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Redskins training camp observations - Wed., July 31

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

It rained hard for all but the last 20 minutes of the two-hour session. Coach Mike Shanahan considered the team lucky because it rained so hard without lightning. That presented a rare opportunity for the Redskins to work in poor conditions they likely will face at some point during a game.

If the conditions were similar during a regular-season practice in Ashburn, the Redskins almost certainly would move to the practice bubble, if only to preserve the surface of the outdoor practice fields.

“I wanted to practice more because they’ve got to handle those situations,” Shanahan said.

The offense encountered problems typical of playing in wet conditions. Quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Alfred Morris fumbled an exchange during team drills. Receiver Leonard Hankerson and tight end Logan Paulsen each had passes slip through their hands.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III made the most notable weather-related play. All of his receivers were covered on one snap during 7-on-7 drills, so he sprinted upfield in the downpour. It was a brazen move on the wet field with his right knee.

“When you do have a guy like Robert, or a number of people that have ACL injuries or serious injuries, they have to be a little more careful,” Shanahan said in response to a general question about protecting injured players in poor weather, not specifically Griffin’s sprint. “They’ve got to slow down their stride. But that’s one of the reasons why Robert is not in a team situation where he’s got to take off very quickly, because that could obviously hurt somebody.”

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The Redskins gave Griffin 16 or 17 reps in 7-on-7 drills Wednesday, Shanahan said, up from the 10 or so he has gotten on each of the last few afternoons. He also quarterbacked some one-on-one drills, as usual. Two throws stood out to me:

One incompletion appeared to result from some type of misunderstanding between tight end Fred Davis and him. Griffin overthrew Davis when Davis cut in at about 10 yards. It looked like Griffin expected him to do something else. Reestablishing an understanding and rhythm with receivers will be an ongoing process throughout the different stages of Griffin’s return.

The other throw I noted was a completion to a well-covered Alfred Morris. Morris ran straight ahead out of the backfield with a two-way go against linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy. Muckelroy stayed close to Morris when Morris cut to the right, but Griffin perfectly placed the throw where only Morris could catch it out in front of his body. Griffin emphatically clapped after the completion, a job well done.

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Rookie strong safety Phillip Thomas ran with tight end Fred Davis on a fly route down the right sideline and broke up a pass from quarterback Robert Griffin III. Thomas got his head turned in time, found the ball and swatted it away with his right hand.

Most defensive backs are more comfortable playing balls in front of them, and that was true with Thomas at Fresno St. How he and rookie safety Bacarri Rambo play in coverage with their backs to the line of scrimmage will help determine whether they imapct games with their ball skills.

***

Speaking of good awareness by safeties, Reed Doughty ran about 30 yards to break up a deep pass intended for receiver Aldrick Robinson during team drills. Doughty began the play as one of two deep safeties. He shuffled to the middle of the field after the snap, keeping his eyes on the quarterback.

Doughty recognized Robinson sprinting to the middle of the field on a post in an attempt to get behind the defense, so he turned his back to the line of scrimmage and took an angle that led him to the catch point by the time Robinson and the ball arrived. Doughty’s awareness and understanding of the angle compensated for his speed disadvantage. That type of veteran savvy is his greatest asset.

***

After cornerback Chase Minnifield was beaten twice in press coverage on Tuesday, veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall noticed Minnifield was lunging too far forward immediately after the snap. The receivers were taking advantage of his lost balance. Hall spoke to Minnifield on the sideline about it.

Well, Minnifield committed an offsides penalty during one-on-one drills Wednesday because he lunged into the receiver before the snap.

***

Cornerback Josh Wilson surrendered two completions to receiver Lance Lewis in one-on-one drills. It must be noted that corners are at a significant disadvantage during one-on-ones because they have no help and there is no pass rush. That said, Lewis, who has a five-inch height advantage over Wilson, caught a pass over his head that Wilson was not in position to reach.

Wilson’s length was a problem last season on several back-shoulder throws that resulted in touchdowns. That’s the context to the Redskins’ selection of 6-1 cornerback David Amerson in the second round in April.

Lewis’ other catch against Wilson was one-handed on a go route. He just outran Wilson deep.

***

Right tackle Tony Pashos doesn’t slide his feet quickly when he fires out and sets in pass protection. That’s understandable — he turns 33 on Saturday and was out of the NFL last season recovering from foot surgery. He compensates for that with a long reach and powerful punch. This has played out between outside linebacker Darryl Tapp and him throughout padded afternoon practices.

Sometimes Tapp beats Pashos around the edge with the speed rush when Pashos is unable to keep up. Other times, Pashos redirects Tapp wide with his punch or rides him out of the pocket.

I’m eager to see how well Pashos moves as a run blocker and how athletically he gets downfield on screens during preseason games. If Tom Compton doesn’t lock down a swing tackle role during the preseason, and if Maurice Hurt (right knee) can’t get healthy, Pashos would be well positioned to make the team. Two ‘ifs’ are a lot, but that scenario is quite possible.

***

Second-string nose tackle Chris Neild is stout and compact, like a bowling ball inside. Sometimes he comes off the ball leaning too far forward, though, and center Will Montgomery has taken advantage of that on multiple occasions the last two days.

Montgomery has pulled Neild forward, through the lean, and planted him in the turf. Neild plays behind his pads, but he gets in trouble when he doesn’t play under them. He is focused this summer on being a more effective pass rusher, and getting a feel for the most effective leverage is part of that.

***

Receiver Aldrick Robinson held cornerback Richard Crawford on a screen pass to receiver Joshua Morgan. Robinson didn’t disengage as Morgan ran by, and he illegally held on to Crawford up high.

Robinson’s blocking ability will have a significant impact on how much he plays in short yardage situations. Mike and Kyle Shanahan would be more likely to use him if his presence in the game didn’t telegraph a passing play.

***

Bluff blocks were one of the coolest—and most effective—elements of the Redskins’ option running game last season. Tight end Logan Paulsen provided an example late in Wednesday’s practice during team drills.

He ran at outside linebacker Rob Jackson on a running play and squared up to block Jackson at the line of scrimmage. Jackson broke his feet down and prepared to engage the block.

When Jackson did that, Paulsen cut upfield and ran to block a safety instead. Jackson’s hesitation took him out of the play, and Paulsen still was able to go block another defender. Such scheming creates a numbers advantage for the offense that goes a long way toward averaging a league-best 169.3 yards per game, as Washington did last season.

Two examples of successful bluff blocks are included in this highlights package of the Redskins’ division-clinching win over Dallas last December. See the 2:22 mark for Paulsen’s, and the 3-minute mark for fullback Darrel Young’s. (h/t to @TMM75)

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