Sunday, August 3, 2014
Previewing Pats-'Skins joint practices
RICHMOND – The New England Patriots and Washington Redskins will hold three days of joint practices, with Monday’s session kicking off at 8:35 a.m. ET, followed by practices on Tuesday (1:35 p.m. ET) and Wednesday (8:35 a.m. ET).
The practices, which are open to fans who won a ticket lottery, are being held at the Redskins’ Bon Secours Training Center.
To preview the joint practices, ESPN.com NFL Nation reporters Mike Reiss (Patriots) and John Keim (Redskins) answer three questions on their teams.
What has been your biggest storyline of camp?
Reiss: The Patriots’ defense has played with great physicality and energy. Specifically, cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner have teamed up to give receivers fits and one of the highlights was a Revis pick-6 of Tom Brady on Thursday. Brady has talked about how practicing against Revis and Browner makes everyone better, as they make a quarterback and others pay for mistakes.
Keim: The lack of drama and probably the increased energy and physical nature compared to past years. Last summer it was all about Robert Griffin III's knee, with a supblot being his relationship with Mike Shanahan. This summer it’s all about how well Griffin feels and how happy he is and has been this offseason. While it’s not the most physical camp that I’ve ever seen, there has been a little more hitting. But the energy level, especially from the coaches, is greater. It’s noticeable.
What is one important question that your team could answer in these joint practices?
Reiss: The competition at center and right guard is one of the more notable Patriots training camp battles. Rookie center Bryan Stork, who was expected to compete for a starting job, probably won’t practice after sustaining what appeared to be a lower-leg injury last Tuesday. That’s an important situation to monitor for the Patriots, who have been rotating incumbent Ryan Wendell, veteran Dan Connolly and first-year player Braxston Cave at center. At right guard, Connolly, Marcus Cannon (fourth year) and Josh Kline (second year) are the top options. I’m curious to see if we get any separation at those positions as the competition level rises.
Keim: That depends on the level of hitting. The Redskins’ offense is pretty well set in terms of starters, with the main competition being with the backups. It will give Griffin an opportunity to face a different defense to see how he does with pre-snap reads and if he handles whatever looks the Pats throw at him. But what they need to see is how well some of their young inside linebackers tackle. That’s a huge question for Keenan Robinson, for example. He’s replacing London Fletcher and the coaches love his speed. But he has torn pectoral muscles in both arms the past two years and has 11 career tackles. Backup Will Compton, an undrafted guy in 2013, will make the roster if he shows he can tackle. But how much will they hit during these three days? Probably not a ton.
Who are a few players on your team that the opposing club might be looking down on the roster to say, "Who is that?"
Reiss: Rookie running back James White of Wisconsin, one of the team's fourth-round picks (130th overall), is opening eyes as a pass-catcher and early down runner. He also has made a favorable impression on veteran players and the coaching staff with his consistent and levelheaded approach. He could play a significant role on offense this season. Also, to a lesser degree, it’s hard to miss undrafted free-agent tight end Justin Jones because he’s 6-foot-8 and shows up in the red zone at times. He’s getting a lot of reps with Rob Gronkowski not yet practicing in team drills and top backup Michael Hoomanawanui sidelined with an undisclosed injury. He probably projects to the practice squad at this time, but he could make it a tougher decision if he performs well in this setting.
Keim: A couple of guys probably fit that description. Second-year running back Chris Thompson, a fifth-round choice in 2013, is having a good camp thus far; he’s a small back (5-foot-7, 193) but is quick. The Redskins really want to see if he can develop into a good pass-catching option out of the backfield. He was still impacted last summer by a torn ACL from his final year in college. Compton might fit this description as well, working with the second-team defense. Rookie receiver Ryan Grant, a fifth-round pick out of Tulane, might impress them with his routes. He’s effortless and savvy and understands how to attack defensive backs. He’s just not a blazer and isn’t strong so press coverage could give him issues. But his routes might open a few eyes during, say, the seven-on-seven portion.