make plays when the pocket breaks down is going to be a major determining factor in this quarterback competition. Neither has distinguished himself so far, but the games will tell us more.

***

FB Darrel Young continues to show why coaches are willing to give him a chance to earn the starting fullback position. He cut a backside defender on a rollout pass play that was completed to Leonard Hankerson for a significant gain. Coach Mike Shanahan complimented Young after practice and offered some words of encouragement. Young will be one of the more intriguing players to watch during the preseason games. In his first season as a fullback last summer, he would take on blockers just fine but not displace them from his path. A good fullback must be able to do that.

***

Add a tally to the Tim Hightower Fumble Count. The Redskins new running back coughed up the ball immediately after the quarterback exchange during team drills. Perhaps those are growing pains related to working with a new quarterback, but he now has fumbled in consecutive practices.

***

Speaking of weaknesses that players have trouble getting rid of, Hankerson dropped two more passes today. He’s getting open—his size and length make often make him an available target—but he just has to complete the catch. Shanahan isn’t concerned, though.

“You see his has big-time ability,” he explained. “There are going to be some growing pains. There always are and there always will be for a rookie wide receiver. We throw a lot at people and to not have that background in OTAs almost puts too much pressure on the guy. But he’s handling it well and he’ll keep on getting better every day.”

***

G Artis Hicks had his best showing of camp in one-on-one blocking drills. His base was balanced and strong when he beat rookie DE Jarvis Jenkins in a best two-out-of-three matchup with Shanahan looking on. He also stuffed DE Kedric Golston earlier by sliding his feet and staying square.

Hicks has struggled during team drills for the same reasons he was benched last year—bad leverage and technique—but this was better. At this point, I see him making the team because he has experience at several positions along the line. He could fill in at tackle in an emergency.

***

LG Kory Lichtensteiger was beaten on a stunt during OL-vs.-DL drills. Stunts were problematic for him last season, as well. It’s a shortcoming that should be helped by the continuity up front, at least as it applies to The Steiger’s second season next to LT Trent Williams. Their communication must be better.

***

RT Jammal Brown swallowed up OLB Rob Jackson during one-on-one drills. Brown doesn’t always win the leverage battle, but he has a way of stopping a rusher after letting him get into his body. Brown anchors well enough at times to get away with it.

Through one and a half practices, Brown appears to be moving much better than he did last August, which is to be expected. The Redskins are counting on him to play better this season because of his improved health, and how his lower body is moving provides reason for optimism at this early stage.

***

OLBs Markus White and Edgar Jones are much better rushing the passer than dropping in coverage. Jones got to the quarterback off the edge twice during team drills, and White deftly ducked under LT Trent Williams during one-on-one work the other day. However, both players appear a bit awkward when dropping. Just not smooth or confident. That’s to be expected with players making the transition from end, such as White. Jones played tight end in the past, so his learning curve is even steeper.

***

WR Anthony Armstrong caught several passes Friday and appears to have settled down after an uneven start to camp. (He dropped a couple passes in the first few practices.) Armstrong sat down in the zone during team drills and converted a 15-yard catch into a touchdown. He also dusted S Anderson Russell on the ball that Grossman underthrew. Armstrong is a good route runner who doesn’t give much away before his breaks.

← return to Redskins Watch

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Happening Now