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Redskins training camp observations - Sat., Aug. 2

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ANALYSIS/OPINION

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

The energy level was higher than usual. Fan Appreciation Day had something to do with that. The Redskins practiced in front of more than 25,000 people, the team announced. The sidelines were completely packed. Richmond has embraced the Redskins, and Saturday’s turnout is among the strongest evidence of that to date.

Also, players wore practice pants instead of the usual mesh shorts, which gave the session a slight gameday feel. They wore thigh and knee pads, which new NFL rules require. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan called the pads somewhat “restrictive,” but he wore them at Purdue, so it doesn’t require a significant adjustment. Offensive lineman Kory Lichtensteiger couldn’t remember ever wearing practice pants in four offseasons with the Redskins under Shanahan, and I can’t recall such a session either.

This was the final practice in a rigorous week. “I feel like my legs are cast in cement,” tight end Logan Paulsen said afterward. “It’s been six straight days of beasting out.”

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Click here for the details of RG3’s practice. His inconsistency shouldn’t necessarily be a cause for alarm. He isn’t even seven months removed from right knee surgery. It’s important to remember two things about Griffin’s recovery: 1) He is not ready to play in a regular season game, and 2) He still has 37 days to get his knee and his throwing mechanics ready. In other words, he’s still on course to start Week 1.

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Second-round rookie cornerback David Amerson earned coaches’ praise during one-on-one drills against wide receivers.

Aldrick Robinson tried to run him off by pushing up the field as if he were running a go route before sharply cutting back toward the line of scrimmage. Amerson, however, stayed close because of an effective backpedal. Amerson stayed low and balanced, and his feet were quick, so when Robinson cut back, Amerson drove on the route. That excited defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who told Amerson: “That’s what I’m talking about.”

Receiver Pierre Garcon later got Amerson into a trail position, but Amerson reacted quickly when Garcon squared his route in at about 12 yards. Quarterback Robert Griffin III completed the pass with a perfectly placed throw into the small window out in front of Garcon, but Amerson’s coverage was good.

One of Amerson’s last one-on-one reps provided a teaching moment for defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. When undrafted rookie receiver Chip Reeves caught a pass on a comeback route and used his body to shield Amerson, Amerson tried to break up the pass by jumping over the top of Reeves and hacking down with his right hand. Coaches wanted Amerson to stay on the ground and swing an upward punch at the ball, something second-year cornerback Richard Crawford did later during 7-on-7s to force receiver Leonard Hankerson to fumble.

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Cornerback Chase Minnifield appears healthy, and he’s competing at a high level. If he keeps this up, he’ll force his way onto the final 53-man roster. Staying healthy is a big ‘if,’ considering his checkered knee history, but so far, so good.

It’s obvious he likes to play press coverage. He’s most eager to stick receivers during one-on-one drills. Minnifield got into trouble earlier in the week by lunging at the line of scrimmage, but that was not the case Sunday against receiver Pierre Garcon. Minnifield played over his feet, which enabled him to stay balanced and hinder Garcon’s release. Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris emphatically clapped for Minnifield’s job well done.

Later during one on ones, Minnifield trailed the receiver on a go route and didn’t find the ball when it was slightly underthrown. He ran through the receiver for an obvious pass interference call.

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Receiver Pierre Garcon’s catch of a high slant pass during team drills that reminded me of so many receptions he had in traffic last season. He aggressively finishes routes over the middle, and the tough mentality he demonstrates while blocking carries over to the passing game. He has run well through the first week of camp, showing no signs of last year’s foot injury or the offseason labrum surgery.

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Fourth-round safety Phillip Thomas continues to impress coaches by how he plays in the box. He understands his responsibilities and has been sound in his run fits. Watch him closely on Thursday against Tennessee.

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Two plays during end-of-game situational drills highlighted how slim the difference between failure and success can be for quarterbacks.

Kirk Cousins had tight end Fred Davis about 10 yards in front of him over the middle inside the red zone, but his throw was about a foot outside of Davis’ body. That enabled outside linebacker Rob Jackson to break it up.

At the end of that drive, however, Cousins made a similar throw to tight end Logan Paulsen, who had posted up in the end zone. He fit the pass between two defenders for a touchdown. One foot was the difference between incompletion and touchdown.

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Speaking of Cousins, he has started doing the jump-on-an-offensive-lineman celebration bit in practice. During red zone drills, receiver Santana Moss freed himself with a sharp cut in on a slant from the right. Cousins hit him as he crossed the goal line, then celebrated the touchdown by spazzing out and jumping onto center Will Montgomery. He has done this a couple times now in camp, and I’m dying to see whether he does it Thursday. Good stuff.

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Cornerback Josh Wilson intercepted quarterback Rex Grossman’s forced pass over the middle in the end zone to win the game for the defense during end-of-game situations. It was the highlight of Wilson’s camp so far. The frequency at which he has surrendered receptions in team drills stands out. He missed the offseason because of labrum surgery, so it stands to reason he needs time to revert to playing at a high level.

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Both kickers attempted field goals Saturday. Incumbent Kai Forbath and challenger John Potter were both, by my unofficial count, 6 for 7.

Forbath connected from 30, 36, 42, 44, 48 and 51 yards. He hit the right upright from 59.

Potter made from 28, 36, 42, 42 again, 51 and from 63. Yes, his 63-yarder cleared the crossbar by about five feet. He missed wide left from 47.

“Pretty good job by both kickers,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “We did have a little wind, but I think that was a 63-yarder, but you know, he’s got a strong leg, talking about Potter.

“Obviously what Kai did last year (17 of 18 field goals, and perfect on 12 attempts beyond 39 yards) doesn’t happen with rookies. So for him to take advantage of that opportunity should give him a lot of confidence and should help him with this season, believing in himself, and hopefully doing what he did last year.”

…the Redskins have Sunday off. They practice Monday and Tuesday, and they travel to Nashville on Wednesday. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, folks.

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