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Redskins training camp observations - Tue., July 30

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ANALYSIS/OPINION

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

Let’s start with the highlight: Receiver Santana Moss’ one-handed catch over cornerback E.J. Biggers near the sideline during one-on-one drills.

Moss didn’t separate on his flag route, partly because Biggers did well using his hands to prevent Moss from doing so (he might have been penalized for contacting Moss beyond five yards from the line of scrimmage). But quarterback Robert Griffin III put the ball out in front of Moss and just over Biggers near the boundary. Moss grabbed it out of the air with one hand. So sweet.

Teammates and coaches shouted Moss’ praises after Griffin jogged forward to congratulate him on the catch. “I can’t be covered,” Moss said with a smile.

Early in camp, Moss appears to have his legs under him, similarly to last year. That’s a good sign for the 34-year-old. 

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This was quarterback Kirk Cousins’ best day throwing the ball. His accuracy and timing were better, which is to be expected by the fifth day of practices.

He stayed low and drove a throw on a 12-yard out pattern to receiver Lance Lewis, and the ball arrived in time for Lewis to get both feet in bounds. He perfectly led receiver Joshua Morgan on a 10-yard crossing pattern, and Morgan was able to catch it in stride with cornerback Chase Minnifield on his inside shoulder. During red zone drills, Cousins hit receiver Santana Moss over the middle for a touchdown—it was the third or fourth read in his progression. He clapped his hands after the score.

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The must-see Brian Orakpo-Trent Williams matchup was more evenly matched Tuesday than when Williams dominated Saturday.

Orakpo set the edge on one outside zone running play with a left-handed rip under Williams’ outside shoulder. He helped string the play out for what would have been a loss or no gain. In one-on-one pass protection drills, Orakpo got around Williams with an edge rush.

Orakpo’s left shoulder dip turning the corner is going to invite left tackles to hold his surgically repaired left side. Williams locked him up that way, but Orakpo was powerful enough to get through.

Williams got a measure of revenge when Orakpo tried an inside spin move. He’s so good at recovering and changing direction.

***

Cornerback David Amerson’s length is one reason the Redskins drafted him in the second round. It should help him press receivers at the line and disrupt their timing. However, playing as handsy as he has the last two practices isn’t always positive. He grabbed a handful of receiver Aldrick Robinson’s jersey on an in cut during team drills. Any ref would have thrown a flag for defensive holding.

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Rookie strong safety Phillip Thomas broke up a pass intended for rookie tight end Jordan Reed near the right sideline during team drills. It was a broken play that took too long to develop, but Thomas still ranged to the sideline with Reed and played the ball. He was responsible for only part of the deep secondary, which is something he did well at Fresno St in Cover-2. It’ll be interesting to see how much ground he can cover if the Redskins ever use him as a single high safety in preseason games.

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Redskins inside linebackers have significant pass coverage responsibilities; that’s one way Roddrick Muckelroy could grab the fourth ILB roster spot.

He earned praise from linebackers coach Bob Slowik for how he latched on to receiver Santana Moss in zone coverage near the goal line during red zone work. Muckelroy stayed with Moss as Moss tried to get free moving laterally at the goal line.

Earlier, though, running back Keiland Williams outran Muckelroy on a wheel or go route (I didn’t see which) down the right sideline.

***

Tight end Fred Davis went totally horizontal in diving for an underthrown pass by quarterback Rex Grossman during team drills. Davis doesn’t need to impress anyone by laying out. He’s going to be the first-string tight end if he’s healthy. He easily could have let the ball bounce and no one would have thought twice about it. I was impressed by his commitment and effort on the play.

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Quarterback Robert Griffin III on Monday mentioned how receiver Aldrick Robinson has become more consistent catching the ball in traffic. Robinson supported that Tuesday with a reception on a crossing route with cornerback Richard Crawford on his back during team drills.

He drove Crawford off by pushing up the field and sharply cutting in. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan teaches his receivers to make every route look the same, like a go route, and defensive backs are always going to have to respect Robinson’s ability to go deep. Quarterback Rex Grossman accurately led Robinson inside, and Robinson used his body to shield Crawford and keep him on his back. He caught the ball away from his body so that Crawford couldn’t strip it.

Overall, Robinson is flashing by catching balls on a variety of routes. He is growing as a route runner. The main question about him involves blocking. With his relatively small frame, can he be the effective run blocker Mike Shanahan demands his receivers to be?

***

Cornerback Chase Minnifield was beaten in press coverage twice during one-on-one drills.

Receiver Leonard Hankerson set him up to the outside and beat him inside with a quick stutter step. A couple of reps later, Minnifield tried to be more physical against receiver Lance Lewis. Minnifield got both of his hands into Lewis immediately after the snap, but Lewis simply threw him off and ran free.

Also of note: When Hankerson beat Minnifield, Hankerson turned it into a go route by putting his hand up to signal for the ball. Quarterback Robert Griffin III overthrew Hankerson, even though he was about 10 feet clear of Minnifield.

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Safety Jordan Pugh dropped two potential interceptions he got both of his hands on. His feet weren’t under him on either play, but both balls were catchable. Perhaps that’s one thing that sets playmakers apart from those who aren’t—the ability to finish plays when off balance.

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Sav Rocca experimented last season with a side-over-side punt he intended to hit the ground and shoot laterally toward the sideline. One of his punts Tuesday had such side spin, but it turns out that wasn’t intentional. Rocca got a bit tired toward the end of his punting session and kicked the ground on his leg swing. He was a bit embarrassed after practice, but he laughed it off.

 

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