Notes, quotes & observations: Kerrigan to start; Cooley update; other defensive rookies, etc.

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Some notes, quotes and observations from Thursday at Redskins Park:

First-round pick Ryan Kerrigan has progressed enough in his transition to left outside linebacker that he is ready to start Sunday’s game against the Giants, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. Haslett said last month that Kerrigan might begin the season on the second string and ease into the starting lineup.

“He’s a very bright kid who picks things up fast,” Haslett said. “Sure, he’ll make a few mistakes here and there, but he makes them 100 miles an hour. That’s the thing we like about him. He is very intelligent. He’ll keep those things to a minimum.”

Kerrigan said his increased comfort with his responsibilities is allowing him to play faster and, as a result, more explosively. His sacks in the preseason resulted from tenacity and perseverance rather than overpowering blockers. If he can combine his high motor with more power and explosiveness, he’ll take a lot of attention off ROLB Brian Orakpo.

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Seventh-round OLB Markus White also is transitioning from defensive end to linebacker, and he’s a bit ahead of where Rob Jackson was at this stage last season, Haslett said.

“He hasn’t made the full transition yet,” Haslett said. “It’s going to take a while. He’s another guy that he kind of lets it go. He’s a big guy — 6-5, 270 pounds that can run. He’s got a good pass rush. Once he learns the coverage aspect of it – you can’t have enough good rushers in this league. And obviously in this defense you can’t have enough good outside linebackers. So he fits the mold of Rob Jackson last year.”

White seems a strong candidate for the inactive list on Sunday, and that’s fine for a seventh-round pick. He’ll have time to develop, and we’ve seen the strides Jackson has made since coming off the practice squad last season. If White’s progression is similar, he’ll be helping the team before long.

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Five of the Redskins’ six defensive draft picks made the 53-man roster, and DE Jarvis Jenkins would have, too, if he hadn’t torn his ACL.

“I think that’s where you build the nucleus of your football team,” Haslett said.

A different tune from past regimes, huh?

Haslett noted how the scouting staff is now in tune with what coaches require from players in these schemes. That’s an expected but essential part of the progression to Year Two.

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Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan gets the final word on the decision to start RB Rex Grossman over John Beck.

“He beat him out,” Shanahan explained. “It was a competition, like we said from the beginning. It was very close – that’s why it took so long to decide. And it was neck-and-neck, and the edge went to Rex. We thought he did better in the competition. It wasn’t by a lot, but he definitely won it.”

I’ve written this before, but it’s worth saying again. The coaching staff gets credit for staying true to its word and keeping it an open competition. It’s difficult to argue with the coaches’ belief that Rex outplayed Beck in the games.

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There’s been much reflection this week on Grossman’s tenure in Chicago. Kyle Shanahan watched that from afar as he was just breaking into coaching.

“He’s a first-round draft pick – you’ve got a lot of pressure on you when you come into those situations,” Shanahan said. “He had some injury problems there and I had watched him over my career while he was there. I knew he was up and down; I knew he could get hot. I also knew he could get cold. I think that was the time where he kept both teams in the game, but he could do a good job at times. I think he was player of the month at one time – he did take the team to the Super Bowl. But I think he has gotten a lot better since then.”

And Kyle also chimed in on the upside debate; whether Grossman has showed who he is or whether he has some untapped potential.

“I think you can definitely work with a guy to get over [inconsistency],” Shanahan said. “I don’t think any quarterback comes in the league and is automatic. I think it takes a while for guys to be consistent. You’ve got some guys that it comes to naturally a little bit more, but it takes reps – it takes time. You’ve got to learn from those things, and hopefully you learn most of those mistakes with another team and hopefully he can be better with us.”

***

The Giants have beaten the Redskins in nine of their last 10 meetings. Some of the gory details:

The Giants have outscored the Redskins by an average of 24.2 to 13.4. New York has averaged 140.9 rushing yards in those games compared to Washington’s 93.2. The Giants have rushed for more than 100 yards in eight games; the Redskins only twice.

“They’ve ran the ball on us and we haven’t run the ball on them,” SS Reed Doughty said. “It’s pretty simple. I’m hoping that the way things are progressing, the preseason this year, that we can go out and do those things in the game. They’ve had our number. There’s no other way to look at it.”

Sunday seems like a good opportunity for the Redskins to stop that trend. Giants DE Osi Umenyiora (knee) has been ruled out, and DE Justin Tuck (neck) didn’t practice Thursday. And you might have heard that the Giants don’t have DT Barry Cofield anymore, either. If the Redskins’ offensive line can’t take advantage of that, well, you have to wonder what else it would take to beat the Giants up front.

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Redskins coaches had to simplify rookie S DeJon Gomes’ responsibilities during training camp because he was struggling to pick them up. But Haslett is pleased with Gomes’ progress entering Sunday’s game – and that’s critical because he’s going to be active with SS LaRon Landry out.

“Some things don’t come fast right off the bat, but once he sees it once, then he’s right in tune with everybody,” Haslett said. “I love the way he played the last [preseason] game. He’s the kind of guy that makes plays. He’s around the football. He got a couple sacks in preseason. He gets a couple knockdowns. He’s just a good football player, and I think the more he plays the better he’s going to get.”

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Landry (hamstring) didn’t practice.

TE Chris Cooley (left knee) was limited in practice. You have to wonder about his chances of playing Sunday, considering he hasn’t fully participated in practice in over a month and didn’t play in any preseason games.

“It takes some time to get back into football shape and for him to feel comfortable with himself,” coach Mike Shanahan said.

Other Redskins who were limited: FS Oshiomogho Atogwe (hamstring), KR/PR Brandon Banks (knee), WR Donté Stallworth (shoulder) and RB Ryan Torain (left hand).

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The Redskins practiced outside Thursday after staying indoors Wednesday. The skies opened up about halfway through, but Mike Shanahan was pleased with what the team accomplished.

“The one thing about working inside is you can’t work on your passing game,” he said. “I think we got some of our responsibilities done, some of our fits in the running game on both offense and defense, some good looks on special teams, but you can’t throw the ball downfield. If you do, you go through a wall or window.”

I believe the Redskins are interested in utilizing the forward pass this season, so Thursday’s development is a step forward.

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Just a reminder that our Redskins special section came out today. You can check it out here. We’re very proud of it, and I think you won’t be disappointed.

The main story in the section re-examines the dynamic between Mike and Kyle Shanahan following a bumpy debut season. I spoke about the story and the reporting that went into it during a segment on ESPN980 today, and you can listen to the segment here.

 

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