Redskins practice report (8/7)

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Here are some thoughts and observations from Tuesday’s practice, the Redskins’ final session in full pads before Thursday night’s preseason opener at Buffalo.

QB Robert Griffin III’s timing was as good as we’ve seen over the course of 11 practices. Generally speaking, he was in rhythm, smooth and consistently got the ball out on time. The improvement was noticeable.

He was quick to WR Leonard Hankerson near the right sideline on one throw. Later, he completed a hitch route to TE Fred Davis, releasing the ball before Davis was out of his break.

If he plays that way on Thursday, good things will happen. Of course, the Redskins won’t run a lot of the option concepts they plan on employing during the regular season, so it’s not going to be a proper measure of how Griffin has progressed mechanically with the different things the Redskins are asking him to do after the snap. But Thursday’s game should provide him valuable game experience playing behind a shorthanded offensive line. He’ll get to see some basic coverages and get a feel for the game. That’s sufficient for a debut of 12-20 plays.

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WR Pierre Garcon dropped two passes against air during QB-WR drills. That was about two hours before coach Mike Shanahan said of Garcon: “He has great hands.”

Garcon did impress, however, with his block of CB Brandyn Thompson on a screen pass. He was aggressive, stayed low and finished his block, moving Thompson almost out of bounds.

Shanahan’s full quote on Garcon: “You don’t know until a guy is actually on your team. You see him on film and you feel good about him so that’s why you go out and invest the type of money we invested, but I’m very impressed with how he handled himself. He has speed and explosion. He’ll block. He’s competitive. He has great hands. He will definitely be a big time receiver for our team. He is everything we’re hoping for.”

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OLB Brian Orakpo intercepted QB Rex Grossman over the middle when RB Roy Helu Jr. stopped his route. Orakpo used his body to get inside position on Helu, and he actually caught the pass one-handed.

Orakpo believes he’s better in coverage for several reasons.

“Just my footwork, my awareness, and where my eyes would be when I am normally pass dropping instead of just running out there blind,” he said Tuesday. “I learned a lot from working with one of my homies [Kansas City Chiefs linebacker] Derrick Johnson. He taught me a lot of ways to drop and what he looks at when he is out there. I am just trying to get better at that aspect and where to make sure I am planting my feet when the quarterback sets his feet so I am able to react to the ball.”

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The first-string offense and defense rarely matched up against each other, so there were some mismatches.

WR Santana Moss beat rookie CB Richard Crawford on a slant. Moss with a two-way go should beat Crawford every time. But Crawford had help to the outside – nothing inside – and he didn’t maintain his leverage. Moss caught it and raced to the end zone.

“Bye, bye! Sayonara!” Moss yelled after he scored.

As Crawford came back to the sideline, defensive backs coach Raheem Morris yelled to him: “You got to win inside.”

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LG Josh LeRibeus stayed lower than DL Jarvis Jenkins to stop Jenkins on one pass rush. Later, LeRibeus began a pass play by blocking down to help the center, but he kicked back out to stop blitzing CB Morgan Trent. Good awareness from the third-round rookie.

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WR Dezmon Briscoe stood out for a couple nice plays. He squared off his in cut and was open in the middle of zone coverage for a 20-yard completion from QB Kirk Cousins. Later, he ran inside on a screen and blocked the linebacker who was trying to make the tackle.

It’ll be interesting to see how quickly Briscoe can get comfortable enough to flash, considering he didn’t join the team until after the start of camp.

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Second-year CB Brandyn Thompson has given up some big completions during camp because he didn’t locate the ball. That happened again Tuesday.

Thompson’s coverage against WR Brandon Banks on a go route was fine – he was running a half-step behind Banks – but Banks jumped up and took the ball off Thompson’s helmet for a long completion. Thompson would have broken up the pass if he turned and found the ball. Instead, Banks, who is 5-foot-7, jumped up and took it from him.

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Veteran CB DeAngelo Hall got into a skirmish with rookie LT Tom Compton, of all people. Hall flared to the sideline in pursuit of a screen pass. Compton pushed him in the back, a clear penalty. Hall was not happy with that, and he grabbed Compton’s facemask to tell him so. I can only guess Hall’s message was something like:

“Dear kind sir, I insist that you cease, as your actions could be injurious.”

Compton shoved Hall, prompting coach Mike Shanahan to crack the whip. “Hey, you guys, cut it out!” he shouted.

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TE Niles Paul made a stellar one-handed catch over the middle while tumbling to the ground. It was almost as if he posted up SS Brandon Meriweather in a basketball game.

Part of me expects Paul to have a huge preseason catching the ball and exploiting mismatches against second-string linebackers. But another part of me expects coach Mike Shanahan to intentionally keep Paul out of the passing game in order to keep him off of opponents’ radar. If I had to bet, I’d go with the latter.

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Shanahan was not pleased with WR Josh Morgan’s lack of hustle late in practice. There was an issue after a play, and I believe it involved either getting back to the huddle or getting up to the line of scrimmage in a hurry-up situation. Shanahan said something and Morgan responded. Shanahan then yelled: “I don’t give a [expletive]!” for all to hear.

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