Some observations and thoughts after watching Thursday’s practice, the first of training camp:
QB Robert Griffin III was not particularly sharp. And that’s OK. It was his first practice with the Redskins in full pads. He’s in the early stages of growing as a pro quarterback, and he’ll continue to improve.
Griffin was inaccurate on several passes while rolling to his left throwing across his body. He bounced one to WR Pierre Garcon. On the first pass of practice,a rollout to the right, the ball awkwardly came out of his hand and fell a few yards away with no chance of a completion.
Garcon proceeded to drop one of Griffin’s best throws of the day. From the pocket, Griffin hit him over the middle into a tight window about 15 yards down field. Garcon unknowing provided evidence for Mike Shanahan’s post-practice claim that “one person (Griffin) doesn’t make a football team.”
Griffin was not made available to reporters after practice. The team is limiting his availability to once per week. I can’t say anything nice about this, so I won’t say anything more.
Griffin’s quick release was noticeable. It had been a while since we’d seen him throw, so maybe that’s why it stood out, but he’s very compact and quick in his windup, and that significantly helps his timing on throws to the sideline. The longer a quarterback can wait for a receiver to get open and the defense to show itself, the more effective he’ll be.
The Redskins, as we know, are going to capitalize on Griffin’s speed and use him as a threat to run. Option plays are going to be an exciting and interesting part of this offense. There’s so much he can do out of the shotgun or pistol formations involving quick screens, draws, keepers and fakes or combinations of those. Griffin kept a few snaps Thursday and handed off most others. No surprises there.
The key, as we’ve discussed, is keeping Griffin healthy. The Redskins’ defense has practiced against these plays all spring, so players often know what’s coming. ROLB Brian Orakpo tracked down Griffin on the back side of a keeper on more than one occasion. LOLB Ryan Kerrigan did, too, but he also got sucked inside on one run fake, which allowed Griffin to escape to the perimeter.
Evan Royster was the first running back up during team drills, but RB Tim Hightower commanded attention after he limped back to the huddle following a long run through the left side. Hightower is only seven months removed from ACL reconstruction surgery in his left knee. He says he expects to be the starter once the regular season arrives.
Shanahan said he told Hightower: “Just don’t overdo it. Just take a few reps here and there, go through your drill work.”
“I think he’s smart enough to know that he’s got to be ready by the first regular season game, not by the first preseason game,” Shanahan said.
Training camp practices that are open to the public are the only time we can report certain personnel information. So here you go:
The second string offensive line was: LT Tom Compton, LG Erik Cook, C Josh LeRibeus, RG Adam Gettis and RT Maurice Hurt.
The second string linebackers were: LOLB Chris Wilson, LILB Lorenzo Alexander, RILB Bryan Kehl and ROLB Rob Jackson.
Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan were the first-string receivers, and Santana Moss was first up in the slot. Second-year wideout Leonard Hankerson played behind that group. Aldrick Robinson, Brandon Banks and Anthony Armstrong got significant reps, as well.
Speaking of WR Aldrick Robinson, he’s got intriguing speed, but he still has a lot to prove before cracking the roster. Not only must he cut down on the drops that plagued him during last training camp and preseason, but he also must demonstrate mental command of his responsibilities and some of the option routes required of receivers in this offense.
The scheme can be complicated for receivers. It’s one reason why Hankerson was inactive early last season. Robinson, in his second year, should have a grasp of it by now. We’ll see if he does.
It’s always entertaining to watch LT Trent Williams and ROLB Brian Orakpo face each other at full speed in full pads. The 2010 and 2009 first-round picks went against each other all day Thursday – I never saw Orakpo rush from the left side.
Williams’ quick feet helped him to keep his shoulders square and block Orakpo on one pass play, but Orakpo answered with a low speed rush on another. Orakpo turned the corner so fast that Williams had to hold him around the shoulders.
I’m very interested to see how much the Redskins move Orakpo around in rush situations and, of course, whether Orakpo has diversified his arsenal of pass rush moves beyond the bull rush and speed rush. I didn’t see anything new on Thursday, but it’s early and I didn’t see every play.
FB Darrel Young is a bit of a forgotten force in this offense. At least I forget about him in light of the additions at quarterback and receiver. He is very fast out of the backfield, though, a trait he demonstrated by outracing ILB Perry Riley around the corner after catching a pass in the flat.
Young’s speed should be a vital element of the keeper game that Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan and QB Robert Griffin III figure to heavily rely on all season. Young, now in his third season at fullback after switching from linebacker, has steadily improved with experience. He recognizes his responsibilities better and the game is slowing down for him. He’s a weapon.
TE Chris Cooley before practice claimed he’s back to running full speed. Then, on a running play during team drills, he released 10 yards into the secondary to block FS Madieu Williams. Cooley’s ability to get to the second and third level in the run game will be a telling measure of his fitness, and this particular play was an auspicious sign.
CB Josh Wilson received praise from defensive backs coach Raheem Morris for jamming WR Pierre Garcon at the line of scrimmage on one play. Garcon didn’t release until more than a second after the snap. Wilson seems to thrive in situations when he can be physical, and he doesn’t need to play with vision as much as, say, CB DeAngelo Hall.
WR Santana Moss separated from SS Brandon Meriweather on a short crossing route. Moss appeared spry during spring practices, but, at age 33, we’ll have to see how his body holds up over the course of the season. He’s off to a good start now, but can the Redskins rely on him for five months? Just something to keep in mind as Moss continues to impress.
The temperature at the start of practice was 97 degrees with a 109 heat index. The Redskins are practicing in full pads in the afternoon this summer, a change from past years when they began practice at around 8:30 a.m.
The idea behind the change is that players can learn things in morning meetings and the walkthrough before going through it at full speed in practice. The hope is that they learn better that way.
“To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of morning practice,” TE Chris Cooley said. “I don’t like waking up at 6 o’clock and starting my physical activity. We’ll see how it goes. I think we can deal with two hours of heat. It’d be nice if it’s not 100 every day, but maybe it will make us tougher, huh? Joe Gibbs weather.”
…That’s it for Day 1. Let’s do it again Friday, shall we?