The Redskins’ practice Thursday was their last organized team activity of the offseason. They have a four-day minicamp scheduled for next week, and then they break until training camp in late July.
Here are some observations from practice:
I bit off more than I could chew before practice when I asked on Twitter which players you all wanted reports on. Don’t get me wrong, I love the input. But the list was looooooooong – 34 players, to be specific, plus some entire position groups.
I tried to get as many as I could. I hope you understand that the Lance Lewises and Antwon Baileys on the list will have to wait until training camp.
QB Robert Griffin III doesn’t want to be known as a running quarterback, but his elite speed makes it difficult to avoid that label. It’s a MAJOR weapon, which was evident Thursday as the Redskins practiced short-yardage and goal-line situations.
There was lots of talk before the draft about whether Griffin’s NFL team would run some of the concepts in which he excelled at Baylor. We reporters are prohibited from describing certain schematic elements we see at closed practices, but, as coach Mike Shanahan acknowledged, there are many ways in which the Redskins plan to maximize Griffin’s skills.
“We’re going to have the flexibility to do a lot of different things,” Shanahan said. “We run the quarterback keeps, we run the rolls. We’ve got different types of option schemes that are available to us. Exactly what direction we’ll go, I can’t tell you for sure. But it does present some problems for the defense, and we’ll see some of those during the season this year.”
Even if Griffin prefers to stand in the pocket and throw, he’s obviously comfortable – and dangerous - moving the ball with his legs. A reporter asked Griffin specifically about a draw play, and he was willing to answer.
“It’s familiar,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done forever. But you know, I’ve been throwing the ball forever, too. But it was a good play. It’s great in the red zone. It’s good for short yardage situations, so you just have to be able to do it, but then also catch your breath, go back, and throw a 60-yard pass.”
Perhaps S Reed Doughty said it best after practice: “A lot of quarterbacks can move. Robert can run.”
Griffin, like last week, threw some impressive passes and missed some others. I thought he was sharper than last Thursday. His learning process continues.
On one play from the 10-yard line during red-zone team drills, RG3 stood in the pocket as it formed around him. He pump-faked with full arm action, either deciding at the last moment not to throw or intentionally trying to fake the defense. The play busted, though, because Griffin reloaded and bounced his throw in the end zone.
He missed a difficult throw to TE Fred Davis in the end zone on a rollout to the right sideline. OLB Ryan Kerrigan was in tight coverage, so Griffin’s window was small, and he didn’t fit it in.
Griffin responded on the next play, though, by finding Davis on a similar play to the left. Davis beat Kerrigan this time for the score.
RG3 made two excellent throws, in particular, that stood out to me:
On third-and-short, WR Santana Moss ran a quick out from the right side. Moss, who had a two-way go, easily beat free-agent rookie LB Monte Lewis, as you’d expect. Griffin apparently realized the mismatch, too, because his throw arrived just as Moss came out of his break. Perfect timing. And it was out in front, allowing Moss to gain yards after the catch.
The other throw was during team drills in which they practiced end-of-half hurry-up situations. Griffin connected with WR Josh Morgan on a slant for a gain of approximately 15 yards. The location of the throw was excellent – low and inside where only Morgan, who released inside, could catch it.
Griffin concluded OTAs with a strong sense of command of the playbook. Read more about that here.
FS Tanard Jackson (shoulder, legs) participated in team drills for only the second time during OTAs. He’ll compete for a starting role during training camp, but he’ll have to work his way back to that level on the depth chart because he’s behind players such as FS Madieu Williams, who have been available to practice.
During short-yardage drills, Jackson jumped a route in the flat, allowing TE Niles Paul to run free down the left sideline. Paul was uncovered for an easy, long completion. Jackson had some harsh words for himself as the play evolved.
During hurry-up work at the end of practice, he narrowly missed intercepting QB Kirk Cousins on the right sideline. Cousins’ downfield pass to RB Alfred Morris lacked zip and hung up in the air, giving Jackson time to close on it. Playing balls in the air is one of his strengths. But the ball somehow got through his hands, and Morris caught it with acres of unprotected field in front of him. The defensive players on the sideline let out of a collective groan when Jackson didn’t come up with the pick.
The story in tomorrow’s paper introduces the competition at safety. Check it out here.
Speaking of the safeties, SS Brandon Meriweather disrupted a pass play near the goal line by effectively jamming TE Fred Davis off the snap. Meriweather stymied Davis at first, and Davis never got open. When QB Robert Griffin III lobbed a pass in Davis’ direction, Meriweather was in position to knock it down. Meriweather is known to be most effective around the line of scrimmage, and this was evidence.
Meriweather seems upbeat and energetic at practice, finishing plays at full speed. LaRon Landry did not always bring such positivity, and it’s one reason he was allowed to move on. Even if Meriweather’s style off the field is individualistic or if his head is not always in the right place, coach Mike Shanahan will be able to tolerate that more if Meriweather competes hard in practice and is committed.
Shanahan stopped practice for a full team meeting after consecutive false starts. One was by LT Trent Williams.
“You work all the way down field, everybody is tired,” Shanahan said. “That is where the concentration level has got to kick in. You know we weren’t very good in that [red-zone] area in offense last year, and we scored a touchdown on the first play, and we have a running back that steps offside. We talk about how that’s the difference between winning or losing during the game.”
So what happened on the first snap after the meeting? NT Barry Cofield jumped offsides.
Cornerback depth is a question entering training camp, which is why an undrafted rookie such as Chase Minnifield deserves our attention. I noticed two positive plays of his Thursday morning.
He stayed stride-for-stride with TE Niles Paul on a route to the right sideline, and the play went to the other side of the field.
Even more impressive: In goal line drills, he quickly latched on to WR Josh Morgan, who broke out of a stack. Morgan was not open crossing the back of the end zone, and the pass intended for him was overthrown. For a rookie such as Minnifield to know his assignment against a formation designed to confuse the secondary is an auspicious sign.
Continuing with Morgan, let’s go back to the slant QB Robert Griffin III completed to him in the hurry-up situation. Morgan matched up one-on-one with CB Cedric Griffin. Morgan took a few strides up the field and then opened Griffin’s hips to the outside using a hard step with his left foot. That allowed him to cross in front of Griffin to the inside and get open. RG3’s pass was low and inside where only Morgan could catch it. It was a nice throw and even better route.
WR Pierre Garcon flashed a bit Thursday. He caught several intermediate passes during the hurry-up drills. Coach Mike Shanahan praised him after one catch near the left sideline. Garcon had room to get more yards upfield, but he turned directly to the boundary and got out of bounds to stop the clock. That pleased the head man.
Many of you asked for reports on offensive and defensive linemen. Without pads, though, and contact at a minimum, I won’t risk hollow insight on those guys. A couple nuggets, though:
OLB Chris Wilson got around RT Maurice Hurt for what would have been a sack. Wilson stayed low and bent the edge faster than Hurt could kick out to stop him. That’s in line with what we know about both guys.
DE Jarvis Jenkins drew what would have been an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty from a third-string lineman on one pass rush. Jenkins figures to draw lots of attention once players start wearing pads next month.
If you need a Jenkins fix, check out Deron Snyder’s column on him from earlier in OTAs. There are some interesting takeaways in there, including how Jenkins can quantify his stronger upper body.
K Graham Gano said he went 24-for-24 during OTAs, the Redskins tweeted from their official account. For those of you eager to get an early report on his kicking competition with K Neil Rackers, I recommend waiting. Preseason games will determine the winner. Anything before then is premature. And remember, it’s not just field goals. Gano has kept his job partly because he’s very good on directional kickoffs.
Rookie RB Alfred Morris tried to square up SS Brandon Meriweather in pass protection on a third-down play in team drills, but Morris lost his feet and Meriweather would have had a sack. It negated a substantial gain on a throw from QB Robert Griffin III to TE Chris Cooley over the middle. Pass protection could make or break a sixth-round running back who’s trying to crack the roster. Morris also dropped a touchdown pass from QB RexGrossman while running across to the front left pylon. Morris got addition reps with RB Roy Helu Jr. (hamstring) out, and he didn’t exactly capitalize.
Additional injuries include: CB Josh Wilson (thigh) and WR Leonard Hankerson (hip) are not expected to participate in minicamp next week. ILB Perry Riley (groin), DE Adam Carriker (blisters) and OLB Brian Orakpo (left pectoral) were among those limited or out on Thursday.
…if you have questions about specific players, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll do my best.