ASHBURN — With just two spots available on the Washington Redskins’ 90-man roster, and 14 undrafted free agents and 33 players on a tryout basis at Redskins Park, the margin for error is slim during rookie minicamp.
While it may seem easiest to point to physical traits when evaluating talent in these scenarios, coach Jay Gruden and members of the Redskins’ staff are looking for something more acute, such as how players respond to the abundance of information they are to absorb in a short period of time as they try to learn an NFL system.
“We just look for a skillset that can help us,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Obviously it is position specific. We’re looking for some guys that pick up the system rather…it’s not all physical, some of it is mental. You have to have a little bit of both. You have to be able to handle the packages we throw at you and then you have got to go out there and you have got to produce and show us the skillset: speed, length, pass rush ability, blocking ability, whatever it might be. That’s what we’re looking for. We try to give them as many opportunities as they could get and we’ll make our evaluations. We have very few spots but hopefully we’ll sign a couple of guys from today.”
Some second-year players also participate in minicamp, such as offensive linemen Takoby Cofield and Austin Reiter, running back Mack Brown and defensive lineman Corey Crawford. That places added pressure on the rookies, according to linebacker and safety Su’a Cravens, who was drafted in the second round.
“A lot of guys out there know their plays already,” said Cravens, who played inside linebacker this weekend. “A lot of guys that were out there today that were on the practice team last year are guys that were asked to come back and do the rookie minicamp. [I’m] paying attention to those guys. They knew the playbook and they were a lot faster than I was. And that just comes from studying the playbook and knowing what they’re doing. So over this next week or so I’m really going to try to get in my playbook and be as fast as they were.”
For Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams, who tried out last week with the Seattle Seahawks, the challenge is twofold: learning the Redskins’ playbook also means adjusting to a different style of play entirely after running Oregon’s uptempo offense.
“It’s super different,” Adams said. “I went to Oregon so we didn’t go under center at all, didn’t call plays from the huddle. I just did a minicamp with Seattle last week so some of the terminology was the same, so I was more prepared this week than last week.”
Considering how quickly players need to learn the schemes they’re playing in, it’s understood that mistakes are going to be made on the field. When that happens, the challenge is showing coaches how quickly one can adapt.
“It’s hard to learn when you’re just looking at a book all the time,” said linebacker Steven Daniels, who the Redskins selected in the seventh round in April. “You’ve got to make mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t have the groundwork to get better.”