RICHMOND — Will Compton’s voice is unmistakable in the middle of the Washington Redskins’ defense.
Compton’s greatest strength is his ability to read and diagnose the offense before the ball is snapped and it’s served the Redskins’ defense well since he took over as the team’s mike linebacker — the one responsible for signal-calling and aligning the formation — last season.
It was most noticeable last year against the Chicago Bears, when Compton identified a screen pass on third down late in the game and the stop helped preserve a 24-21 victory.
As the Redskins ramped up training camp this week, Compton continued to excel in that role. In one play during Tuesday’s session, quarterback Kirk Cousins called an audible and Compton keyed on it and began gesturing to the defense. Cousins changed the call again and Compton signalled once more, creating a chaotic scene before the ball was snapped. It was organized chaos, though. The defense responded and got pressure, and Cousins’ pass to the flat was incomplete.
“I was very excited, because that was probably the most complicated it’s gotten for a second,” Compton said. “I was thinking about that pre-practice, if we’re going to get [a certain look] I’m going to do it, you better be loud and confident because there are some moving parts.
“You’ve got to be loud. Them picking that up, I made all those checks…it goes back to them like, “Way to stay alert.” That’s next level. It’s exciting.”
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Compton also showed strong coverage skills on Tuesday. On one play, he stayed in stride with speedy wide receiver Jamison Crowder and broke up the play. On another, he deflected a pass and Bashaud Breeland intercepted it.
“Oh, every day,” Compton said about how often he emphasizes pass coverage. “It’s got to be a continuous process. We’ve got some bad dudes out there running routes.”
Here are more observations from Tuesday’s session:
** While Compton broke up Crowder’s pass, the wide receiver eventually found the end zone. On one play, he quickly slipped past the cornerback and behind the defense and was wide open for a long touchdown. One of Crowder’s greatest assets is his ability to find holes in the defense. Whether he’s in short space or on a deep pattern, Crowder has a knack for finding the soft spots.
** The defense had a strong showing. Inside linebacker Martrell Spaight also showed his coverage skills, intercepting Colt McCoy’s pass during an 11-on-11 drill.
** Second-year defensive end Corey Crawford had a strong showing in individual pass rushing drills on Tuesday. Crawford, who spent all of 2015 on the practice squad, has shown improvement entering his second season. Twice, he easily beat left guard Josh LeRibeus, using his long, 34.5-inch arms and strength to overpower him.
“Getting off the ball is the main key,” Crawford said. “I tried to improve my get off. And being more physical. A lot of people take pass rush as a finesse thing. It’s really physical. Just being physical with everything I do.”
** For Cousins — and any quarterback for that matter — limiting turnovers is essential. One on play, Cousins was looking for a deep option but chose not to throw it when the look he wanted wasn’t there. Rather than forcing it or throwing it away, Cousins opted for a safe pass to Reed for a short completion.
** It seems as if running back Mack Brown is on the other end of every big collision in camp. In one team drill, Brown caught a pass toward the right sideline and middle linebacker Terence Garvin was waiting for him. In a game situation, Garvin would’ve likely delivered a crushing hit, but instead opted for a shove. Even that was loud.
“When they make a big hit, I say something. They’re after my head I guess,” Brown joked. “I’m gonna get Garvin on Thursday.”