Some notes, quotes and observations from Wednesday at Redskins Park:
SS LaRon Landry’s strained groin kept him out of his seventh straight practice. Even though coach Mike Shanahan considers Landry day-to-day, he didn’t sound optimistic about Landry’s chances of playing again this season.
“Even if he does come back, what speed can he practice at? What speed can he play at?” Shanahan said. “Usually when a guy comes back after being away for a week or two weeks, it takes a little time to get back in football shape and play in a game.”
Landry and FS Oshiomogho Atogwe have played together in only four games this season. The Redskins’ vision of those two forming a powerhouse safety tandem never materialized because of injuries to both. Players and coaches agree that’s one of the biggest disappointments of the season.
Mike Shanahan has preached the value of character and accountability, so why he didn’t pull CB DeAngelo Hall from Sunday’s game after Hall threw a tantrum and tossed an official’s penalty flag? After all, Shanahan benched LT Trent Williams for a play against San Francisco after Williams was flagged for unnecessary roughness after the whistle.
“I didn’t see what happened with DeAngelo,” Shanahan said. “If I would have saw what happened, I would have took him out, too.”
Shanahan said he was looking at his game-plan sheet when Hall tossed the flag. He looked up to see penalty flags raining down.
I’m not sure why Shanahan didn’t just ask one of his assistants what happened or go off the referee’s explanation for the penalty. That was quite clear.
RB Roy Helu’s emergence over the last three games has unlocked the Redskins’ play-action passing attack. Since he became the full-time starter against Seattle on Nov. 27, the Redskins have posted their two best yards-per-pass averages of the season. QB Rex Grossman averaged 8.5 yards per attempt against Seattle and 8.4 against New England last Sunday. The previous high was only 6.8.
“We’ve talked about that from Day 1 – through preseason and our first four regular season games – when the running game is going, the play-action game always improves,” Shanahan said. “It better improve because that’s where your big plays usually come. We’ve come up with a few more big plays in play-action and a little bit more consistency. Hopefully, we can continue to do that.”
Against Seattle, the Redskins effectively ran play-action on quarterback keepers to misdirect the linebackers and safeties. There was less of that against New England, but fake handoffs still were effective in drawing the linebackers forward and opening up space for receivers in the secondary.
On WR Jabar Gaffney’s 9-yard touchdown, for example, a fake handoff fooled a safety on Gaffney’s side of the field. That left Gaffney alone against CB Devin McCourty, who he easily ran away from in the end zone.
Grossman has noticed a difference between how defenses are reacting to play fakes in the last three weeks compared to earlier this season.
“Scheme-wise, when teams are really relying on their linebackers to be aggressive and have safeties come down and help, those type of play-actions work a lot better,” he said. “Obviously, when you’re running the football, I don’t care what type of scheme you have, it’s going to make the linebackers come up even more and safeties and all types of things so you can get the ball over their heads into the second level. It’s a lot easier.”
An Australian TV crew joined the media horde today in order to do a story on P Sav Rocca. First of all, I love the accent. It never gets old.
At the end of Shanahan’s post-practice news conference, their reporter asked about Rocca.
“He’s a great punter,” Shanahan said. “…The bad thing is he’s probably our best offensive weapon, and that’s not good.”
Shanahan laughed when he said it, but there’s some truth behind that one.
Side note: this whole thing prompted me to look up Sav Rocca’s Australian Rules highlights on YouTube. They’re awesome, of course, especially because of the mustachioed umpires in white hats and blazers signaling a successful goal.
Newly-signed TE Richard Quinn plans to make the most of the three weeks he has to make an impression on the coaching staff.
“The opportunity is here,” he said. “I want to show him everything I can in this period of time I have. As we progress into the offseason, I definitely want to train and get in the best shape I can possibly be and get ready for OTAs.”
Shanahan likes what Quinn, a University of North Carolina product, offers as a blocker.
“I thought he was a dominating blocker coming out of college,” he said. “I thought he was a dominating blocker with the Broncos. Didn’t have a lot of catches his senior year, but I was very impressed with the way he moved defensive linemen and linebackers off the line of scrimmage. We’ll get a chance to evaluate him and see how he helps our football team.”
The New York Giants, this Sunday’s opponent, rank last in the NFL in rushing yards and yards per carry.
“Really?” ILB London Fletcher said. “I didn’t even realize that. You think about the Giants, obviously you typically think about them being a run-first football team.”
It’s true. The Giants average only 85.8 rushing yards per game and 3.32 yards per carry. You can understand why Fletcher was surprised. New York has ranked in the top seven in the NFL in yards per carry in six of coach Tom Coughlin’s seven seasons.
One reason is that leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw missed four games with a broken foot, and RB Brandon Jacobs sat out two other games with a knee injury.
Their rushing attack has improved, however, since Bradshaw came back two games ago. The Giants have rushed for at least 100 yards in each game.
Meantime, QB Eli Manning picked up the slack. His 95.5 passer rating is better than any he finished with in his seven previous seasons.
“I think some of the change is just his confidence in us,” WR Victor Cruz said in a teleconference Wednesday. “His confidence is sky high. He’s just out there commanding the field and just having a real good rapport with all of the receivers. So it’s just a testament to how hard we’ve worked, and he’s really honed in on his craft and just having an open line of communication between us and him.”
I chatted with CSNWashington.com’s Ryan O’Halloran today about the character of the Redskins’ captains and this week’s matchup against the Giants. Check out our segment: here.
I also talked with ESPN980’s Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro about the Redskins’ 2012 QB situation and how ILB London Fletcher should fit into the team’s plans. Listen: here.