- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2017

RICHMOND — After a day off Sunday, the Redskins were back to work at training camp Monday. The grind is setting in, a few players are nursing injuries and padded practices are now the norm. In 10 days, Washington will travel to Baltimore for its first preseason game. 

Here’s what we learned on a sunny Monday in Richmond. 

Pass protection is the trick for Perine

Starting running back Rob Kelley had a bit of soreness in his neck and the Redskins coaches also wanted him to have a rest day. Kelley participated in the morning walkthrough and beginning of practice but, as planned, took his pads off and watched for most of the afternoon session. 

This opened up opportunities for rookie Samaje Perine to get more starting reps than usual. Perine showcased his strength on a number of inside runs, and he was impressive in stiff-arming safety DeShazor Everett on one outside run where he successfully turned the corner upfield. 

Perine did get stripped in the red zone on one play but, overall, he looked good taking handoffs from Kirk Cousins. For Perine to push Kelley as the starter, though, he’ll have to show that he can make a difference without the ball in his hands as well. 

“Number one, you have to be able to protect,” coach Jay Gruden said Monday afternoon. “And I know that sounds funny and crazy but you have got to be able to pass protect because eventually you’re going to be asked in that role.” 

Early in the offseason, Perine said that everything still felt really new to him and that there were still a lot of things NFL defenses do that he was just starting to learn how to deal with.  

Now, he answers that same question with a bit more confidence.

“There’s still always room for improvement but as far as getting the basics I know my reads pretty well, so that’s a good feeling,” Perine said Thursday.

Perine said that defenses had to get creative against Oklahoma’s spread offense, so he was well-prepared by his college career for NFL-level pass protection. In theory that would mean he was almost equally prepared early in the offseason, but perhaps Perine has realized he knew more than he thought he did.

The Redskins would welcome that, because it’s a tough thing for a young back to get used to, which Kelley can attest to.

“I think it took a little while to get comfortable in pass protection because you have guys like [linebackers] Mason Foster and Will Compton, they always come with something different,” Kelley explained. “One day they bull rush, one day they do finesse moves on you. Our defense starts throwing all types of different things, this guy dropping out, this guy. So it takes a long time to get the feel for things but I think once you get the basics of it down it kind of rolls off.” 

Strong day for the secondary

Kirk Cousins got just one play off when the Redskins went to run their two-minute offense at the end of practice. There appeared to be some miscommunication between Cousins and receiver Ryan Grant (who has been getting ample work, and mostly having success, with Jamison Crowder nursing a sore hamstring), Norman swooped in for the interception. 

Colt McCoy didn’t fare much better. The defense started chanting “Defense! Defense!” after forcing an incompletion. 

The best showing, though, came from Kendall Fuller, who has had a strong camp overall. Fuller broke up a pair of passes during red zone work, and also held his own against the much-larger Terrelle Pryor, jamming him up and knocking him off-balance on a play during full-team work. 

Pryor’s work ethic

Terrelle Pryor looks mighty polished for a wide receiver who has been at the position for just a year. His routes are smooth for a player with his physical abilities, allowing him to create great separation. How did Pryor get to that point so quickly? He explained a bit on Monday. 

“You guys see videos I post for fans and stuff,” Pryor said. “I work out 2-3 times by myself a day. I catch JUGS, I catch 400 JUGS a day, I catch 400 balls a day. It’s just who I am.”

Pryor became obsessive about his craft after working out with Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, who he called a “like a weirdo freak in terms of everything has to be perfect.”

“Watching Antonio work out, it just changed my whole mindset of how you’re supposed to be as a wideout. It’s just the little details. I was telling you guys earlier, he’ll do three, four reps in a row and then he’ll take a break because that next rep he wants that to be 100 percent and he wants it to be perfect,” Pryor said. 

Those smooth hooks at the top of his routes? Honed over the course of hours running around cones with his trainer Tim Cortazzo. 

“I really didn’t know how to handle my body, I didn’t know how to adjust my body, I didn’t know how to take control of myself,” Pryor said. “Now I’m at the point where I can control my body, I know where I’m going, I know what I want to do to the defender, I know how to stare at the guy in his eyes and make him think that I’m doing something else and then try to do something else.” 

Injuries: Linebacker Martrell Spaight was having his hamstring evaluated after practice, Crowder (right hamstring) was held out of a second-straight practice, Kelley (neck) sat out of most of practice but was going to rest regardless. 

Signings: With running back Keith Marshall having surgery Tuesday to repair his torn right patellar tendon and out for the season, the Redskins signed Kenny Hilliard, cousin of receivers coach Ike Hilliard and a seventh-round pick of the Texans in 2015. 

Bonus: Bashaud Breeland convinced Gruden to let him kick a field goal to end practice. He flubbed it and the ball was far short. Thankfully, he can stick to corner. Kicker Dustin Hopkins, after a shaky day on Saturday, was 6-for-7 on field goals. Players were standing in a way that made it difficult to see exactly where Hopkins was kicking from, but he started from approximately the 35-yard line and moved back gradually about five yards. 

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