- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

ASHBURN — During the Washington Redskins‘ rookie camp over the weekend, Jay Gruden and his coaching staff got their first in-person look at the abilities of those in the team’s newest draft class. It was a chance to see wide receiver Josh Doctson showcase his leaping ability in the red zone and Su’a Cravens learn the defensive scheme as an inside linebacker, something he needs to do before showcasing his versatility as a hybrid linebacker and safety. Along with the seven draft picks were 33 tryout hopefuls, five of whom the Redskins signed this week.

Lost in the shuffle were the few second-year players that participated in the camp — an experience that is equally as valuable as it is for the rookies. For offensive tackle Takoby Cofield, who feels positioned to make a big jump in his second season, it’s a unique opportunity.

The 24-year-old spent the entire season on the Redskins‘ practice squad after joining the team as an undrafted free agent out of Duke. He feels like he still has so much to learn and often leans on veterans such as left tackle Trent Williams. Yet, last weekend, the newest crop of rookies were leaning on Cofield. Already up to speed on the playbook, Cofield used the session to refine his own technique while helping others.

“Felt a little different having a new rookie crew in there, but it was good to knock the rust off, practicing some stuff we’ve been working on the last three weeks, critiquing myself,” Cofield said. “I got a good gauge of where I’m at and what I really need to work on. It was actually a good gauge for me to see what I need to specifically work on in OTAs.”

That is an advantage Cofield didn’t have last season, as he was immersing himself in the Redskins‘ offensive scheme after joining the team. To make a jump to the active roster this season, Cofield knows he needs to be more efficient with his fundamentals, such as the timing of his punches.

At Duke, Cofield made 42 consecutive starts at left tackle. While he succeeded, he admitted that in college players can get away with lazy fundamentals if they possess the athleticism and smarts to overpower opponents.

“Just building off of everything from last year, a lot of the technique, looking more comfortable,” Cofield said. “Assignment football wasn’t ever an issue. Really, my issue coming in was knowing how to play with the right technique, executing and looking like I’m supposed to on film. Not getting the job done sloppy, but efficiently in the way they want you to do it.

“Knowing when to punch a guy, just using my hands to be the defender as opposed to letting him get inside on my body, having to work so hard to get out of a bad spot.”

Last season, Cofield worked extensively with Bill Callahan. The longtime offensive line coach, in his first season with the Redskins, often held his players later after practice to refine their techniques and Cofield was always one of the last players off the field.

The fact that the Redskins kept Cofield on the practice squad the entire season reflects how strongly they feel about him. Gruden is confident the second-year lineman can improve this season.

“Like all second-year players, we expect a big step, you know?” Gruden said. “They’re going to be stronger, obviously, and they’re going to be more confident with the system so we expect major improvement from every second-year player. [Cofield] didn’t get a lot of reps on the field on game day, obviously, so his might not be as big of a jump as some of the other guys, but he’s been in the weight room, he’s getting stronger, he knows the system. [He can play] both tackles, and I think he could play guard if we need him to. [He’s a] very versatile lineman.

“We just want to see steady improvement. If you’re with Coach Callahan as much as he has been over the last year and a half, that will show.”

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