Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) drops back during an NFL football minicamp, Tuesday, June 17, 2014, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
The Redskins began a three day mandatory mini-camp session on Tuesday at hot and steamy Redskins Park, which was a perfect set up for the likely conditions in Richmond.
Last year, the Redskins caught a break from the brutal conditions in the capital of the Commonwealth. Not sure that's going to happen this year. In fact, I would bet against it.
Here are a bunch of observations based on what I saw and heard. Again, please keep in mind - it is hard to track 90 players at one time and sometimes split on different fields. A lot going on, but here we go.
***Early in split defensive (from the offense) drills, I heard the boisterous Ryan Clark barking at Keenan Robinson. Robinson is the "mike" linebacker and the guy who gives the play call from the sideline. Clark yelled out after one rep, "You make the freaking calls, 52!" What I love about Clark is he holds guys more than accountable. He's not here to mess around.
I don't think he will be able to give them a thousand snaps and hold up, but he'll give them something they need. In more ways than one.
***Outside linebackers/pass rush coach Brian Baker is another guy I love watching. I know John Keim from ESPN.com and ESPN 980 wrote about this as well but I think Baker will be a great addition to the Redskins.
Baker was riding or coaching rookie Trent Murphy and second-year outside linebacker Brandon Jenkins hard on rip drills. Baker made Jenkins re-do a rush, because he showed the wrong technique. Baker instructed him on what he did wrong, reminded him on what he had to do to make it right, and then encouraged him strongly on the next rep. Baker was reminding all of his guys that they need a second burst to get home to the opposing quarterback.
***Kedric Golston lost about 20 pounds this winter/spring to keep up at 31 years of age. Golston is a nine-year veteran and can play both defensive end spots. Now he's working at nose-tackle and with Barry Cofield out (hernia) he took most if not all of the first team reps in place of Cofield. Last week, it was Chris Baker.
**Baker had to play his normal left defensive end spot today, because the Redskins were so short-handed. Jason Hatcher was standing outside for practice but did not work because of a knee issue. Jay Gruden said he should be ready to go for training camp but would be sent for an MRI.
Hatcher tweeted out an update late Tuesday, saying "My knee is ok. It's minor I'll be ready to kill quarterbacks when the season starts."
With Baker and Golston working at the nose-tackle spot, that means a true nose in Chris Neild has not been able to do enough to get first team reps. The former 7th round pick has been working with the 2nd unit and on special teams, but his roster spot is very much in doubt as of now.
**Back to Baker, I saw him easily blow up a run on a outside zone stretch to the offense's right. Whoever was supposed to block him, did not do a very good job.
**That was a theme for the most part on Tuesday. I thought the defense was pretty much in control all day. Even without Cofield, Hatcher, Stephen Bowen (knee) and Brian Orakpo (cold/throat) - the offense struggled to be crisp. Several running plays were blown up before they even really got started. On one play, Chris Thompson couldn't turn the corner on a zone stretch to his left, before defensive end Frank Kearse shut him down.
I remember another stretch run by Thompson that did not go anywhere. Others who tried to run the ball fared even worse. Lache Seastrunk fumbled in red zone work and was stuffed by linebacker Gabe Miller on one play in the backfield.
Evan Royster, who needs to have a very impressive training camp and preseason to make the roster, slipped and fell on his own behind the line of scrimmage. When you get very limited opportunities, you have to make the most out of it.
There are people inside the building that feel that Royster is the most natural running back they have, but yet the ability to put it all together seems to be hurting his chances.
Thompson has support from the Redskins staff and was a favorite of Jay Gruden's even before he got the job, but of course has to prove his durability. He did turn up the field nicely on a middle screen but that was in 7-on-7 drills.
**ESPN 980's Kevin Sheehan told me that he talked to a source who has praised rookie running back Silas Redd twice. I haven't noticed much of anything special out of Redd, but hopefully getting to see practices on a more regular basis will help that.
Either way, expect a hefty dose of Redd, Royster, Seastrunk and Chris Thompson in the preseason.
***Trent Williams and Shawn Lauvao both went down on the same play on a zone stretch to the left. They both got up gingerly and Williams was initially hobbled, but returned to team drills and seemed fine afterwards. Still a scary moment. I saw Williams get knocked down earlier in the practice session. The Redskins are cooked without him. Tom Compton has no real game action (regular season) and Morgan Moses will struggle enough at right tackle, never mind left.
Williams had a good block on Ryan Kerrigan on one play, which allowed Griffin III to step up through the line and pop into the open field.
***DeSean Jackson did not stand out as much today as he did last week, but he did race by rookie cornerback Courtney Bridget Jr. along the far sidelines for a long practice touchdown catch via Robert Griffin III. Griffin booted to his right and the ball kind of fluttered but Jackson had five yards of separation.
He didn't have that from DeAngelo Hall on one red zone play. Hall blanketed Jackson for an incomplete with perfect technique and coverage. Jackson didn't stand a chance. Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris also saluted Hall one other time for another play that I did not see.
***Brandon Meriweather also had a great play in coverage against Jackson as he cut under DeSean on a throw from Griffin III. Robert pumped and perhaps that threw off the timing, but still give credit to Meriweather. Morris signaled out Meriweather one other time that I heard in a match-up against Jordan Reed.
According to those I've spoken with in the building, Meriweather finally "gets it" and did play well down the stretch last year and has certainly continued that pace so far.
***Another guy who has absolutely made improvement is David Amerson, who locked horns with Jordan Reed on one coverage in the red zone that led to a lot of verbal jabbing on both sides. The offense thought it was holding, the defense thought they were full of it.
You can see Amerson's confidence growing. Especially in press man coverage. On one play, Amerson was blanketing Pierre Garcon. Griffin III wanted to go there, but couldn't safely make the throw and Perry Riley had (from my judgement) a practice sack because of the coverage.
***Back to (Raheem) Morris, I said this last year but will say it again - the guy is absolute gold in terms of his verbal interactions with players, media, fellow coaches and even officials. I can't repeat pretty much anything the guy says, but he makes it a lot of fun. Especially on a hot day.
**Rookie tight end Ted Bolser made a catch on a crosser early in team drills and slipped as he turned and cut up field. Several players lost their footing today, which was strange because the fields did not appear slick.
**Fellow tight end and the much more important one, Jordan Reed had another eye-opening day. Kirk Cousins drilled a strike to him as he was wide open. We mentioned the coverage of Meriweather on one play and Amerson on another, but Reed is going to be such a big part of this offense if he can stay healthy. Reed did drop a wide open touchdown catch in the end zone as he had to climb the ladder a bit for the ball, but he should have come down it. I was surprised to see him drop it, because the pass really wasn't contested. It was a perfectly thrown ball in my opinion with a fade concept by Griffin.
**Linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough had a terrific, leaping interception at the goal line during red zone drills off of Colt McCoy. Kimbrough has two interceptions in the practices we have been able to see.
***Andre Roberts appears to be the odds-on favorite for kick and punt return duties, especially since the addition of DeSean Jackson and the re-signing of Santana Moss reduced his potential impact at wide receiver for 2014. On one play though, Roberts presence allowed Garcon to line up in the left slot with DeSean Jackson flipped to the other side with Jordan Reed. Talk about a potential match-up nightmare. Roberts had the first kick return of the practice session on Tuesday. The Redskins did not do punt returns today.
***Offensive lineman Mike McGlynn and defensive lineman Doug Worthington got after it. Hell, I don't blame them. I felt like punching somebody too.
**One major issue, and I have said this a few times is the lack of height outside of Jordan Reed in the red zone. I will have more on this later, but it is a fairly big weakness in my estimation. Raheem Morris was certainly having fun at the expense of Ike Hilliard about this subject and more during red zone drills that were mostly won by the defense. It's a concern.
**One final thing on offense that I have to point out. I've never seen this before. Pierre Garcon lined up against Bashaud Breeland right in front of the media and on a stretch zone run, did a complete 360 degree twist for no reason at all. I have no idea what Garcon was doing, but it was interesting to watch.
***With reduced width goal posts, Kai Forbath unofficially was (1-3) in field goal attempts, missing from 39 and 50. He was good from 43. Rookie Zach Hocker was (3-3) unofficially from those distances.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
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