- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2017

RICHMOND — “Thunder! Thunder!”

Thunder wasn’t in the weather report, but you could certainly hear it Sunday afternoon at Redskins training camp.

As the players started 11-on-11 drills, staffers blasted a few bars of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” as players lined up every few downs. It was a little goofy, but definitely made the atmosphere feel a bit more epic than the average August practice session.

Without further ado, here’s what we learned on Sunday, Day 9 of Redskins training camp. 

Doctson hurts a hamstring

After heading to the medical tent after 7-on-7 work, Redskins wide receiver Josh Doctson walked, slowly and gingerly, off the field at the end of practice. Before he left, Doctson had what looked like a somber conversation with coach Jay Gruden. A Redskins spokesman said that Doctson was being evaluated for a hamstring injury. 

The Redskins were probably relieved to hear that the problem was Docston’s hamstring, not either of his ankles, but with any leg injury comes concern that Doctson could overcompensate and irritate either of his Achilles. Doctson said this spring that he never got a diagnosis on the mysterious Achilles’ tendon problems that sent him to injured reserve last season after just two games, so it’s hard to know what could cause a flare-up.

In the short term, the Redskins are in a funny spot going forward potentially without Doctson and Jordan Reed for some of camp and the preseason. Jamison Crowder is getting worked back into the fold after missing practice time with a hamstring injury. The Redskins have maintained that Reed’s toe injury isn’t serious, but let’s just say that, along with establishing his connection with Terrelle Pryor, Kirk Cousins has spent a lot of time working on short throws to the Redskins running backs lately.

Cravens liking old position, new defense 

Safety is a tricky position to evaluate during training camp. The hits matter, and it’s hard to tell when players are pulling up to avoid bringing teammates to the ground if they’d actually be making those tackles in live action. That’s why it wasn’t necessarily a disastrous sign that, for the first week of training camp, Su’a Cravens hadn’t done all that much to draw attention to himself as he transitions back to safety. Cravens played linebacker in the Redskins’ nickel and dime defenses last season.  

Over the last couple of practices, though, Cravens has done some of his best work. Cravens was in position for several pass breakups on balls thrown to the Redskins tight ends during practice on Saturday. On Sunday, his best moment came when he cut through the Redskins offensive line to stuff running back Rob Kelley behind the line of scrimmage.

It was that play that showed the most promise, particularly given something Cravens said Sunday afternoon about the difference between the defense the Redskins played last season under coordinator Joe Barry and this one, under Greg Manusky. 

“They’re both great defenses,” Cravens said, “but I just think with a guy like Manusky we’re going to be a bit more aggressive. You know, third and short distances we’re going to send a little bit more pressure, whereas for Joe B., we’d sit in a Cover 2 or Cover 3. We’d really think things out and try to read routes more than we do with this defense — which is not reading the route, just reacting to what we see or just playing the defense that he calls.” 

The Redskins’ league-worst third down defense in 2016 speaks for itself in saying that Barry’s sit-back-and-wait defense didn’t work. Changing things up was a no-brainer, but aggressive schemes require the right players to execute them, and seeing Cravens cut into the backfield is a good sign that he can be one of them at a new position.

Defense brings the pressure

As noted, Cousins was down several wide receivers but, in theory, focusing the practice on short passes to running backs and intermediate routes with the tight ends should have helped him get the ball out quicker and avoid pressure. The Redskins defense, though, had a good day getting Cousins off balance or off his timing. 

Cousins threw the ball away twice at the beginning of 11-on-11 drills and was forced to bail out of plays more than in any other practice because he was feeling Ryan Kerrigan or Trent Murphy breathing down his neck. Cousins and third down running back Chris Thompson struggled, but a couple of miscommunications seemed like the result of Cousins feeling like he had to get rid of the ball before Thompson had time to turn to make a catch.

Injuries: Along with Doctson, linebacker Preston Smith missed a second-straight day of practice with a sprained ankle. He’s expected to miss a week or two. Left tackle Trent Williams had a mild abdominal bruise and was given the day off to rest. Williams was still out at practice, but stayed on the sidelines in shorts and a T-shirt. Wideout Levern Jacobs (lower leg) was also out.

Bonus: For the most part it’s seemed that Cousins and Pryor still have some work to do to get in sync. When they get it right, though, the results are always highlight-worthy. On what should have been a broken play, Cousins scrambled and locked eyes with Pryor, gesturing for the 6-foot-5 receiver to turn upfield. Pryor ran for the end zone, where Cousins dropped a perfect pass in between cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller. Pryor went up and got it, and got both feet in for the touchdown. 

“You’re the real number 11,” shouted one particularly loud fan, noting that Pryor wears the same number as departed free agent DeSean Jackson. Ike Hilliard, the Redskins receivers coach, turned around with a grin on his face, but motioned for the fan to keep it down and keep Pryor from getting a big head.


• Nora Princiotti can be reached at nprinciotti@washingtontimes.com.

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