Redskins Observations and Opinions
by Chris Russell
Jun 18, 2014 -- 6:33pm
Washington Redskins Training Camp

Washington Redskins helmets sit on the field during an NFL football minicamp in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)


The Redskins wrapped up a two-day mini-camp (we think) on Wednesday at Redskins Park. As of right now, the team is scheduled to practice on Thursday at 11:45, but we'll see.

If you missed Tuesday's report, here you go. As many details as I can think of is all yours. In addition to my opinions and observations here. please also check out John Keim of ESPN.com and ESPN 980

**One of the things I love about the new coaching staff is their approach. This isn't to say that Mike Shanahan's staff wasn't good, but they were much more stoic and maybe a little bit more hands off than today's athlete needs.

Jay Gruden has been seen shadowing DeSean Jackson's routes to throwing passes as he did on Tuesday, and today he was chasing (as a pass rusher) Kirk Cousins as he tried to throw a screen to Roy Helu. Little things tend to make a difference down the line.

Energy and a ability to relate to players in any way seems to be this staff's specialty.

I wrote last week about the different drills and techniques that this staff has used so far to improve performance in some key areas, so I asked Gruden about it today.

“I think early on in any type of OTA session, you have specific position related drills and then as you grow and you see your players’ needs and what they need to work on from a focal standpoint, you can change a drill up accordingly to who needs what," Gruden said.

"I think all our guys (coaches) are pretty aware of what we need work on.  We have very experienced coaches who know the game and know their position guys, and those things can adjust as the season goes on.”

One other example of the completely different approach was other position coaches helping Special Teams Coordinator Ben Kotwica and his assistant Brad Banta out during their specific periods.

“Well, there’s different aspects to special teams – blocking, tackling, there’s flyers. There’s all sorts of individual types of drills that you can do that are special teams related. Why not have [Defensive Backs Coach] Raheem Morris help with some of the flyers and [Wide Receivers Coach] Ike Hilliard with some of the flyers and getting off the jam and [Outside Linebackers Coach] Brian Baker helping with the tackling drills and all that," Gruden told reporters.

"We’re able to break up and Ben does an outstanding job of utilizing everybody and getting the most out of his 10-15 minute allotments. You see guys running around, all types of different areas, working tackling drills, cover drills, punting, kicking, protection, all that. You get all that taken care of and in order to do that, assistant coaches have to be part of it.”

Brian Baker will be an outstanding addition to the Redskins. I talked to him for 12 minutes today and could have talked for an hour with him. You will hear a lot about him. Baker has a "pass-rush box" or a "rush grid" painted on to the back practice field,   "so that these guys can have a picture mentally and obviously literally of what the proper rush angle is. Where do they need to enter to rush the quarterback....It's a grid to illustrate the rush lanes."

***Chris Neild was working with the starting unit at nose tackle today. Not sure if this was earned or just an opportunity to see what he can do with Barry Cofield still out. Either way, it was at least a good sign.

**Tanard Jackson is still working with the third unit, but don't expect that to be forever. The Redskins want to make him earn it and ease him in slowly. When you haven't played football in a long time, you don't line up with other top-flight talent right away.

**A lot of passes got knocked down or tipped on Wednesday, which is something the Redskins did really well in 2011 that has been missing. I saw Jarvis Jenkins with one. Another led to a Phillip Thomas interception. Rob Jackson had one and I may have missed one. I suppose it could be blamed on the offense or the line, but clearly the defense has had the better of the play the last two days.

***David Amerson continues to show really well. He blanketed DeSean Jackson on one play, a third-and-two situation, that led to a would-be sack by Brian Orakpo.

**DeAngelo Hall did a tremendous job in coverage on one play in the red zone on Tuesday against Jackson, but the play he made for an interception was even better on Wednesday. Jackson was running a sideline out and Hall jumped it. He stepped in front of Jackson on a pass from Robert Griffin III and picked it off.

Hall then threw the football high in the air (gotta be careful) and the entire defense raced over and was very loudly celebrating with Hall. There were plenty of times the last two days, when the wide receivers simply had no separation at all.

***Perry Riley had a leaping pass breakup in space by tipping the ball and forcing an incomplete. The throw was not a short pass and it took an incredibly athletic play by Riley to make it. That's the second time I have seen him do that over the last few weeks, along with an interception in a zone defense. If Riley continues this kind of improvement, and Keenan Robinson stays healthy...the Redskins will have finally fixed a major weakness.

**Over the last few days, I saw Robert Griffin III take off through a hole in the protection and at least simulate making a play that he is capable of when fully healthy. It is a very encouraging sign. Clearly, he's not running at top speed during these drills, but he can if he has to do so.

One somewhat small but could be major concern I have for Griffin in the times that we've been able to watch is his ball placement. No passer is going to be perfect, but quite honestly a lot of the throws that I have seen have been off-target, either high or behind. It's possible that these situations are on the receivers or just a by-product of good coverage, but it has been a trend.

One specific example on Wednesday showed Griffin stepping up to his right and throwing on the backside of Andre Roberts hip. I noted "bad ball placement" at the time in my notes.

Griffin did have a perfect deep in-cut route to Pierre Garcon for roughly a 20-yard gain. It was vintage throw and catch. On one play, Griffin had to windmill pump his throwing motion, because his one (read/progression) was quickly covered. Griffin was able to dial up a pretty nice pass to Roberts.

One play that caused some debate amongst the media was a overthrow by Griffin to Aldrick Robinson. Robinson finally got some separation on a defensive back, which has been a problem for him so far, and the ball was absolutely overthrown. However, it did not look to me like Robinson was running as hard as he could or as fast. I would be curious for an honest coach assessment of the play. There's no doubt that Griffin would be assigned the blame by most, but I thought Robinson could have done a lot more. He needs to stand out, not just be OK, to make the roster.

***Young linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough continues to shine in the limited time that media has been allowed to see practice. Kimbrough had an interception on Tuesday and a beautiful high leaping snare on a pass in the red zone from Colt McCoy again on Wednesday. By my count, that's three interceptions for Kimbrough over three practice sessions that I have been able to see.

On a special teams two-man cover drill, Kimbrough performed his pursuit correctly, leading to Brad Banta (assistant special teams coach) yelling "that a boy, Kimbrough."

**Ryan Grant jumped out to me a few times. Late in practice, he ran a slant vs. tight coverage from fellow rookie Bashaud Breeland and snatched a pass that was thrown a little bit low by Kirk Cousins. He ran his route in very smooth fashion, which he normally does. Cousins hit Grant earlier on a quick wide receiver 'smoke' pass. Early in the practice, Grant caught another ball that was low and on his hip. Kid has some good hands. It was a pass from Griffin, in which the Redskins deployed Jordan Reed, Santana Moss and Grant in a bunch spray formation.

The guy is a one hundred percent lock barring something freaky.

During special teams drills, players were running down the numbered lines and exploding into a blocking pad or would be ball carrier. Kotwica was not initially happy with the first few guys that ran for a lack of pop, but when Grant did the drill - BAM! Kotwica said "there you go, I heard something."

**Chris Baker easily blew up another run knifing behind the line of scrimmage with ease for what would have been a several yard loss. It was the 2nd day in a row he did the same exact type of play. Ryan Clark yelled out "he's so nasty...You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him."

***Lache Seastrunk has a long way to go overall, but he had a hell of a blitz pick-up in team drills leading to a high five from Griffin III and Darrel Young who were watching the play develop.

**One final note, the last couple of practices - it appears that rookie corner Bashaud Breeland has been a lot less active with his hands and that could be a good thing. It's all about good hand placement in bump coverage, and Breeland looks like he has improved.

Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980



Return to: Chris Russell Blog



INSIDE ESPN 980