Practice observations and analysis: 8/8

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Breaking down what I saw at Monday’s practice:

LOLB Ryan Kerrigan participated in team drills for the first time since July 29. He appeared as you might expect: like a rookie who’s learning a new playbook and a new position. He didn’t play fast, but that will come as he gets more comfortable and doesn’t have to think as much.

TE Logan Paulsen blocked him on a play-action pass after Kerrigan slowed his rush on the fake. Shortly thereafter, rookie WR Niles Paul blocked down on him on a running play. Kerrigan later collapsed the pocket just a bit when he used a right-handed slap against RT Jammal Brown, but the pressure wasn’t significant. Playcaller Kyle Shanahan got him during team drills by calling a shovel pass designed to run at Kerrigan, who continually took a wide path to the quarterback.

I imagine Kerrigan’s talent will be evident in Friday’s game, but it’ll be raw.

By the way, here’s a blog post from earlier with details of Kerrigan’s and fellow rookie Jarvis Jenkins’ contracts.

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I’ve harped in this space about QB John Beck’s inconsistency, but Rex Grossman has been just as erratic. Accuracy has been a problem.

WR Terrence Austin was running to the post wide open in the end zone during red-zone team drills, but Grossman sailed the throw. During one-on-one work, though, CBBrandon Banks dusted CB Kevin Barnes on a go route, and Grossman hit him deep and perfectly in stride.

On the misfire, Grossman was facing a pass rush. In one-on-one drills, he wasn’t. It’s a trend worth monitoring.

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Speaking of Austin and Banks, the plays described above highlighted their greatest assets. Austin got free from rookie S DeJon Gomes with a double move that faked Gomes out of his cleats. His fakes are so quick and sharp.

Banks beat Barnes by getting to full speed in just a couple of strides. Barnes had no chance. Thing is, though, defenses are going to know that Banks is either going deep or running a screen. There isn’t a lot of guesswork in defending him.

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Lorenzo Alexander took snaps at outside linebacker. He had worked almost exclusively inside since camp began. Alexander didn’t provide the desired pass rush from the left edge last season, but he can cover in space.

And with Ryan Kerrigan back, OLB Rob Jackson practiced on the right side instead of the left. Jackson has a lot to gain this preseason. If you can believe it, he might end up being the most productive member of the 2008 draft class.

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Ks Graham Gano and Shayne Graham finally kicked field goals during team drills today. This was the first time we’ve seen them compete. Gano made three of four attempts and Graham made one of three. All of the tries were in the 35-45-yard range. Graham missed badly to the right twice. Advantage: Gano.

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WR Leonard Hankerson ran a great route down the left sideline in one-on-one drills. He ran up the field working slightly to the inside, which allowed him some space near the sideline with which to work. QB John Beck threw the ball over Hankerson’s outside shoulder, and Hankerson had plenty of room to separate and make the catch away from the defensive back. It was a really nice throw and catch.

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I didn’t bust out my cellphone stopwatch to measure hang time or anything, but new P SavRocca really launched some punts. His first kick was not hit well, but he followed that up with several boomers that made the return man drift back 10 or so yards to make the catch. I’m not sure what significance that has, but Rocca did average 3 more yards per punt than the Redskins did as a team last season.

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I often ignore ILB London Fletcher during practice because you know he’s going to be superb. It’s more valuable to watch other players who are unknown quantities. But the 14-year veteran showed he can still run. When WR Donte’ Stallworth came across the middle during 7-on-7 drills, Fletcher stayed with him from the middle of the field all the way to the sideline.

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TE Chris Cooley dropped two passes today. He dropped more balls than usual last season, but he gets the benefit of the doubt Monday because he has been nursing a knee injury. Still, it shows the importance of practice. He can’t let the rust carry over to September.

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For all of you dying for an update on undrafted QB Ben Chappell, his first pass in team drills was a screen to RB Keiland Williams that went for a long touchdown. The third-string defense was completely fooled by the offense’s misdirection, and Williams had to beat only one man for the score. Right after that, Chappell underthrew a wide open WRBrandon Banks deep, and CB Reggie Barnes picked it off. I’ll be very surprised if Chappell makes the final roster. It seems like Beck, Grossman and Clemens comprise a serviceable trio.

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New ILB Keyaron Fox easily shed G Artis Hicks’ block in the run game. Fox filled his gap and bounced off Hicks to make the stop. Considering that Fox is mostly a special teams player, I’m not sure that bodes well for Hicks.

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