Here are some thoughts and observations from Thursday’s practice:
We’re pretty much in the dog days now. Fatigue is starting to catch up to players. The energy level was noticeably down, I thought.
“You’ve got to push through it,” coach Mike Shanahan. “It’s not easy for anybody – players, coaches. You’ve got long days. You’ve got walkthroughs. They work out with weights in the morning. But this is a day that is usually tougher than most, but you can see today that guys were a little bit tired, but I thought they persevered through it.
Proof of the fatigue is in the mounting injuries.
FB Darrel Young (hamstring), WR Josh Morgan (hamstring), S DeJon Gomes (shoulder), WR Lance Lewis (groin), OT James Lee (knee) sat out.
WR Anthony Armstrong injured the AC joint in his right shoulder attempting to make a catch at the sideline. Armstrong will have an x-ray to be sure his collar bone is OK.
Morgan and Lee are expected to return to practice Monday. Gomes is out 2-3 days. Lewis is out 1-2 weeks.
ILB Bryan Kehl missed practice to attend the birth of his first child.
Since QB Robert Griffin III is being kept away from reporters as though we have the plague or something, we’re left to talk to the defenders who intercept him in order to glean insight on his mistakes and learning points.
CBs Kevin Barnes and DeAngelo Hall picked Griffin off on Thursday for his third and fourth interceptions in the last two days. Here’s Barnes’ take:
“I had underneath coverage, but obviously I didn’t want Robert to know because he’s a pretty smart guy,” he said. “I was lined up on the No. 1 receiver – Terrence [Austin] ran a fake out and up. So I jumped Terrence’s turn, and Brandon Banks ran a little shallow route behind it. I came back and jumped it.
“It’s a very aggressive coverage, but I kind of slow played it and allowed the blitz to get there. And then by the time the blitz got there, he had to get the ball out of his hand, and I jumped it.”
Barnes’ description gets at Griffin’s knowledge of and recognition of coverages. That’s a work in progress, of course.
Hall intercepted Griffin on a broken play at the goal line. Griffin held the ball long enough for the pocket to collapse. He rolled right and tried to force it – it is only practice, after all, and the play was pretty much busted.
Griffin has his positive moments. After a fake end around, he reset and hit WR Santana Moss, who sat down in the middle of the defense. The throw was a bit high, but it was complete. (ILB London Fletcher punched the ball out after Moss had possession.) The Redskins expect Griffin to sharpen his fake/reset mechanics over time.
Griffin’s timing on an intermediate out to WR Pierre Garcon was excellent. The ball was out of Griffin’s hand before Garcon came out of his break. Garcon caught it with both feet in bounds.
Griffin is expected to play 12-20 plays against Buffalo next Thursday, Mike Shanahan said after practice. That game can’t get here fast enough.
FS Tanard Jackson (left calf strain) participated in team drills for the first time. He played mostly with the second-team defense.
It’s difficult to evaluate safeties when the contact is limited. WR Brandon Banks caught a long touchdown against Jackson in one-on-one coverage. Jackson chased Banks to the deep middle and came underneath him as the pass descended into his arms. It’s difficult to say whether Jackson could have broken up the pass if he hit Banks like he would in a real game. Ultimately, though, Jackson tried to play the ball and was beaten. He is known for his range, so it’s a bad sign if receivers are outrunning him.
Later, Jackson broke up a pass in front of him. He recognized the receiver sitting down in the zone, and he drove on the route. He has enough time to shake off any rust and prove he deserves a spot.
Banks, on the long touchdown against Jackson, lined up wide left and released inside of CB Kevin Barnes. Barnes didn’t slow Banks or redirect him enough to prevent him from getting to full speed as he sprinted past Jackson. Barnes put his safety in a tough spot.
Barnes is playing exclusively on the outside this season, no longer in the slot.
“When you’re in the slot and you play 2-deep, not only does he have the short routes, but he has the deep routes, as well,” Mike Shanahan said. “Usually you get a guy that’s a little bit smaller - I’m not going to say more athletic because he’s very athletic with good speed. But people have the ability to make the quick cut, cover the quick receiver, and with his length, we just thought he’d work out better with the matchup outside.”
Speed on long pass routes is WR Brandon Banks’ upside. The downside was evident on a running play in which he tried to block FS Madieu Williams. Williams easy shed the diminutive Banks and got in on the play. It’s not as though Banks is averse to blocking, he’s just not big enough to consistently keep normal-sized defenders from moving against their will.
QB Kirk Cousins had another fine practice. He was in rhythm working with the second string. He often got the ball out at the top of his drop, and he was accurate.
On one throw, he froze the linebackers by looking to his left and then came back across to the right to hit TE Logan Paulsen on a short cross. On a keeper to the left during goal line work, Cousins was patient with the throw across his body, and he hit wide open FB Dorson Boyce for an uncontested touchdown.
Cousins doesn’t have to deal with all the run fakes and chaos in the backfield that Griffin does. It’s a more normal offense when he’s in, and he plays from under center more than Griffin.
WR Terrence Austin used his body to box out rookie CB Richard Crawford on a completion to the right sideline. Austin is having a strong camp, so far. He’s better at recognizing coverages and leveraging his routes against corners – all important elements of playing in the slot. Plus, he has quick feet to get in and out of breaks with some explosiveness. He’s good enough to help some NFL team, if not the Redskins.
WR Aldrick Robinson dropped a QB Kirk Cousins pass that hit him in the chest, and it popped up in the air for FS Madieu Williams to intercept. Robinson entered camp as a bit of a sleeper to make the 53-man roster, but other receivers are flashing more often.
For the three plays I watched RT Jordan Black, he looked like a player who hadn’t been in an NFL practice in almost a year. He completely whiffed on LOLB Chris Wilson on two of the three plays. Black tried to punch Wilson, but Wilson just ducked and ran around him. Twice. On the other snap, he was slow getting off the ball, which allowed DE Jarvis Jenkins to get inside him play-side on a run to the left.
Mike Shanahan said he’ll wait to evaluate Black until they practice in pads.
WR Dezmon Briscoe, on the two pass routes I watched him run, wasn’t explosive in and out his break. He ran upright instead of low. Something to keep an eye on as we go forward.
TE Chris Cooley beat ILB Keenan Robinson on a pass route. It was some type of out and up in which Cooley redirected his route to the left sideline up the field. The throw was just beyond Cooley’s reach. Cooley dove for it, and the ball hit the ground, but the one of the replacement referees at practice ruled it a catch. (The end of the play happened right in front of me, and I clearly saw the ball hit the ground, so I feel OK about sharing that.)
Later, Robinson grabbed and pulled TE Logan Paulsen’s jersey as Paulsen tried to break toward the sideline on a pass play. It was obvious and should have been a holding penalty.
It will be interesting to see how much Robinson, a fourth-round pick, plays against Buffalo next week. He’s not among the top four linebackers (London Fletcher, Perry Riley, Lorenzo Alexander and Bryan Kehl are right now), and it would be a bit of an upset if the Redskins kept five inside linebackers. Then again, he is one of their fourth-rounders.
DL Chris Baker has a decent chance to be part of the defensive line rotation, but roster longshot G Nick Martinez got his hands into Baker’s chest to stop him on one play. Baker was too high coming off the ball, and Martinez got him.
That’s it for Thursday, folks. We’ll do it again tomorrow.