Here are some thoughts and observations from Saturday’s practice, the team’s first in full shoulder pads:
QB Robert Griffin III’s accuracy has been inconsistent on throws when he’s rolling to his left and throwing across his body. During quarterback and receiver drills today, against no defense, he stood tall while rolling, and the ball sailed over the receiver. He tried it again two plays later, and the throw was behind WR Pierre Garcon.
Griffin is more accurate when he stays a bit lower and slows down. In 11-on-11 team drills, he got outside the pocket on an effective run fake, and he hit WR Leonard Hankerson between the 8 and 5 on his jersey. We’ll ask Griffin about this throw when he speaks to reporters on Monday. It’s one he’s going to make often as long as he’s playing for Mike Shanahan.
The threat of Griffin as a runner will be effective for Washington’s offense this season, even if he doesn’t actually carry it. The offense ran a draw to the running back during team drills, and it was successful partly because DE Adam Carriker ran for Griffin instead of the back. Even a second after the handoff, Carriker still was focused on containing Griffin.
Griffin and RB Roy Helu Jr. misconnected on one option pitch, and there was a fumble. Just a reminder of the risk involved with that play.
OLBs Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo switched sides at the start of team drills. Kerrigan lined up on the right and Orakpo was on the left; it’s usually the other way around.
We should expect to see this a fair amount this season.
“We just don’t want to be predictable,” Kerrigan said. “We want to be able to have some flexibility in what we do to take advantage of some matchups. It’s just something I’ve got to work at to get comfortable rushing out of that stance.”
Kerrigan laughed when it was mentioned that he’ll now face more left tackles. Left tackles generally are superior to right tackles because teams put their best tackles on the left to protect a right-handed quarterback’s blind side.
There is a difference in rushing from the right and left, Kerrigan said.
“It’s the same concepts, but it’s the opposite body parts,” he said. “It’s exploding off your left leg this time, using your left arm – because that’s the arm that’s closest to the offensive lineman – more. It just takes practice.”
Players in shoulder pads mean one-on-one drills between offensive and defensive linemen. That’s always one of the highlights of camp.
Fifth-round rookie RG Adam Gettis impressed with his quick feet and sound base. He stayed low and square against DE Adam Carriker, and he even delivered a firm punch that helped keep Carriker at bay. Gettis shuffled well to stop DE Kedric Golston later in the session. Both of those defensive ends are veterans, so it’s not like he beat a guy who won’t make the team.
Gettis ran a 5.0-second 40-yard dash at the combine, the third-fastest time of any offensive linemen, but let’s see how he gets out on screens in the preseason.
LT Trent Williams’ feet are so good. He stays low and slides his feet so fast that he’s able to keep his shoulders squared to the rusher in these one-on-one drills. I saw him face OLB Ryan Kerrigan twice. Williams’ punch stopped Kerrigan the first time. On the second, Kerrigan stayed low and exploded up into Williams. Kerrigan was low enough to generate some push, but it was probably more of a stalemate than anything.
Coaches believe Williams is in the best shape they’ve ever seen. We often hear that line about players this time of year, but Williams does look the part. He came to camp hoping to atone for last year’s suspension, and it appears he’s off to a good start.
The competition for the backup nose tackle spot could be the most compelling of the second-tier position battles. Chris Neild made such a strong first impression in the season debut against New York last season that the seventh-round pick had difficulty to living up to that the rest of the year.
Chris Baker beat G Nick Martinez in the one-on-ones when Martinez set too hard to the outside. Martinez isn’t a front-line player, but Baker could unseat Neild if Neild can’t consistently use his legs to hold the point.
Sticking with the linemen, third-round rookie Josh LeRibeus played left guard today in place of Kory Lichtensteiger, who had a scheduled maintenance day to rest his surgically-repaired right knee.
LeRibeus, a left guard in college, looked like he has been practicing at center. His timing seemed a bit off, which is understandable. He and LT Trent Williams had trouble with one stunt during team drills, and ROLB Brian Orakpo came free inside for a pressure. On another stunt later on, though, LeRibeus set deep enough to have time to react.
He knows that, as a backup, he must be capable of playing well at multiple spots.
“A lot of the technique differences, little nuances,” he said of the different between playing center and left guard. “Playing center you kind of know what assignments you have. Your footwork, it starts to change.”
CB DeAngelo Hall referred to SS Brandon Meriweather as a headhunter during OTAs. Meriweather provided some supporting evidence on a running play during team drills.
Meriweather’s run fit took him through the hole and into a big collision with RB Roy Helu Jr. Meriweather stood Helu up even though Helu was much lower. Meriweather went high, up around Helu’s head. In fact, he ripped Helu’s helmet off. It’s probably a bad habit on Meriweather’s part, but he made the stop.
Rookie QB Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions in a span of three passes. Rookie ILB Keenan Robinson intercepted a 15-yard through to the right, and rookie CB Richard Crawford stepped in front of the intended receiver on a shorter throw to the left.
Cousins afterward explained what he learned from the mistakes.
“On the first one, the linebacker just got good depth and made a great play,” he said. “I need to come down to a check down.
“The second one, the ball was tipped, but I made the right decision throwing to the right spot. The ball just needed to be a little bit more accurate on the receiver.”
Cousins was pleased that he at least made the right decision on the second throw.
“You learn from it and say I can’t let that happen again,” he said. “I’ve got to be more accurate. I’ve got to get back to fundamentals and the kinds of things we’re working on in the film room and out on the practice field every day.”
Diminutive WR Brandon Banks made three catches between the hash marks during team drills. There isn’t full tackling in these drills, so Banks wasn’t at risk of taking a vicious hit, but he will have to be willing and able to catch passes over the middle if he is to make the team.
Banks’ is very shifty getting off the line, which makes it tough for cornerbacks to press him. On one reception, he stepped hard and quickly to the right to fake the cornerback before coming back inside on a slant. He was two steps clear of the DB when he caught the ball.
Banks did drop a pass during positional drills against no defense.
…Players are off Sunday, so look for the next practice report on Monday.