Ah, minicamp. The trees are blooming, the birds are singing (at least until Sunday’s dreary downpour) and the rookies are… well, rookies. As $100 million man Albert Haynesworth said after Friday’s first practice at Redskin Park - thinking back to his own rookie minicamp - even the top collegians are “lost, like looking into a long hallway” during their introduction to the pros.
But minicamp is an important first step, the first time the kids can measure themselves against the vets. Some, such as first-rounder Brian Orakpo, are respectful of the challenges ahead. Others, such as third-rounder Kevin Barnes, have “it’s no big deal” bravado.
And while minicamp is a routine for the veterans, it’s also the first time the entire team convenes and begins the journey that will be the 2009 Redskins season.
Q: What was the best thing about this year’s minicamp?
A: There were no high-priced newcomers that left you dismayed like third overall pick Heath Shuler in 1994 or free agent bust Brandon Lloyd in 2006.
Q: That’s the lack of a negative. How about a positive?
A: OK, how about this? Jason Campbell was sharp the entire weekend. Maybe, just maybe, the public humiliation by Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato has given the mild-mannered quarterback a serious dose of motivation. With Campbell in his contract year, a continuation of this attitude throughout the season will be good for everybody.
Q: That’s good to hear. You mentioned Haynesworth already. Please tell me he’s not going to be the second coming of Dana Stubblefield.
A: So far, so good with Big Albert. Haynesworth not only looked good - although it’s never fair to evaluate linemen during noncontact drills - he made a point of being at the head of the pack when his group ran to rejoin the rest of the team. That seems to say that Haynesworth wants to be a leader instead of resting on his wallet.
Q: How about Orakpo?
A: The kid from Texas showed some serious pass-rushing ability - albeit against Devin Clark, not the ailing Chris Samuels - but it’s way too soon to judge how he’s making the transition from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker.
Q: What was the biggest negative this weekend?
A: Sadly but not surprisingly it was that both of last year’s second-round receivers, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, were unable to practice the past two days. Both should be ready for June’s organized team activities, but it seemed like last year all over again with these guys.
Q: Do the Redskins miss Marcus Washington and Shawn Springs?
A: In his 2004-05 prime, Washington was the Redskins’ best player. But he hasn’t been healthy since. Orakpo should wind up being at least as good of a pro but not right away. Re-signing DeAngelo Hall took away most of the sting of Springs’ release. But it was strange seeing undrafted rookies Ronnie Palmer and Doug Dutch wearing Nos. 53 and 24, respectively. While Springs could be outspoken, he wasn’t boisterous like Washington, whose absence is more noticeable on the field. But Fred Smoot makes enough noise for three people.
Q: How is Jim Zorn different in his second year as coach?
A: The switch from overseer Joe Gibbs to the manic Zorn was jarring. But now that his assistants and veteran players are comfortable in his scheme, Zorn isn’t nearly as excitable. Not that he has lost his engaging personality. The coach kidded a reporter talking to Colt Brennan that the reserve quarterback is lying when he cocks his head.
Q: After forecasting 8-8 season last month, what do you think now?
A: Minicamp is too soon to get a handle on a team, especially because of the lack of contact. And the offense was without two of its key pieces, Samuels and receiver Santana Moss. The already formidable defense should be better with Haynesworth, Orakpo, Hall for an entire season and a healthy Phillip Daniels. Replacing Pete Kendall with Derrick Dockery on an aging line is basically a wash. Four months from the opener, it sure looks like the 2009 Redskins will have to win with defense.