Here are some thoughts and observations from Wednesday’s practice. The Redskins wore shells instead of full pads, but they still ran team drills and one-on-one drills between offensive and defensive linemen.
QB Robert Griffin III threw his first two interceptions of training camp (during team drills, at least). On the first, ILB Lorenzo Alexander got good depth on his drop, and Griffin, from the pocket, forced an intermediate throw over the middle. It went right to Alexander, as if he were the intended receiver. I couldn’t pick out who Griffin actually was throwing to. There didn’t appear to be anyone around, and I can’t share what Griffin read on the play because we reporters are prohibited from talking to him.
On the second pick, he threw off his back foot – sort of a throw-away on a broken play. CB DeAngelo Hall closed on the receiver near the sideline and made a diving interception.
Before Wednesday, Griffin had protected the ball very well. Part of that, as I mentioned Tuesday, was the product of holding the ball for a long time as he learns to read the defense.
But Griffin protected the ball well at Baylor. He threw an interception on only 1.49 percent of his passes, the sixth-best percentage among Division I passers with at least 300 attempts. By comparison, Rex Grossman and John Beck last season combined for a 4.07 interception percentage. Only six NFL teams had a worse percentage and – here’s a shock – none of them made the postseason.
“In college he had a great offense, had great speed at the wide receiver position, had a great running back, a great offensive line,” coach Mike Shanahan explained. “And what were [defenses] going to do? Were they going to stop the running game or stop the passing game? And they really exploited defenses throughout his collegiate career.
“I think everybody knows what type of speed he has. In the National Football League, these guys are pretty sharp. It’s going to be a great challenge to any young quarterback to come in and just learn defenses, learn the offense, and that’s what he’s doing. He’s just trying to come in and do everything he can do and try to eliminate mistakes. And the harder you work, the better chance you have at eliminating those mistakes.”
Even if Griffin isn’t the electrifying playmaker this season that he was at Baylor, he’ll be an upgrade for the Redskins if he cuts down on the 24 interceptions and six fumbles Beck and Grossman were responsible for in 2011.
One very nice read of Griffin’s stood out. TE Niles Paul, from the right side of the formation, ran a 7-yard out. ILB Perry Riley was in coverage, and he broke to the sideline to cover Paul. Griffin recognized Riley vacating the space, which WR Pierre Garcon was just about to enter. Griffin redirected his read to Garcon for an easy completion.
It’s an example of how coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s offense consistently puts defenders in conflict and gives quarterbacks the chance to read and exploit that.
ILB Lorenzo Alexander played with the first team defense while London Fletcher took a maintenance day. (OLB Ryan Kerrigan also sat out to rest.) At this point, Alexander is the No. 3 inside linebacker behind Fletcher and Perry Riley, he said. That’s lofty status for someone who is new to the position and still must master how to take on blocks inside and turn and run in coverage.
Alexander is a smart player, so it’s not surprising to see him make a positive play like his interception of QB Robert Griffin III.
He also has successfully run with receivers down the field during training camp, and he has done fairly well with his angles chasing down Griffin on options and keepers. Alexander’s experience chasing down Philadelphia QB Michael Vick (you remember Vick’s six-touchdown Monday night game at FedEx) helps him when tracking Griffin, he said.
Alexander, however, was beaten once in deep coverage because he didn’t adjust to an underthrown ball. WR Santana Moss, who is fantastic at adjusting to balls in the air, broke stride to come back for a pass, but he waited long enough to react so that Alexander ran by him. The play went for a long completion. I’m very interested to see Alexander play defense in the preseason.
CB Josh Wilson played a bit in the slot Wednesday. He’s a physical player, which could help the Redskins against teams that like to run out of three-receiver sets. Remember that was a problem for the Redskins’ defense two seasons ago. Wilson stuck his head in on a run stop and helped make the play.
QB Kirk Cousins had his best practice of camp. He made a terrific long touchdown throw to WR Aldrick Robinson. Cousins ran a bootleg to the left, set himself after escaping the pocket and launched a high-arcing ball that Robinson ran under.
Cousins later did well to anticipate TE Niles Paul breaking away from a linebacker and getting open. The ball arrived through a tight window just as Paul came out of his break, and Cousins put it in a spot where Paul could run after the catch.
Another fantastic throw was a touchdown on a fade left to WR Pierre Garcon. Garcon got one step on rookie CB Richard Crawford, and Cousins recognized man-to-man coverage with no safety help. His throw had the perfect touch. It sailed over Crawford and into Garcon’s arms in stride.
He has rebounded nicely from throwing a total of five interceptions on Saturday and Monday.
WR Anthony Armstrong dropped a slant during red zone work. It would have been a touchdown, but the pass got into his chest pads and bounced away.
For me, Armstrong is one of the most intriguing players to watch this preseason. He’s back to flying under the radar, which is how he thrived on his storied ascent to the NFL.
TE Chris Cooley on a running play sealed LOLB Rob Jackson out to the right. He blocked Jackson with his right shoulder and sealed the running lane inside.. Little things like that are the marks of a veteran. Coaches continue to say he looks like the old Chris. He has to hold up physically through the preseason games, though. If he does that, then there are good reasons to be optimistic about his season.
RB Roy Helu didn’t square up LOLB Chris Wilson blitzing off the edge on one pass play. Helu tried to chip him and leak to the flat, but he ducked his head and delivered only a glancing blow with his shoulder. Wilson raced past and got to QB Kirk Cousins for what would have been a sack. Coach Mike Shanahan spoke to Helu after the play. Pass blocking continues to be an issue for RB Evan Royster and him.
A few takeaways from OL-DL one-on-ones:
RT Tyler Polumbus gets beat when he reaches for the defender and gets too far forward. He loses power and his can’t move his feet to stay in front of the rusher. It happened against OLB Chris Wilson, and rookie Monte Lewis. If Monte Lewis is beating your starting right tackle…
Fifth-round rookie RG Adam Gettis received compliments for his hand placement against NT Delvin Johnson. He got his hands inside Johnson’s and into Johnson’s chest. A win for Gettis.
DL Jarvis Jenkins’ bull rush was not successful against rookie G Nick Martinez. Martinez stayed low and used his hands effectively. RG Chris Chester later rode Jenkins out, as well. I’m still waiting to see the power that Jenkins so frequently showed last summer.
Third-round rookie G/C Josh LeRibeus has a tendency to lean on defenders once he makes contact. He did it against DL Kedric Golston, a veteran who knows how to use that against him. LeRibeus will work to improve locking guys out by keeping his feet moving and a sound base.
LT Trent Williams is good at blocking.