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Redskins training camp observations - Sat., July 27

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ANALYSIS/OPINION

RICHMOND—Here are a few thoughts, observations and notes from training camp on Saturday. Players wore shoulder pads for the afternoon practice for the first time, which intensified the session and provided more of a realistic game feel.

First, the injury/participation updates: Strong safety Brandon Meriweather took only a handful of reps during team drills in the afternoon. He noticeably limped on his surgically repaired right knee during the morning, but he moved fine in the afternoon.

What coach Mike Shanahan said about Meriweather’s recovery after practice is worth filing away: “We’ve limited him overall because I do see him being a little bit, or at least on the edge where I don’t want him to push himself too hard. We’ve got to get him back in football shape, probably more so than the rest of the [other players coming off surgeries].”

So Shanahan sees the need to be particularly cautious with Meriweather. That’s not particularly encouraging.

Defensive end Chris Baker left team drills early due to cramps. He received intravenous fluids and is expected to be fine. Receiver Donte Stallworth sat out the afternoon because he slightly strained his hamstring in the morning, Shanahansaid.

Inside linebacker London Fletcher and receiver Pierre Garcon, both of whom had offseason surgery, sat out the afternoon as a maintenance day.

Also, free agent linebacker Joe Mays was scheduled to begin a visit with Redskins officials at 6 p.m. Shanahan would not say whether the Redskins intended to sign him.

***

The afternoon practice included one-on-one drills between receivers and defensive backs, offensive and defensive linemen, and running backs and linebackers. Now the real fun begins.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson began the one-on-ones by sprinting past rookie cornerback David Amerson on a go route. Amerson either saw something that made him think Robinson was going to hook up the route, or he guessed wrong. Robinson separated by at least five yards.

Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris had some colorful words for Amerson and made him get back in the drill and go again. Amerson surrendered too many big plays at NC State last season because of poor eye discipline and technique. Cleaning that up is a major focus of his during camp.

When Amerson got back in the drill, he jammed receiver Chip Reeves and used his three-inch size advantage to pin Reeves toward the sideline. Reeves, however, is not the caliber of receiver Amerson will face during the regular season.

Amerson was more disciplined during team drills. On one play, he passed off a receiver to the inside and switched off to fullback Darrel Young running to the boundary. Later, he didn’t bite on Kirk Cousins’ pump fake. 

It’s clear Amerson has the physical tools to be a good cornerback. He’s long, tall and he can turn and run. Mistakes like he made against Robinson should only help his learning process this summer.

***

Telling you Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams looked great in practice is like saying the sky is blue or fans here want Robert Griffin III’s autograph. Williams always looks good when he’s healthy, and right now he’s healthy. He has it all—quick feet, good balance, powerful upper body. He’s a stud.

Williams handled right outside linebacker Brian Orakpo in one-on-ones and team drills by moving his feet well and staying low. I can’t recall the matchups between those two ever being so one-sided. One gaffe, though: Williams’ false start when Orakpo showed pass rush.

***

Receiver Leonard Hankerson had an inconsistent practice, which fits what Shanahan said about him afterward: “He’s got to be more consistent, not only blocking but catching the short route, the deep route.”

Hankerson dropped a pass in the end zone after separating from the cornerback on a go route during one-on-one drills. “He has to have that concentration level,” Shanahan said. “He has to be mentally tough to make those plays in practice, which will carry over to games.”

Hankerson also didn’t beat cornerback Jerome Murphy’s jam on one rep during one-on-ones. Murphy got into his chest and rode him wide to disrupt the timing of Hankerson’s route back to the middle of the field.

On the plus side, Hankerson used his body to shield cornerback David Amerson and catch a high throw on a comeback route near the sideline. He completed the catch with Amerson draped on his back. Again, consistency.

***

During 7-on-7 drills, quarterback Robert Griffin III overthrew go routes to receivers Santana Moss and Chip Reeves. He also overthrew receiver Joshua Morgan to the post. Accuracy and timing apparently takes time to regain.

He later hammed it up for the crowd with an exaggerated slide and roll while running the ball. Even Mike Shanahan laughed.

***

During team drills, running back Alfred Morris picked up cornerback David Amerson’s blitz, squared up the block and stopped Amerson. Morris improved as a pass blocker as last season progressed. Although Roy Helu Jr. is getting many reps in third-down situations so far, pass protection helps make Morris a complete back.

***

Tight end Jordan Reed blocked smaller, undrafted inside linebackers on separate running plays during team drills. He got away once with leading with turning sideways and leading with his front shoulder, and he did the same thing another time when he chipped a defensive lineman. It’s clear he is a willing blocker. Coaches can work with that.

***

Rookie outside linebacker Brandon Jenkins is tough to block in one-on-one drills because he’s so quick. He beat right tackle Jeremy Trueblood with a two-handed swipe to the inside and later beat right tackle Tony Pashos with an inside spin move.

Space for those inside moves, however, won’t necessarily be available in game situations. Some of the offensive linemen like to point out how one-on-one pass protection drills are stacked against them, and that was a good example. Still, Jenkins was known for quick hands and feet rushing the passer at Florida St. That’s his strength, while coverage responsibilities will take time to master.

***

During one-on-one drills, left guard Josh LeRibeus recovered quickly after defensive end Phillip Merling chopped down on his arms. He stayed balanced and got his hands back up to finish the block. Earlier, LeRibeus got his hands into Merling’s chest and controlled him with a strong upper body. LeRibeus doesn’t look like a great athlete, but he shows flashes of why the Redskins drafted him in the third round last year.

Later during team drills, though, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan disengaged from LeRibeus’s hands and got around him with a rip move.

***

A little more love for the O-line: During team drills, the backups effectively switched off on a stunt against the first-string defense. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo came inside, and LeRibeus and center Kevin Matthews pushed the defensive end out to left tackle Tom Compton and reset to block Orakpo. The stunt took too long to develop, but the offensive line read it and played it well.

First-string left guard Kory Lichtensteiger later switched off to block an inside blitz by the slot cornerback. The communication required to handle stunts is one way in which continuity will help the offense front.

***

Left outside linebacker Darryl Tapp blocked tight end Fred Davis back at least two yards to set the edge on an outside run. Tapp was lower than Davis and got his hands inside Davis’. Blocking and cutting are Davis’ two main focuses coming off his left Achilles’ tendon tear.

***

Kai Forbath made field goals from 54 and 58 yards in full-team special teams drills. His 54-yarder cleared the net at the top of the uprights, and the 58-yarder almost did. Forbath CRUSHED those kicks. The key: an easy, smooth leg swing, he said.

That’s it for Saturday. Players are off Sunday and back at it Monday. If you have any questions about players or anything else, feel free to email me at rcampbell@washingtontimes.com or hit me on Twitter @Rich_Campbell.

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