The Washington Times - May 31, 2013, 11:15AM

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Here are a few thoughts and observations from the Redskins’ sixth of 10 organized team activities, which occurred Thursday at Redskins Park.

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Please keep in mind OTAs focus on learning, installation and conditioning. No pads or contact is allowed, so the pace of play is a step slower than 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:

QB Robert Griffin III began his news conference by asking for questions about the team, intentionally steering the conversation away from his relationship with coach Mike Shanahan and how he feels about how he was used last season. My colleague Nathan Fenno wrote a column about that for Friday’s Washington Times, which I recommend reading. I expressed my thoughts on the matter in last week’s OTA report.

As for what Griffin did on the field, we saw him run cross-field sprints for the first time, in addition to the passing drills he did last week. Griffin ran alongside rookies TE Jordan Reed and RB Chris Thompson, both of whom are recovering from knee injuries. Griffin ran fine. I’ll re-state my belief he looks like he did during practices last December after the Ravens game—he appears to move well, but you can tell something is off.

Griffin, in describing his sprints, said: “Jordan and those guys like to show off for you guys and the camera, so I have to make sure they’re not beating me.” The last part of that bothered former Redskin Brian Mitchell. He said so during our discussion Thursday afternoon on ESPN980, which you can listen to here.

I believe Griffin’s tongue was at least partly in his cheek when he said that, but Griffin previously has said he needs others to hold him back in his rehab. Mitchell believes Griffin’s quote is more evidence supporting the need for strict oversight of his rehab, and I don’t disagree.

One more thing on Griffin: Check out this photo Washington Post columnist Mike Wise snapped of Griffin’s calves. As Wise points out, note how much bigger the left calf (healthy leg) is than his right calf (injured leg):

That’s common in athletes that have surgery. It happened to LS Nick Sundberg’s broken left arm during his recovery last season. The muscle mass should come back as part of Griffin’s rehabilitation.

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Second-year CB Richard Crawford’s increased comfort in the defense is evident. He intercepted a deep pass QB Rex Grossman intended for WR Lance Lewis near the left hash mark.

Crawford began the play on the left side of the defense, the side of the field opposite Lewis. But he knew to drop deep when the play rolled away from his side, and he was in perfect position to play the ball. He almost made the exact same interception last Thursday, but the over-the-shoulder catch was too difficult.

Crawford during his rookie season repeatedly spoke about the need to master his responsibilities, and it wasn’t a smooth process. He was demoted midseason. However, he earned more playing time on defense late in the year, especially after CB Cedric Griffin was suspended, and he had an interception in the NFC East division-deciding game against Dallas.

The interception in Thursday’s practice “is just a product of me knowing what’s going on with our defense,” Crawford said.

Even more encouraging for the secondary, perhaps, is how rookie safety Phillip Thomas took care of his responsibility, enabling Crawford to go after the interception.

“Phillip did a good job of cutting him, so [the rookie defensive backs] are picking up everything, and we’re all on the same page,” Crawford said. “That’s just a better job of us as a secondary being on the same page and the rookies coming in and picking it up very fast.”

Crawford later broke up a quick out intended for WR Josh Morgan. He disrupted the timing and prevented separation with a strong jam at the line of scrimmage, which kept him in position to easily bat down the pass. Crawford doesn’t always go against the first-string offense, but with CB Josh Wilson out recovering from left labrum/pectoral surgery, he took advantage of that chance to match up against the caliber of player he’d face in regular-season games.

Crawford noted how his mental evolution extends beyond pass defense. “Just being on the same page with Coach Haz (defensive coordinator Jim Haslett), and in terms of my run defense being better, too, just being faster on my run fits and everything else. That’s really helped me, just knowing where I need to be. That’s all the biggest difference is.”

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WR Leonard Hankerson, from the left, caught a slant inside the red zone, then stopped and broke back out toward the sideline to gain extra yards. Hankerson made sure to complete the catch before stopping to reverse his field and make a move, something he has struggled with during games.

His tendency to begin making a move before securing the ball has resulted in drops—most notably a missed opportunity for a touchdown against Pittsburgh last October—but the slant on Thursday was well executed. He caught the ball with his hands away from his body and sensed where he needed to go to gain more yards, but he didn’t get ahead of himself.

“You need to catch the ball to make plays,” Hankerson said with a smile.

Hankerson’s arms appear bigger than last year, but he insisted he hasn’t put on weight or intentionally bulked them up.

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WR Aldrick Robinson froze CB David Amerson with a stutter step about 15 yards into a go route. Amerson had S Phillip Thomas helping inside, and that might have affected how he played the route—I didn’t get a chance to ask him. But double moves were problematic for Amerson at N.C. State last season, and that’s going to be a major component of his development.

Later during 9-on-7 drills, WR Santana Moss beat Amerson on a go route on which he drifted to the sideline to create space between himself and Amerson. QB Rex Grossman dropped a perfect ball to Moss over Amerson, as Amerson ran with his back to the play. Another area to watch this summer is Amerson’s ability to defend passes he can’t read and drive on. I wasn’t positioned well to see if Amerson pressed Moss at the line of scrimmage.

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FS Bacarri Rambo was hard on himself after he got caught flat-footed coming down to cover WR Dez Briscoe over the middle during team drills Rambo didn’t change directions in time, and QB Kirk Cousins zipped a completion to Briscoe for a significant gain.

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At 6-foot-8, RT Jeremy Trueblood shares with Tyler Polumbus the title of tallest Redskin. He used that length and size to swallow rookie OLB Brandon Jenkins (6-2) on one pass rush. Trueblood fell out of favor in Tampa Bay last season because of penalties and ineffectiveness, and we’ll get a better sense of whether he can rejuvenate his career with the Redskins in July once players can wear pads and hit.

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K Kai Forbath made five of six field goals, by my count. His two longest attempts were from 54 yards; he left one short and made the other by at least six yards. Go figure.

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Click here for Thursday’s injury/attendance report.

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My favorite moment of practice was a scramble by QB Kirk Cousins. He extended a passing play by rolling right. The route combination played out in a way that completely cleared out the right side of the secondary. Cousins saw it, captured the edge and sprinted downfield for a huge gain. As he turned the corner and recognized he had a 75-yard touchdown run in front of him, he yelled “WOO-HOO-HOOOO!!!!”

Cousins later threw an interception on a screen pass. It hit DE Stephen Bowen’s helmet, and DE Jarvis Jenkins caught it out of the air. Judging from Cousins’ body language after the play, he knew he should have killed the play by throwing it into the ground because the throwing lane wasn’t available.

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Thursday’s playlist, once again compiled by QB Robert Griffin III, was similar to last week’s. It included: Trinidad James, Lil’ Wayne & Drake, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Wale, Wiz Khalifa, T.I., 50 Cent and Ray J & Yung Berg.

“I try to play to the masses,” Griffin said. “Obviously rap is where it’s at. I tried to put some country on; some of my linemen wanted some country, so I had to make sure I took care of them. And then R&B during walkthrough, during the stretch part, was just to keep them calm. But those guys are like bulls in a cage, so I just turned the rap on and pumped up some Biggie.”