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Redskins training camp observations - Thu., Aug. 1

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ANALYSIS/OPINION

RICHMOND—Here are a few thoughts and observations from Redskins training camp on Thursday:

The afternoon padded practice was the most intense session of camp. The conditions were poor. A nasty thunderstorm hit about an hour before practice. Then the sun emerged, making the air thick and muggy and lifting the heat index into the 90s.

The practice included work on what Shanahan called the “turbo offense” – no huddle, hurry-up situations. Also, players hit all the way to the end. Before the final horn sounded, tight end Niles Paul doubled over. Tight end Logan Paulsen took a knee in the middle of the field after one offensive drive. Players were slow getting up after each play because they were exhausted.

Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said it was difficult to endure, but he felt a sense of accomplishment as he headed to the showers.

“You want to see guys push themselves when they are really tired,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “That’s how they get back in football shape. This is how they get in game shape, where you get ready for the first of the season. But it’s an ongoing process. …I thought we pushed our guys pretty hard today especially with the humidity the way it was.”

Coaches expect full effort from all players, but I still was impressed by how committed the first-string guys were to finishing strong. For example, almost two hours into practice, nose tackle Barry Cofield sprinted to the sideline after running back Alfred Morris, who caught a screen pass. Linebacker London Fletcher laid out running back Evan Royster in the final session, then waved to amp up the fans. It was physical, competitive and intense.

***

Quarterback Robert Griffin III completed 16 of 17 passes during 7-on-7 drills. Many of them were check-downs or shallow crosses. He moved smoothly and planted firmly during agility drills on the side field during special teams periods. The agility drills, to me, are the best indicator of how his knee will handle the stresses of explosive moments in game situations. He’s progressing.

***

Fourth-round rookie safety Phillip Thomas played with the first string because Brandon Meriweather is not healthy and Reed Doughty got a veteran’s day off. Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris coached him up hard during 7-on-7s, imploring him to communicate and critiquing and praising his play.

Morris liked how Thomas positioned himself to defend a seam route from a high pre-snap position during 7-on-7 drills.

Thomas’s aggressive run fit during team drills limited running back Alfred Morris to a short gain on an outside run. Thomas was patient in making his read before coming downhill, which is important against a runner who presses the hole as well as Morris. Thomas took the proper angle to limit Morris’ yards.

Earlier in team drills, tight end Logan Paulsen ran a 10-yard hitch. He stuck out his arm at the top of his break, keeping Thomas at arm’s length, and that’s all the space the quarterback needed to fit the completion in.

***

Rookie free safety Bacarri Rambo helped cornerback David Amerson over the top at the left hashmark on a deep ball intended for receiver Josh Morgan. Rambo jumped to catch the ball at its highest point, but it went between his arms, and Morgan caught it. Rambo read the play properly and ranged to make the play, but those vaunted ball skills of his betrayed him.

I mentioned this yesterday in an observation about Thomas, but how the rookie safeties play with their back to the line of scrimmage is worth watching closely this preseason.

***

Third-round rookie tight end Jordan Reed made a sliding catch near the sideline in 7-on-7 drills, but he dropped a pass shortly thereafter. Consistency is a sticking point for rookies, but Reed’s pass-catching ability and athleticism are obvious.

***

Outside linebacker Rob Jackson blew up a zone-read keeper by quarterback Rex Grossman. Yes, Rex’s zone-read keepers are my favorite part of this camp.

In all seriousness, Mike and Kyle Shanahan have said the zone read is here to stay because it creates the threat of a quarterback running, and that affects defenses in many advantageous ways. Rex obviously isn’t accustomed to reading defensive players on the edge, so it’s something to work on in practice, even if the odds of him running zone read in a game are long.

On that play, Jackson attacked the mesh point and then redirected to Grossman before Grossman cleared himself. He’s, um, not as fast at Robert Griffin, and therefore much less of a threat.

***

Sticking with Jackson, he helped force an incompletion on wheel route by tight end Jordan Reed. Jackson slid to the sideline and then opened his body to run with Reed. He used his body to pin Reed to the sideline, and the throw led Reed out of bounds.

Watching Jackson make that coverage read and move to the sideline reminded me of his division-clinching interception against Dallas.

***

Seventh-round rookie running back Jawan Jamison scored a 20-yard touchdown during red zone work. By pressing the hole, he sucked cornerback Chase Minnifield inside, and Minnifield lost contain. Jamison cut the run outside and scored easily. He should get significant playing time in the second half a week from Thursday in Nashville.

***

Receiver Dez Briscoe dropped a pass near the sideline during the 2-minute drill. It looked like he took his eyes off the ball before securing the catch.

“C’mon, man, you gotta catch that!” Mike Shanahan yelled. It’s never good when the head man is on you.

***

The first-string defense beat the second-string offense with an overload blitz during the 2-minute drill. Left tackle Tom Compton blocked down, which opened up a lane through which slot cornerback Josh Wilson came free. Compton should benefit from seeing those blitzes in practice and working on whatever communication is necessary to account for all the defenders.

On the bright side, left tackle Trent Williams and left guard Josh LeRibeus later picked up a stunt between linebackers Rob Jackson and Darryl Tapp.

***

There were more examples of intensity during the 2-minute drill. The first-string offense faced fourth down against the second-string defense at about the 20-yard line going in.

“One down to win the game!” linebacker Bryan Kehl yelled. After quarterback Kirk Cousins extended the drive by completing a quick pass to receiver Leonard Hankerson, Kehl yelled, “They haven’t scored yet!”

And they didn’t. Afterwards, a defensive coach was asked what he thought of the group’s 2-minute drill performance. “They didn’t [bleeping] score, did they?” he said.

On that fourth down completion to Hankerson, safety DeJon Gomes jammed tight end Logan Paulsen at the line of scrimmage and never let him release. The ball went elsewhere, but Gomes did his job by staying balanced and keeping his feet moving while engaged with Paulsen.

***

It’s easy to see why players love defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. He has a fun personality.

During 7-on-7 drills, one fan yelled at Morris to put in cornerback Chase Minnifield. Morris acknowledged the fan and called Minnifield in.

Two plays later, linebacker Will Compton intercepted a pass that Minnifield also was in position to break up. Morris turned to the crowd and yelled: “I knew I should have put Chase in a long time ago!”

Minnifield surrendered a completion on the next play, though. “Who put Chase in?!?” Morris yelled. Great shtick. 

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