Here are a few thoughts and observations from the Redskins’ minicamp practice on Tuesday. The session was similar in nature to OTAs. Players did not wear pads, and no contact was allowed, so the pace of play was a step slower than it will be in training camp. And with several injured/recovering players not cleared to practice, depth charts are out of whack.
Having said that, let’s go:
It was good to see WR Donte Stallworth move well less than three months after his horrific hot-air balloon accident. (For more on Stallworth’s return, check out Mike Harris’ column.) Coach Mike Shanahan was impressed enough by Stallworth’s tryout that he intends to sign him.
Stallworth showed some of the capable straight line speed he did in 11 games for the Redskins in 2011. He didn’t separate from S Devin Holland on a go route early in team drills, but he ran fast. The quarterback threw elsewhere.
Stallworth’s chances of making the final roster aren’t bad. Shanahan kept seven receivers in two of his three seasons here and kept six in the other. Pierre Garcon, Joshua Morgan, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson are favored to make the team, but there could well be additional room.
Stallworth is a physical player who gets in and out of his breaks well, even if he isn’t the most elusive runner after the catch. He handles himself professionally and has many positive relationships with members of the coaching staff.
S DeJon Gomes intercepted QB Rex Grossman during team drills. Gomes lined up near the line of scrimmage—his strong suit—and dropped about five yards after the snap. He kept his eyes moving, surveying the offense. When he read Grossman’s intention to throw to TE Logan Paulsen underneath, he drove hard on the route and successfully jumped it.
Gomes thrives in the box. He’s more comfortable with his reads there, and he’s a good tackler when he’s going forward. As with SS Reed Doughty, the Redskins are best off with personnel groupings that don’t require Gomes to play high. Pass defense can be more complex further from the line of scrimmage, and angles can be difficult to master, especially considering Gomes played some linebacker at Nebraska. That’s a main reason why the free safety position is the Redskins’ most intriguing entering training camp. Finding a free safety that enables Gomes, Doughty and Brandon Meriweather to do what they do best near the line of scrimmage is one of the keys to significant defensive improvement.
The competition for backup offensive line positions is another compelling storyline. There is considerable uncertainty. Offensive linemen are at a disadvantage when pads are prohibited, so I hesitate to draw conclusions from Tuesday’s session. Technique, of course, is going to set some guys apart—and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
I’m interested to see Tony Pashos push Jeremy Trueblood at right tackle. If Pashos moves as though he’s recovered from last year’s left foot surgery, I like his chances.
G Josh LeRibeus, last year’s third-round pick, missed OTAs with a left hamstring injury and did not participate Tuesday. Weight management was an issue for him in college, and it’s imperative he report to camp in great shape because he showed promise as a run blocker late last season.
G/T Maurice Hurt, a seventh-round pick in 2011, has hung on to a roster spot since the middle of his rookie season, but he’s coming off minor left knee surgery. If he falters, a spot opens.
RB Roy Helu Jr. caught a pass near the right sideline at the end of practice, then sharply juked twice getting up the field. His surgically-repaired left foot showed no signs of the injury that sidelined him almost all of last season.
Helu had 49 receptions as a rookie in 2011. That’s more than any Redskins player had last season. If QB Robert Griffin III is going to preserve his health this season by checking the ball down more often instead of running with it, it would benefit the Redskins significantly to have a running back who can catch as well as Helu. Helu has to do his part and stay healthy.
TE Niles Paul was noticeably upset with himself after he held ILB Will Compton on the second level a run by QB Pat White. Paul said last week he feels more comfortable with his blocking responsibilities in his second offseason practicing the tight end position. He believes he will not have to rely so much on his athleticism in getting to blocks. Well, he didn’t get into position to seal Compton on the play, and he grabbed Compton illegally around the waist.
…That’s it for today. There’s another practice tomorrow, and assistant coaches are scheduled to speak to media for the first time this offseason. We’ll hear from both coordinators and the whole gang, so check back in for what should be some good insight.