Here are some notes, quotes and observations from the first two days of Redskins’ informal minicamp.
But before I begin, a word of caution: It’s May 25. Players are in t-shirts and shorts and there are no coaches at these practices. Drawing firm conclusions is perilous and probably reckless. Please, please, please take this for what it’s worth.
>>I absolutely hate to get involved in the microanalysis of how quarterbacks John Beck and Rex Grossman look for reasons I just mentioned (it’s informal minicamp!!), but Beck did throw the ball better on Wednesday than he did Tuesday. I’ll attribute Beck’s couple of wobbly throws on Tuesday to the facts that his flight from San Diego landed in Virginia at 3:45 that morning, he was operating on five hours sleep, and the practice started at 7 a.m. West coast time.
Beck looked fresher today. His best throw was a perfect deep ball to the back left corner of the end zone during team drills. Rookie receiver Niles Paul pulled it in with his left hand and got both feet in bounds.
Beck also threw an interception on a pass that tight end Logan Paulsen tipped. Paulsen ran a double move down the right seam, and linebacker London Fletcher stayed with him down field. Beck tried to fit the ball in, and Paulsen got only one hand on the ball. Safety Chris Horton snared the deflection.
After the play, Beck and Paulsen—two third-stringers last season—got together and talked about Paulsen’s break and the timing and location of the throw. Those conversations are what this minicamp is about, not that Beck threw the pick.
>>Receiver Brandon Banks said he’s at “90 percent” health. He suffered a collapsed lung when he was stabbed outside a D.C. nightclub in February, and he had surgery last November to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
“I’m definitely not getting slowed down,” Banks said. “I’m back to the same Brandon. I’m hopefully getting better, and I’ll be a better Brandon.”
Banks last season went from undrafted free agent to one of the Redskins’ most electrifying players. He has experienced a wide range of ups and downs during his short time in Washington, and he’s determined not to let the stabbing spoil the positive elements of his rookie season.
“It’s always something trying to bring you down, but if you love the game and love what you do, can’t nobody stop the things I want to do,” Banks said.
He’ll have to fight to make the team after the Redskins drafted three receivers, including Niles Paul, who returned punts and kicks at Nebraska. But Banks is hoping to make himself more valuable by contributing on offense. And he believes he has an advantage over any rookie who has not yet been exposed to the Redskins’ coaching staff.
Could he have emerged from obscurity under the same circumstances rookies face this season? “It’s not possible,” he said. “Not having the instruction I got from the coaches we had last year as a rookie, I don’t it’s fair to the players.”
I’ll have more on Banks in tomorrow’s print edition.
>>”Leadership” is a major buzz word around the practice field this week, especially among the rookies.
“I like the leadership out here,” rookie linebacker Markus White said. “At the first practice I see a lot of leaders, and they’re helping us along the way.”
“The leadership really helps out, keeping everything organized,” rookie running back Roy Helu Jr. added. “It’s huge to come into a place where peole have established themselves as leaders and say, ‘Follow me.’”
Credit players such as linebacker London Fletcher, receiver Anthony Armstrong, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and quarterback John Beck for taking steps to make sure rookies are welcomed into the fold and helped with learning plays. That’s why these workouts are so important, and I don’t think it’s wise to underestimate the effect of the camaraderie being developed this week.
Beck, for example, has made the effort in the last three weeks to reach out to rookies by sending them copies of the playbook and explaining offensive concepts to them.
“I just tried to put myself in their shoes,” Beck said. “If I was one of them, I would want to know what in the heck is going on.”
>>Anthony Armstrong’s incredible career continues to evolve. Last year he completed his journey from arena league ball to the NFL. Now, with Santana Moss’s contract set to expire, he’s suddenly the veteran leader of a receiving corps that includes three draft picks.
“It’s very weird,” Armstrong said. “Honestly, going through the draft, when they drafted one, I expected that. When they drafted two, I was like, ‘Ehhhhhh.’ When they drafted three, I was like, ‘What the hell?’ I was mad. It was like, ‘Shoot, what are you trying to say?’”
Armstrong acknowledges the stark contrast between last offseason, when he was tagging along with the other receivers just trying to make the team, and this offseason, when he’s taken on the responsibility of helping introduce the draft picks to the playbook.
“I put that on myself,” Armstrong said. “I talked to coach [Mike] Shanahan before the season was over, and he told me, ‘Don’t be afraid to be a leader.’
Armstrong is an impressive guy. His long path to the NFL has given him a sound perspective about work ethic that will help Washington’s young receivers, Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul and Aldrick Robinson.
>>First-round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan has impressed some veterans through two days.
“Good athlete. Good dude, very humble. A hard worker,” outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “I was impressed as far as how he was able to pick up some things, his naturally floating into coverage.”
On one play during 7-on-7 drills Tuesday, Kerrigan turned his back to the line of scrimmage to run with a receiver. After a few steps, he changed direction back toward the line of scrimmage and met a different receiver running underneath. That’s the type of athletic play that will be asked of him.
“Having the playbook and being able to run through the plays out here, not just read them but actually physically go through them is really helpful,” Kerrigan said Tuesday. “If we keep doing this, I feel like I’ll be pretty well prepared.”
>>Free safety Kareem Moore watched practice because he’s still recovering from left knee surgery he had in January. Remember that Moore had left knee surgery last preseason after getting hurt covering a punt against Baltimore? Well, this was another procedure to shave down his posterior collateral ligament. He won’t be able to fully participate until August.
And when Moore does come back, he’ll find free-agent acquisition O.J. Atogwe above his name on the depth chart.
“I just took [Atogwe’s signing] as, man, I’ve got to step my game up,” Moore said. “He’s a good player. I think he’ll be a good addition to the team.”
Moore hopes that the experience he earned last season and renewed health will help him compete for a starting job. After all, there were plenty of times last season when he’d watch film and think that he could have made a play if his surgically-repaired left knee weren’t ailing.
“When I came back, I thought I was ready, but as the season went on it got worse and worse,” he said.
>>My right hand disappeared on Tuesday when I shook Leonard Hankerson’s hand. His measured 10 5/8 inches at the combine, making his hands the largest among this year’s draft class of receivers.
“It’s a big advantage,” said Hankerson, who, by the way, would like you to call him Hank. “You can palm the ball. You can put your hands up in the right position, and the ball just lays flatly and perfect in your hand. You hold on tight with a firm grip and catch the ball.”
Hankerson could palm a basketball before he was a teenager. He likes to catch passes one-handed so much that he calls it his “patented move.” But Anthony Armstrong has a strong feeling that Redskins coaches are going to discourage that.
“A one-handed catch looks great, but it’s because your technique was bad at this point that you had to catch it one-handed,” Armstrong said. “So if you go back and fix that, it’ll make it a much easier catch for you and maybe you can turn it up and go score.”
Hankerson’s tendency to drop passes at the University of Miami is one reason why he was available for the Redskins to select in the third round, and that’s something we’ll continue to monitor.
Oh, and about Hankerson’s preference to be called Hank? London Fletcher on Tuesday said with a laugh, “You’re a rookie. I’ll call you Leonard.”
>>Speaking of Fletcher, he’s responsible for my favorite moment of the last two days. On Tuesday he approached two college players who were observing the workouts from the sideline.
“Are you on the team?” he asked, genuinely.
How great is that? That’s the craziness of this lockout, I guess: Team captains having no clue about which guys are actually their teammates.
>>Tight end Fred Davis appears slimmer. He’s down to 245 pounds from a playing weight last season of 258. A big reason for his weight loss, he believes, is his reduced alcohol consumption.
>>Outside linebacker Edgar Jones, an under-the-radar signing in January, is attending the workouts.
“It was my first time meeting guys,” he said. “I really kind of felt like I was at home, just laughing and clowning on them. It was a good feeling.”
Jones is actually listed as a tight end on NFL.com. He had two receptions in four seasons with Baltimore, and he eventually converted to defense. He has played in 32 games.
He signed with Washington just after last season ended. It came down to Denver or Washington, but Denver had just fired their coach.
“Kind of being familiar with the 3-4 with the Ravens, it was real similar to this right here,” Jones said.
>>Line of the day goes to an anonymous Redskin who, when defensive lineman Kedric Golston was lying on the ground, yelled: “All right Haynesworth, get up!”
>>Forty-one players attended Wednesday’s workout, the same amount as Tuesday.
There were four new faces, though. Kicker Graham Gano, safety Kareem Moore, linebacker Rob Jackson and defensive end Jeremy Jarmon made their first appearance of the week.
Running back Ryan Torain, tight end Fred Davis, linebacker Perry Riley and safety Macho Harris did not attend Wednesday’s session after participating on Tuesday.
Today’s list of attendees:
(* indicates rookie)
QB: John Beck, Rex Grossman
RB: Keiland Williams, Andre Brown, Roy Helu Jr.*, Evan Royster*
FB: Mike Sellers, Darrel Young
WR: Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks, Terrence Austin, Leonard Hankerson*, Niles Paul*
TE: Chris Cooley, Logan Paulsen
OL: Casey Rabach, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Erik Cook, Selvish Capers, Clint Oldenburg, Maurice Hurt*
DL: Kedric Golston, Chris Neild*, Jeremy Jarmon
LB: London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh, Lorenzo Alexander, Chris Wilson, Ryan Kerrigan*, Edgar Jones, Markus White*, Rob Jackson
CB: DeAngelo Hall, Kevin Barnes, Brandyn Thompson*
S: Chris Horton, Anderson Russell, DeJon Gomes*, Kareem Moore
K: Graham Gano