Here are some thoughts and observations from Tuesday’s Redskins practice, which finished inside the bubble because of thunder and lightning.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III during the first five training camp practices has taken more than a few sacks because he didn’t get rid of the ball quickly enough. Sometimes he holds the ball in the pocket for what seems like an eternity – really it’s three or more seconds – and the rush gets to him.
Griffin, of course, is playing against NFL coverages for the first time, so it’s only reasonable to expect an adjustment period while his mind gets acclimated to the speed of the NFL. This is worth monitoring once preseason games begin next Thursday, and it will be a telling measure of his overall transition to the NFL.
We’ll have to wait until next Monday to ask Griffin about this, but coach Mike Shanahan on Tuesday addressed Griffin’s timing and decision making.
“That’s why you practice – to make sure it becomes easier and easier,” he said. “That’s why you have repetition. That’s why they say, ‘Hey, the third year is a lot better than the first year,’ because the whole game slows down. And so every quarterback needs that repetition.
“There are some growing pains that are natural at the position, but he’s doing a heck of a job. He has come in and, like I said, we had the offseason and a lot of time to meet, and he has picked things up very quickly.”
There’s a lot going on in the Redskins’ backfield immediately after the snap, and it stresses Griffin’s mechanics. There are plays when Griffin must receive the snap, fake some type of handoff/run/both and then reset to throw.
On one such play Tuesdays, Griffin faked a handoff, then dropped back to throw. He had to step up, though, because of the pass rush and reset again. He had WR Santana Moss open deep over the middle, but Griffin’s pass was too low and too far in front of Moss. It’s going to take time and practice for Griffin to get comfortable with the timing and the mechanics required.
LT Trent Williams was unflappable in one-on-one drills against OLBs Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. It’s probably accurate to say he’s the best player in camp right now.
Kerrigan isn’t fast enough around the edge to beat Williams or quick enough to fake him out and redirect. Also, Williams can withstand Kerrigan’s bull-rush because of his sound base and strength. OLB Markus White tried to stutter-step past Williams, and Williams stayed perfectly square by shuffling his feet on time.
“I don’t know what Trent did this offseason, but he’s playing phenomenal,” said Orakpo, unaware that Williams worked out at least five days each week in Houston with former NFL offensive lineman George Hegamin.
“He got so much better as far as his leverage, as far as not really breaking at the point of attack. Also, he’s very athletic to where you can’t really run around him.
“It comes with experience,” Orakpo continued. “He’s not giving me anything that I used to beat him on last year. He’s having a great base and not really giving me any inside leverage or outside leverage. He’s got great feet to counter any type of speed. It’s a lot more challenging, which is why I love the battle so far.”
Speaking of Williams, he was involved in a moment that made me laugh out loud.
QB Robert Griffin III ran a quarterback draw across the goal line, but offensive and defensive players argued whether Griffin had been touched down. Williams pushed FS Madieu Williams during the argument.
Madieu (6-1, 209) stood tall against Trent (6-5, 328) and reared back like he was going to shove Trent. Trent puffed out his chest as Madieu reached back, but Madieu quickly reached low and lightly tapped Trent in his, um, groin area.
Trent got a kick out of that, and they patted each other on the back before returning to the huddle.
Stand about 30 yards downfield during Redskins team drills, and you’ll hear a lot of things come out of defensive backs coach Raheem Morris’ mouth. One thing the defensive backs coach likes to tell his corners: “Don’t open the gate!” Meaning, don’t open up your hips and allow the receiver to get leverage on you.
Well, veteran CB Cedric Griffin made that mistake twice on Tuesday against WR Pierre Garcon. In one-on-one drills, he flew open when Garcon stutter-stepped, and Garcon ran more than five yards past him. QB Robert Griffin III overthrew the easy deep touchdown, though. Later in team drills, Garcon opened Griffin up to the outside with three hard steps, then crossed Griffin’s face back to the inside. Garcon was open, but the throw went elsewhere.
The kicking competition between Graham Gano and Neil Rackers won’t truly begin until the preseason games, but both kickers attempted field goals Tuesday. Both made their longest attempts, which were 56 yards. Gano made a 51-yarder with teammates surrounding him doing Florida State’s war chant (a.k.a the Tomahawk Chop). Gano went to FSU, in case you forgot.
Gano, in my book, is the favorite to win the job. He is very good at the directional kickoffs special teams coach Danny Smith likes to employ, and that ultimately makes him the more complete kicker. The four preseason games will decide it.
S Reed Doughty dropped a potential interception for the third time in as many days. Again, he got both hands on the ball. That’s quite a frustrating run for the six-year veteran. Shortly after the drop, though, Doughty stripped TE Chris Cooley and recovered the fumble.
RB Alfred Morris’ matchup against ILB London Fletcher in one-on-one pass protection drills was an unexpected highlight. Fletcher tried a spin move against the sixth-round rookie, but Morris moved his feet well in order to keep his chest in front of Fletcher. The coaches didn’t blow the whistle there, though, and they fought it out for about three more seconds. Morris held his own.
He’s not afraid to stick his face into a defender, a specific trait offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan values.
Staying with that drill, second-year RB Evan Royster stayed square and low enough against OLB Brian Orakpo for a win. However, Royster blew a blitz pickup during team drills when he failed to see SS Brandon Meriweather blitzing off the left edge of the defense. As Royster looked straight ahead, Meriweather had a free shot at QB Robert Griffin III. Griffin is going to be exposed to enough contact because of his running ability; the Redskins can’t afford defenders getting free runs at him in the pocket.
Two of the unheralded backs really struggled in pass pro drills. Rookie Lennon Creer had all sorts of technique problems – reaching, not staying low, not moving his feet. Coaches had him repeat the drill three consecutive times. FB Dorson Boyce had similar issues.
C Will Montgomery anchored well in several matchups during one-on-one drills. That’s the Monty we came to know last season. DE Adam Carriker, however, got off the ball faster than Monty did on a running play to the right during team drills, and he got inside Monty to make the stop.
Coach Mike Shanahan’s insistence that the Redskins have quality offensive line depth is a hard sell at this point. The $18 million salary cap penalty was a killer up front on offense.
The Redskins signed free agent veteran T James Lee, but his feet have been too slow to stand out for positive plays during pass blocking drills. OLB Ryan Kerrigan used a rip move to easily get around him during one-on-ones. G/T Maurice Hurt leaned on DE Stephen Bowen during one-on-ones, and Bowen used that leverage to pull Hurt through and get by with ease.
Perhaps offensive line coach Chris Foerster can draw good things out of draft picks G/C Josh LeRibeus and RG Adam Gettis, who have flashed signs of potential early in camp. As of now, the backup swing tackle spot remains a huge question with RT Jammal Brown out. That the Redskins signed Jordan Black, who was out of the league last season, shows that there isn’t much help available on the free agent market.
CB Richard Crawford’s interceptions streak ended on an overall rocky day. He flashed ball skills on interceptions Saturday and Monday, but on Tuesday he gave up two touchdowns.
WR Terrence Austin beat him out of the slot by faking the slant from the right and then breaking back to the outside. Austin’s cuts are very sharp – he has quick feet – and he lost Crawford on the out cut. WR Darius Hanks also beat him on short touchdown pass to the flat. Three receivers were stacked, and Crawford couldn’t catch up to Hanks running toward the sideline.
Crawford also erred in giving away his blitz from the slot on a hard count. QB Rex Grossman made a pre-snap adjustment after Crawford flinched, and he completed a quick pass to the opposite side of the field.
That Crawford has flashed some ball skills is what the Redskins want to see from a seventh-round pick. He at least has talent they can work with.
CB Brandyn Thompson was in position to make two positive plays, but they ended up being negative because he didn’t locate the ball.
He was lined up outside against WR Aldrick Robinson on one pass play. Robinson ran deep, while TE Chris Cooley ran an out underneath to the area Robinson cleared out. Thompson read the throw underneath to Cooley, so he peeled off Robinson to play the shorter route. But he got to Cooley too quickly and contacted him for pass interference.
After practice moved inside, Thompson was step-for-step with WR Terrence Austin in the back left corner of the end zone, but he didn’t turn his head in time to prevent Austin’s touchdown catch.