Here are a few thoughts and observations after watching practice on Day 2 of training camp:
QB Robert Griffin III was not stellar, but he was sharper in Friday’s session than he was on Day 1. He was more accurate, particularly on rollouts. He hit TE Fred Davis near the sideline while rolling to his left – a throw he missed several times Thursday – but Davis dropped it. He later duplicated that throw to WR Leonard Hankerson, who caught it and juked CB Travon Bellamy for extra yards.
Griffin was OK from the pocket, too. On a seven-step drop, he zipped an intermediate throw through a tight window to WR Pierre Garcon. Griffin’s timing was good on a short drop to Davis out of the right slot. Griffin threw in rhythm after planting his back foot, and the ball was there for Davis as soon as he stopped and turned.
One completion from the pocket to the right sideline stood out. Hankerson used his body well to shield CB DeAngelo Hall, and Griffin placed the ball on Hankerson’s outside shoulder where only Hankerson could catch it. Accuracy and timing will be indicators of Griffin’s progress all summer.
Griffin’s timing was good on some throws, but on other passing plays he took sacks (of the non-contact variety.) because he appeared to hold on to the ball for too long. That could just be a function of Griffin learning by going through his reads and getting a feel for the defense and the timing required to beat it. Ostensibly, that will improve with experience.
My overriding thought when Griffin takes off with the ball on an option or keeper: “That’s a 5-yard gain and an injured quarterback.” The more I think about it, the more I wonder how he’s going to last through a 16-game season if he’s carrying the ball five or more times per game.
Then again, his speed is a weapon the Redskins would be foolish not to take advantage of. Mike Shanahan was right when he called Griffin’s speed a “two-edged sword” back in June. Griffin’s health and exposure to contact are going to be a very big deal this season.
RB Roy Helu’s receiving skills and speed are well-suited for a third-down role, but he has to be sound in pass protection in order to be on the field on third downs, which often are passing situations.
SS Brandon Meriweather beat him on a blitz Friday when Helu leaned forward to block him and missed. Helu later was more patient and blocked S Jordan Bernstine, who blitzed from the left. Helu improved as a pass blocker during the course of his rookie season – he kept his head up more and knew his assignments better – but he must continue to get better.
And speaking of young running backs in pass protection, sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris didn’t redirect his path from a play-action fake in time to stop blitzing S Reed Doughty on one play. Sound pass blocking would really help Morris’ chances to make the team because Mike Shanahan already is confident in the other three backs’ running ability.
There’s been a lot of talk about cohesion on the offensive line with so many starters (four, excluding injured RT Jammal Brown) returning. LG Kory Lichtensteiger, back from torn ligaments in his right knee, showed the benefits of that Friday when he and C Will Montgomery executed a combination block on a running play. Steigs and Monty were in synch as they moved to the right off the snap. They engaged NT Barry Cofield before Montgomery released to the linebacker.
Later, Lichtensteiger earned praise from O-line coach Chris Foerster for getting to the second level and blocking ILB London Fletcher.
ILBs Perry Riley and Lorenzo Alexander both ran with TE Fred Davis on a crossing route. I don’t know who blew their assignment, but they talked about it after the play. Alexander is transitioning to inside linebacker this season, and Riley struggled some in pass coverage last season.
On Thursday, ILB London Fletcher discussed what Riley can do to improve his pass coverage.
“Just formation recognition, being able to react quicker as far as knowing, ‘OK, what my responsibility is,’ and so when something happens being able to react just half a step faster because he’s more comfortable in what his responsibility is,” Fletcher said. “When you can come break the huddle, recognize formations, knowing, ‘OK, the team likes to do this in that certain situation.’ His experience in the game last year is going to be so much…And he’ll be light years ahead of where he was just because of that.”
WR Pierre Garcon was open for several receptions. He is capable of making highlight-reel catches, as Redskins fans probably remember from the one-handed grab he made for the Colts against Washington on a Sunday night in 2010. He did it again Friday, reaching up and behind him to snag a pass from Robert Griffin III as he ran across the middle.
And, yes, Garcon continues to throw the ball into the crowd after his catches. Mike Shanahan joked after practice that he’s fining him $2,000 per football lost.
WR Aldrick Robinson finished a poor practice well. The bad: He dropped two passes, slipped on an in cut and jumped offsides during team drills. The good: He sprinted past CB Travon Bellamy for a 50-yard touchdown catch on the final play of practice.
We know Robinson has great straight-line speed, and if he can’t run past Bellamy, he won’t make the team. But he has to be sharper both mentally and physically. At this point, there’s nothing Robinson does that WR Brandon Banks or WR Terrence Austin don’t.
I wouldn’t be surprised if rookie LT Tom Compton has nightmares about ROLB Rob Jackson tonight. On the plays I saw, Jackson consistently beat Compton with speed around the edge or with lower leverage on bull rushes. Jackson freed himself around the outside on one rush by two-hand-swiping Compton’s hands off him. Later, he blew Compton up by staying lower and exploding up into his pads.
Jackson is an NFL veteran who should regularly beat a sixth-round rookie. But the Redskins are thin at tackle with Jammal Brown out, and Compton has an opportunity to push his way on to the depth chart. More likely: he’ll just end up on the practice squad.
WR Josh Morgan dropped to his knees near the right sideline to catch a low throw from QB Robert Griffin III. Morgan went down and immediately popped back up, showing an ability to adjust to an off-target pass and keep a play going. WR Anthony Armstrong is very good at this, too, and it could be a particularly valuable trait with a rookie quarterback who still is getting comfortable.