- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

RICHMOND — The Washington Redskins dedicated Wednesday’s practice to special teams, which ultimately served two purposes. Aside from giving the special teams units a dedicated hour of practice, it also allowed other players to rest from the grind of training camp.

“We had two pretty good days and it was pretty hot out there, and I felt like we were getting a little leg weary, so I thought it was a good recovery day,” coach Jay Gruden said. “We could do some core with the big guys, they could do some stuff on the other field, and then we can hone in on the special team fundamentals and nuances that we can just focus in on special teams. I thought it’d be good.”

Normally, the Redskins begin most practices with a brief period of special teams work, but Wednesday’s session allowed them more time to emphasize fundamentals before the first preseason game next Thursday against the Atlanta Falcons.”

“Kind of knowing the procedure of what goes on before the kick or punt, knowing where to line up on a kick to break the huddle,” kicker Dustin Hopkins said. “Simple things, but if we can get all that knocked out know we’ll look like we know what we’re doing come Atlanta.”

With that, some observations from the day:

** Hopkins made eight of his nine field-goal attempts. His only miss was on a 38-yard attempt he pushed left. His longest make of the day was a 63-yarder, though he didn’t entirely mean to make it. It was actually a field-goal return drill, but Hopkins said he hit it more square than he intended and made the kick.

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“We actually wanted it to come up short,” Hopkins said. “But I think coach will forgive me, hopefully.”

** The Redskins experimented with different kick returners. Wide receiver Rashad Ross was the primary returner in 2015 and running back Chris Thompson also lines up with him. Washington mixed in safety Will Blackman, and cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Dashaun Phillips. Breeland has been urging the coaching staff to let him return kicks, but it’s unlikely they put one of their best corners in that position.

** Starters get a lot of attention in training camp, but it’s crucial for depth players trying to secure a spot on the 53-man roster. A lot of times a player can endear themselves to the coaching staff with strong special teams play, particularly linebackers and defensive backs, which is one thing coaches monitor throughout the preseason.

” A lot of those second and third teamers will be the better special teams players, quite frankly, so it’s going to be very important for these guys to show up,” Gruden said.

• Anthony Gulizia can be reached at agulizia@washingtontimes.com.

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