Practice observations and analysis: 8/9

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Breaking down what I saw at practice on Tuesday:

QB John Beck (groin) was limited for the third straight practice. At this point, why risk setting him back by playing him on Friday? Beck badly wants to play, but he has to be smart. He could participate in parts of practice Wednesday and Thursday, get treatment Friday and Saturday and be ready to return to practice Sunday.

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TE Mike Sellers was displaced from his fullback position at the start of training camp, but he showed his value during goal-line team drills. On three straight running plays from inside the 5-yard line, he pushed OLB Lorenzo Alexander, SS Reed Doughty and FS Chris Horton backwards. Sellers practiced with the first-string on those plays.

I’m not sure I agree with coach Mike Shanahan’s declaration earlier in camp that Sellers would make a good tight end because he has good hands—at times in the past he would try to run before securing the catch—but I do believe he still has value as a blocker. He’s powerful and loves contact. Of all the players I’m eager to see whether they make the team, he’s at the top of the list.

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Speaking of pass-catching ability, Sellers’ replacement, FB Darrel Young, caught a touchdown in the flat on a play-action pass from QB Rex Grossman during goal line work. Young outran ILB Rocky McIntosh to the edge and walked into the end zone.

The Redskins utilized Sellers on some long backside throws last season, so Young will have to prove he’s a reliable pass catcher in order to nail down the starting job.

Here’s my story from Tuesday morning’s paper about Young and his brother, David, who recently returned from duty in Afghanistan and saw Young in a Redskins uniform for the first time.

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TE Fred Davis is known for shining on the practice field, and he might be setting a new standard this summer—at least as a pass catcher. Losing weight in the offseason has made him faster and more agile. (He said he weighed 245 pounds in May. He’s listed on the Redskins’ current roster at 258 pounds, which obviously is not updated from last season.)

Davis was running along the end line toward the pylon when he made an over-the-shoulder catch for a touchdown. He made a nice adjustment as the ball descended and had to reach back to catch it. I’m not sure he could’ve made that catch last season. Later in two-minute drill work at the end of practice, Davis released cleanly from a down position at the right end of the line, outran the linebacker down the seam and caught a pass from Rex Grossman for a gain of at least 20 yards.

But before you get all excited, Davis hasn’t progressed as a blocker. He had a chance to spring RB Tim Hightower for a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 1, but ILB Keyaron Fox got under his pads, pushed him back and made the stop. Same ol’ Freddie.

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OLB Ryan Kerrigan spent part of special teams drills on a separate field with linebackers coach Lou Spanos working on coverage principles and techniques. Kerrigan has to learn things like redirecting one receiver and then running to the flat to cover another. The Redskins hope that eventually will come naturally, but for now Kerrigan has to process information on the fly—and that means he’s playing slower.

One coach chastised Kerrigan after he turned to look toward the backfield and let TE Logan Paulsen get out of reach for a touchdown catch. The offense ran the same play on the next snap, and Kerrigan stayed close enough to Paulsen to bat the ball down. If he can quickly apply lessons like that, he’ll be fine.

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I’ve heard a couple requests over the last couple days for an update on WR Aldrick Robinson, and I’m a man of the people, so here it is: He got open on a fade route in the end zone by running the cornerback inside and releasing back to the boundary once the ball was in the air. The pass was overthrown, but Robinson at least ran a good route.

During 7-on-7 drills, he easily beat CB Byron Westbrook on a slant. His cut in was too quick for Westbrook. That said, cornerbacks are at a major disadvantage in 7-on-7 without a line pressuring the passer. Still, I’ll give Robinson credit for a couple of well-run routes. I was impressed by Robinson’s speed and hands during the players-only workouts he attended in June, but he hasn’t stood out to me as much during training camp as WR Niles Paul has. I’m eager to see how Robinson’s speed carries over to the preseason games.

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QB Rex Grossman showed a bit of arm strength I wasn’t sure he had when he completed a touchdown pass from the right hash marks all the way to the left sideline from about 10 yards out. He moved the defense by sliding right and then found WR Anthony Armstrong back to the left. The pass just escaped the reach of SS Reed Doughty, although I wonder if it would have been a pick-6 if LaRon Landry were playing instead. Either way, Grossman would be living dangerously if he attempts many throws like that in a game.

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FS Chris Horton was late providing help to CB DeAngelo Hall on WR Santana Moss’ touchdown catch during red-zone drills. When Moss cut to the post, Hall passed him off, believing he had safety help in Horton. But Horton was late and the pass arrived on time.

A couple plays later, the same thing happened when ILB London Fletcher passed off TE Logan Paulsen to Horton. Horton was late, and Paulsen scored. Fletcher rocked his head back in disgust, and it was clear that Horton knew his mistake. And this after I recently praised Horton for knowing his assignments.

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FS Oshiomogho Atogwe is often complimented on his intelligence, and we saw an example of that during red zone work. Atogwe and SS LaRon Landry, who are injured, stood out of bounds in the back of the end zone behind the safeties that actually were on the field. When the offense came to the line of scrimmage, Atogwe screamed out that TE Logan Paulsen would go in motion. A second later, guess what happened.

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Rookie WR Niles Paul dropped a slant. It’s the first time I’ve seen him drop a pass in camp. Of all the people I’m eager to see play on Friday, he’s right behind the quarterbacks.

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Some growing pains for you: ILBs Perry Riley and Keyaron Fox both ran with the same receiver during red-zone drills, leaving another receiver wide open in the end zone. That’s why the Redskins brought back Rocky McIntosh—because learning the ILB position is almost like learning the offense as a quarterback. There are a lot of calls and a lot of responsibility.

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The latest in the kicking competition: Graham Gano and Shayne Graham practiced field goals. Gano made 6 of 7, while Graham made 5 of 7. Gano, the incumbent, missed wide left from approximately 47 yards but connected from about 55. Graham missed from 43 and 55.

I counted three low snaps by LS Nick Sundberg on those attempts. Holder Sav Rocca did well to dig them out and place them. Sundberg said he had a bit of a problem with the humidity and sweat running down his arms. That won’t fly on Friday night.

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Seventh-round rookie OL Maurice Hurt worked at left guard instead of left tackle. Hurt didn’t appear to have the quick feet that Shanahan likes from his linemen, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Hurt stays at guard, where he doesn’t have to contend with outside pass rushes.

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