The Washington Times - August 6, 2013, 07:15AM

ANALYSIS/OPINION

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

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Quarterback Robert Griffin III threw the ball as well during 7-on-7 drills as I can remember since he got hurt last December. During Saturday’s session, he was inconsistent at best, sloppy at worst, so perhaps Sunday’s day off helped.

On Monday, he drove the ball well with his lower half. He planted and pushed off of his surgically repaired right leg, and he consistently finished his throws by bringing his right leg through, low to the ground, often parallel with his left leg. That’s a sign of his power. It resulted in 13 completions on 16 attempts, including one drop by receiver Santana Moss and a low incompletion to receiver Pierre Garcon that needed to be low because of how the defender was positioned.

Only one throw sailed on Griffin, a 20-yarder intended for receiver Aldrick Robinson near right right sideline. Griffin obviously didn’t push off as strongly on that throw as he did on others. Overall, though, he was accurate throwing intermediate routes into tight windows, and his velocity was quite good.

I said this after Griffin’s relatively bad day Saturday, and it also applies after Monday’s improved session: Consistency always is a big part of coming back from injury. By easing Griffin back into full participation, coach Mike Shanahan is enabling Griffin to refine his mechanics at a measured pace. I doubt we’ll ever know for sure how much Sunday’s rest helped Griffin on Monday, but it’ll be interesting to watch him after future days off. If fatigue was in issue with Griffin’s legs, then that would further validate Shanahan’s decision to slow play Griffin’s return.

Before Griffin’s 7-on-7 session in the afternoon, he insisted he’s ready for team drills.

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Quarterback Kirk Cousins expected his rhythm to improve by last weekend, and it has. Early in team drills, for example, he released a pass on time at the top of his five-step drop, and it hit receiver Josh Morgan in stride over the middle. It took a few days for all of the quarterbacks to improve in that regard, which Cousins said is normal for the start of camp.

I examined Cousins in greater detail for a story that ran in Tuesday’s newspaper. You can read that here. In discussing the importance of his preseason opportunity, he emphasized the value of playing against first-string defenses as opposed to the reserves he faced last preseason. He played only one full game against a starting defense last season—his 329-yard, two-touchdown game in the win at Cleveland, so he is eager to test himself again.

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Receiver Leonard Hankerson dropped two passes. The first, during team drills, was just over his head; it went through his hands, and cornerback Josh Wilson intercepted the deflection. Later, Hankerson dropped a chest-high throw at the sideline as he was running toward it.

Hankerson is well positioned on the depth chart, but that’s partly because the Redskins aren’t deep at receiver. He would improve his standing with coaches by playing more consistently, as coach Mike Shanahan said last week. On one hand, this is Hankerson’s third NFL season, which is time for receivers to step forward. On the other, he barely played his first season because it took him time to master the playbook, and then he injured his hip. I’m curious to see how much the Redskins play him this preseason. He could significantly benefit from the experience, but the Redskins can’t afford to lose him to injury.

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Right tackle Tyler Polumbus pushed left outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan down on a pass play early in team drills. Polumbus’ punch disrupted Kerrigan enough that he slipped.

Kerrigan has consistently won that matchup during camp, as you might expect, but score one for Polumbus. If anything, pass blocking against a Pro Bowl linebacker every day should help his footwork and balance on pass sets.

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Right guard Adam Gettis returned to team drills from his hamstring injury. Nose tackle Ron Brace got across Gettis’ body in pursuit of an outside zone run. Later, defensive end Jarvis Jenkins got his inside shoulder into Gettis’ chest and blew up a run in the backfield.

I don’t mean to pick on an injury guy that just returned from several days off. I mention Gettis, though, because he is one of several moving roster parts on the second-string offensive line. Gettis practices only at right guard, so his versatility—that all-important quality for a reserve lineman—is in question. And if he’s a week behind because of his injury, his challenge of making the team is even greater.  

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Tight end Niles Paul appeared to have a fantastic day as a receiver. It’s one thing for him to outrun undrafted linebacker Will Compton through the middle of the defense on a long catch-and-run for a touchdown, which he did. It’s another for him to beat cornerback E.J. Biggers by a step across the middle for a reception aided by Rex Grossman’s perfectly placed throw. Later, to make sure he beat every defensive position in coverage, he separated from free safety Bacarri Rambo for a touchdown reception during red zone drills.

Paul even stayed in to pass block on the edge on one pass play during team drills, a role he doesn’t often fill. If he can block an end on passing plays, thereby creating uncertainty about whether he’ll release on a pass route, that would give the Redskins’ offense an advantage.

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On an outside zone running play to the right, second-string left tackle Tom Compton kept defensive Kedric Golston at bay by sticking his left arm in Golston’s chest as he ran to the right. Coaches and defensive players have praised Compton’s increased strength, and that play was evidence of it. Inconsistency pass blocking, however, has been problematic for him during camp. He’s near the top of my list of players to watch in Thursday’s preseason game.

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The Redskins on the last play of practice simulated a frantic end-of-game field goal with the clock ticking down. Imagine a completion in the middle of the field with no time outs in the final seconds.

The field-goal team sprinted onto the field with about 10 seconds showing on the running clock. Holder Sav Rocca ran while waving a hand towel in a circle over his head to signal the fire-drill field goal.

Nick Sundberg snapped the ball with 1 second remaining. But there was a problem.

In their haste, Rocca and kicker Kai Forbath failed to identify the proper place to spot the ball, or at least they weren’t on the same page regarding where the ball would be spotted. Usually, with the clock stopped Rocca and Forbath have time to identify the spot, and then Forbath paces off the steps he needs to run up and kick the ball.

Forbath’s kick from 45 or so yards was short. He and Rocca had an intense discussion after the play.

“That’s why you practice those situations,” Forbath said, shaking his head. He wanted to practice it again, but Mike Shanahan likes to simulate game situations—and in games you only get one try.