- The Redskins return to a padded workout after a day off and then a day in shells Wednesday. Not sure how this will impact anything, but I’ll be curious to see the build-up in intensity again. There was a definite buildup the first five days and it’s hard to be that way when not in full pads. Practices are fun to watch when there’s more contact.
- Some of the rookies, notably receiver Ryan Grant and running back Lache Seastrunk. I enjoy watching Grant because of how well he moves in and out of his breaks and comes back for the ball. I’ll be writing a rookie report on him soon and want to see more of what he does well – and what he’s still adjusting to in the NFL. The same is true of Seastrunk. He’ll occasionally make a run others can’t make because of his speed, but I’d like to focus more on him to get a better feel for his game right now. I’d still project him not to be on the 53-man roster at this point, but it’s still early.
- Tackle Tom Compton. With Tyler Polumbus out for personal reasons, this is a terrific opportunity for Compton to show what he can do. Ryan Kerrigan got around him a couple times Wednesday and there’s no doubt they’ll face each other again. How does he adjust? Also, Maurice Hurt gets bumped up in the rotation, so this will be a good chance to measure any progress he’s made.
- Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen, recovering from microfracture surgery on his right knee, said he’s confident he’ll return before the season opener. Bowen, who underwent the procedure in December, said he’s experienced a “little swelling” but that it hasn’t gotten any worse. If healthy, Bowen would be an important part of their defensive line rotation. “It’s just time,” Bowen said. “If I had to right now, a do-or-die, if it’s the Super Bowl, I’d be out there…. I’m feeling good.” Bowen remains on the physically unable to perform list.
- Offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus missed practice for personal reasons and could end up missing a few days. Third-year lineman Tom Compton took over for Polumbus. Meanwhile, several Redskins missed practice with hamstring injuries: receiver Pierre Garcon, who took part in individual drills before sitting out; safety Phillip Thomas; and defensive end Doug Worthington. Linebacker Adrian Robinson also missed practice and was rehabbing off to the side. Running back Evan Royster returned to practice after missing the previous three days with a hamstring issue.
- After watching newcomer Shawn Lauvao in the spring, Redskins coach Jay Gruden had some doubts. The free-agent signee had not shown the Redskins what they were hoping to see. He wasn’t getting his timing down on the snap count. He wasn’t getting to the linebackers. Now, Gruden said Lauvao is doing all of that and he’s been solid in one-on-one pass-protection drills as well. “We were a little worried; I’m not going to lie,” Gruden said. “But he’s probably the most improved player from OTAs until now.”
- The Redskins spent a lot of time working on third-down plays Wednesday, with the defense showing a lot of blitzes. The offense ran several screens, which were designed as much to prepare the defense as the offense. Gruden said they’ve already installed all of their red-zone package and likely will focus on installing their two-minute plays Wednesday night and, perhaps, more of their no-huddle. After that, it will be goal-line and short-yardage situations.
- A handful of former Redskins visited practice Wednesday: quarterback Joe Theismann, receiver Gary Clark, place-kicker Mark Moseley and tight end Chris Cooley. It was interesting talking to Clark after practice, and I’ll write about his thoughts Thursday. But he was high on this receiving corps and especially high on DeSean Jackson. Jackson reminds Clark of himself. Clark still looks like he could play (except for the fact that he’s now 52. Yes, we should all feel old by reading that number.
Bridget will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. If the former undrafted free agent does not get picked up by another team the Redskins could place him on injured reserve and bring him back next season. Bridget was a long shot to make the Redskins' roster, but at 6-foot-3 he has good length for a corner.
As for McDonough, he played at Iowa State, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Jets in 2013, but was cut in late July. He then played for Portland of the Arena Football League until being signed to Indianapolis' practice squad last December.
- Defensive end Jason Hatcher worked out hard Wednesday, first attacking the sled by punching each pad and then acting as if he had shed a blocker. He also ran sprints about 20 yards, around a cone and back. By the end of running that, Hatcher looked slightly gimpy. It wasn’t pronounced but it did look like there was just a little bit of a gimp. It wasn’t enough, though, to get him to stop. Hatcher later told NBC-Channel 4 that he would return Aug. 8, but coach Jay Gruden said he wasn't sure when he would return (and the players have off Aug. 8. So it could be when they resume full workouts after the first preseason game). So it’ll be longer than the six-week mark after his surgery.
- Stephen Bowen worked as well, doing one drill in which he rushed upfield, then sprinted to his right as if the quarterback had scrambled that way. He did not hold back a whole lot in this drill.
- Tom Compton filled in for right tackle Tyler Polumbus at practice. Polumbus was not at the facility; no word yet on his absence, though it’s believed to be related to personal reasons. It was a good test for Compton, but at best it was an up-and-down performance. Ryan Kerrigan drove him back a couple times, especially by staying low and hitting the edge. Twice during 11-on-11 work, Compton hooked Kerrigan. A third time Kerrigan just beat him wide. Compton fared better when Kerrigan went right at him.
- Niles Paul seems to be improved as a blocker, more so with his technique. I saw him do a nice job against Trent Murphy, with proper arm extension, hands inside and a strong base. Paul won this individual battle. Later in the day, Paul beat linebacker Adam Hayward for a long touchdown pass. He just got behind Hayward in a blitz situation and that was that.
- Saw a nice block by second-year tight end Jordan Reed against linebacker Brian Orakpo. Reed kept his hands inside and used his feet to help clear an opening. I’ll have more on this Thursday, but Reed said he feels more comfortable blocking in this system than running routes. It’s a comfort level; with the run game being the same, Reed said he knows his assignments there better.
- The Redskins used some cover zero looks Wednesday, sometimes rushing all but three and other times sending only four. Against one such look, quarterback Robert Griffin III tried to hit Reed between the corner and safety down the left side. But it was just long. Safety Ryan Clark, in a single-high look, was coming over in a hurry and was near Reed.
- Ryan Grant not only runs good routes, but he maintains his separation by how he comes back to the ball. Saw that a couple times Wednesday, including once against rookie corner Bashaud Breeland leading to a completion from Kirk Cousins. Grant did it another time catching a pass from Griffin while coming back to the ball against corner Peyton Thompson. Another time he came back maybe a yard or so against Richard Crawford for a catch. Makes a difference. Grant isn’t necessarily burning the top corners but you can see a lot of why the coaches like him.
- Griffin connected with DeSean Jackson on a deep ball down the right side, with Jackson making a leaping catch over corner Bryan Shepherd. Later, Jackson started to pull away from corner DeAngelo Hall down the right side, but Griffin’s pass had too much air under it and Hall was able to intercept the pass.
- Earlier in the day, Hall played a fade from Griffin to Jackson perfectly, staying even with the receiver and boxing him out for the deflection.
- Nose tackle Barry Cofield didn’t have his best day rushing in the one-on-ones. Looked like he tried to round off his rush too much against guard Shawn Lauvao, who countered with a good base and footwork to ride him out. On his next attempt against Lauvao, Cofield, using a swim move, again was a bit rounded. I almost wonder if he wasn’t bent a little too much at the waist and cost himself some power.
- When Orakpo has had success against Trent Williams it’s when he makes it seem like he’s going to go wide, but then burrows right into him and kicks back to the inside. Williams typically does a good job on Orakpo when he tries to rush wide.
- Morgan Moses has improved since the spring, as he should. But he’ll still get upright. I saw it against linebacker Rob Jackson in the one-on-ones. As soon as Jackson turned the corner, Moses started getting too upright.
- Some good punts Wednesday. Pretty much every punt I saw had 4.5 seconds of hang time or better. I saw eight punts, too – four by both Robert Malone and Blake Clingan. Malone had two punts that lasted 5.3 and 5.0 seconds, respectively.
- Griffin’s throws were a little bit off Wednesday. He had some moments, but mostly there were opportunities that just missed (usually high).
- Safety Bacarri Rambo broke up a deep ball to receiver Aldrick Robinson down the right side. Rambo sprinted from the middle of the field and deflected the pass.
- Yes, there was a Robinson sighting, catching a deep ball from Cousins. He then slammed the ball over the goal post. That would be a penalty in a game. Robinson has had a quiet camp. He needs to make a little noise.
What the Redskins have in Williams is, as is widely known, a top athlete playing left tackle. That athleticism sets him apart from most other tackles, allowing him to make plays in space that other teams would not ask their tackles to make. At times in the past, for example, the Redskins would use him to sprint from the middle of the field to a spot near the numbers and throw a block on a defensive back.
It's not normal. But Williams is not a normal athlete -- and he takes pride in that part of his game.
"I think I'm a great athlete," Williams said. "I feel I could play a lot of positions on the football field. Obviously I could play offensive tackle the best, but you know, who knows? If I would have lost about 50 pounds, I probably could have been a nice tight end or maybe even an outside linebacker. Who knows, man."
The other day he was trying to jump in line to carry the ball in a live-hitting drill. Williams also joked about playing quarterback in an emergency.
"I think I definitely could," he said, smiling. "I do have a talented arm. Not to toot my own horn, but, you know, just telling the truth."
The Redskins and Patriots will practice Monday through Wednesday and then play Aug. 7 at FedEx Field in the first preseason game. The standby line also will be available during Saturday's Fan Appreciation Day. Fans without tickets can line up in a designated line near the entrance of the Redskins' practice facility. They'll be admitted on a first come, first serve basis.
The teams will practice at 8:35 a.m. and 4:10 p.m. Monday; 1:35 p.m. Tuesday and 8:35 a.m. Aug. 6. The Redskins' Fan Appreciation Day practice will be at 10:35 a.m. Saturday.
RICHMOND, Va. -- The play unfolded like many had in the past, with Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III keeping the ball around left end, sprinting down the field with defenders in pursuit -- and losing ground.
The zone read option was back. Except that it really wasn't.
Turns out the play was improvised by Griffin, which means the Redskins still haven't had him run out of the zone read this camp. The Redskins have said it will be de-emphasized, and based off early workouts, it's clear that is the case.
"It's not how I made my name," Griffin said. "I made my name throwing the ball in college, won a Heisman Trophy with Baylor. ... It's something you want to sprinkle in and keep a defense aware of and make them have to practice it. But it's not something you make the focal point of your offense. That's why we have the guys we have and why we're running the offense we've been running and you haven't seen very much of the zone read. But it is there, and it will be utilized when coach deems necessary."
Griffin's ability to run the zone read option helped him become a dangerous player as a rookie. He ran the ball 43 times for 344 yards out of the zone read in 2012, according to ESPN Stats & Information, while finishing with 815 rushing yards overall. A year ago, coming off knee surgery, he ran it 37 times for 202 of his 489 yards.
In both years, he led all quarterbacks in zone read runs.
Anyway, that leaves the backup offensive line as an interesting one. The Redskins have more interesting choices to make this summer than in recent years.
G Josh LeRibeus: One teammate said that LeRibeus has been much better, that because he stayed all year in Ashburn he was able to get in the sort of shape necessary. LeRibeus has looked solid in camp. You don’t see the brain cramps that he’d have as a rookie. And you certainly don’t see the extra weight from last season. Had he played like this last summer, he’d be starting right now at one of the guard spots. LeRibeus has worked at both left and right guard with the No. 2 offense.
T Morgan Moses: As a third-round rookie with big size and potential, he’ll obviously be on the roster. The question is, in what role? Will he be ready to be a third tackle at season’s start? That’s debatable, though he has improved since the spring. However, he’s still inconsistent and has worked primarily against backups.
T Tom Compton: He’s worked primarily at right tackle and has been fine. There have been a couple slip-ups, but for the most part his technique appears to be consistent. He can play both sides. The question is, can they carry four tackles? If they keep 10 linemen, they can. If not? Then Compton could be in trouble. Also, the Redskins will work Moses on the right side next week. If Moses shows he could handle both spots in a game, then they would not need an extra tackle. But Moses has to prove this is the case.
G Spencer Long: He’s worked at right guard with the No. 2 line and by all accounts the coaches remain high on him. Long moves well in space, making him a good fit in their zone running game. But after missing much of last season it could take him a little time before he’s absolutely ready to play. He’ll be on the roster, though.
G/C Mike McGlynn: His ability to play guard and center give him an edge -- there’s no real other backup center on the roster (emergency types, yes). McGlynn has been OK in camp. I have seen him allow some pressure and have seen him get beat a few times in the one-on-ones. But he’s not losing with regularity, just more than starter Kory Lichtensteiger. McGlynn looks more like a backup at this point.
T Maurice Hurt: OK, so now the word is that he was dehydrated and that’s why he missed camp. Regardless, he wasn’t prepared or ready. Hurt, too, is in the mix at right tackle but he has played guard in the past. After missing last season Hurt has a tough road ahead of him. Right now I’d put him 11th on a 10-man roster. He looked fine Monday going against newcomer Everette Brown. Hurt has to make up for a lot of lost time, dating to last season.
G Adam Gettis: He's in a tough spot with LeRibeus improved and Long on the roster. Gettis has to have a strong preseason or he’ll be in trouble. He still gets moved back, but still has the ability to anchor. The problem is, there’s still penetration. Last summer he improved his run blocking, which the Redskins needed to see. He’ll need to show more of the same. Gettis, at 305 pounds, is lighter than what coach Jay Gruden would like at guard.
Three areas to monitor Wednesday:
- Pierre Garcon's hamstring. It was described as minor so I'm assuming he'll return to the practice field. Garcon was walking fine as he left the field Monday. For what it's worth, Santana Moss worked in his place during that practice (in the regular season I would assume Andre Roberts would take over). Moss is having the sort of camp you would expect: Solid. There's a difference between him and the young receivers.
- Other injuries. It's almost at the six-week mark for defensive end Jason Hatcher. There's no need to rush him back, but I'll be curious to find out what they're saying and if he'll return soon. Typically, Jay Gruden will say he'll return when ready. Hatcher said last week he's on schedule. If this was a four-to-six week recovery after the surgery then that would mean he would soon return. I think it's fine to be extra cautious with him, but just curious what's up. Corner Courtney Bridget went for an MRI on his right shoulder after Monday's practice.
- Practice tempo. After five days in pads followed by a day off, how are the players upon their return? Refreshed? Or sluggish? In the grand scheme it won't really matter, but the Redskins have had spirited workouts so if that somehow changes it's worth noting if nothing else.
- There's no drama. Certainly for the team, that's a good thing. Last summer it was mostly about Robert Griffin III's knee with an undercurrent of tension between head coach Mike Shanahan and Griffin. Now? It's Camp Love. A fresh start and approach after a 3-13 season has been welcomed by all. The energy in practice is different, in part because there's a more physical approach.Griffin
- Teams that want to be more physical find players who are that way. It's one reason they drafted players such as linebacker Trent Murphy and corner Bashaud Breeland and brought in a safety such as Ryan Clark. But it can be hard to weed out who can play that way when you rarely hit in practice. In the old days, under Marty Schottenheimer, it wasn't tough to see. They were in full pads twice a day. Even I was exhausted at the end of camp.
- You know it's a drama-free camp when perhaps your most popular story involves a fan getting players' signatures on his arm and turning them into tattoos. Last summer, that wouldn't have caused a stir. This summer? Story!
- RG III looks so much better than he did while returning last summer from his knee injury. Of course, he should look better given the differences in the offseason. He's not Peyton Manning out there, but Griffin has thrown some excellent passes and made some good reads. There are times when he's forced to run and that's when it's often hard to tell why, without going back and seeing what happened. In the past, he often ran when he could have thrown. I will say, he's cut down on those runs as camp has progressed.
- The real key in RG III's relationship with Gruden will be how each side handles adversity during the season. It will come; it always does. If Gruden has been consistent with him in his approach to that point, and continues that way, then it will be OK. Both sides will learn a lot at that point.
- It'll be interesting to see how teams defend the Redskins and how much they blitz. The Redskins can make teams pay because of their talent in the passing game at receiver and tight end. Handle the blitz well early and watch teams back off. If not …
- Safety Brandon Meriweather continues to decline any and all interview requests, instead pointing to Clark as his translator (spokesman would be a better word; the only player I've needed a translator for in the past was probably Rod Gardner with his thick country dialect).
- But Meriweather is among those keeping second-year corner David Amerson in line. After one practice, Amerson headed to the Jugs machine to catch passes and then had to fulfill an interview request. Meriweather chastised him and prodded him to go sign some autographs. Amerson listened.
- Still don't know what Clark has left as a player; tough to fully gauge his game until the preseason. So this position remains a question mark. Meriweather rags on Clark for how often he speaks to the media. If you're going to talk, you'd best still show you can play and that's the task ahead for Clark. At this point, it's too early to say and the key will be staying durable and getting through the season. At 34, that's always a key.
- And while Keenan Robinson looks pretty good, we still don't know if he be effective against the run. Only one way to find out, but can't go overboard on him until he proves he can tackle and stop the run. Really, the same is true of Will Compton. I think the inside linebacker spot and who they keep will be interesting.
- I like what I've seen thus far from Kory Lichtensteiger at center. His quickness here helps and his lack of size should not hurt him as much as it did at guard. There, he was responsible for many more one-on-one matchups. At center, he'll more often than not end up helping the guards and double teaming. And his quickness in the run game allows him to reach his intended spot quicker. He's held his own against Barry Cofield.
- I still don't know when end Jason Hatcher will return and I think he's getting tired of being asked. It'll be six weeks Thursday since he underwent surgery -- at the time his recovery was said to be four-to-six weeks.
- Still don't think receiver Leonard Hankerson will be ready at the start of the season. Nobody has said anything, but my hunch is that he'll end up on the physically unable to perform list. Not reporting that, but just a gut feel.
What he’s learning: Coverage and eye discipline. The coaches see the coverage aspect because it’s a part of an outside linebacker’s job in this scheme. Murphy dropped into coverage at Stanford, which also played a 3-4. But it’s a little different here. What the Redskins want to make sure of is that he can handle the tight ends if necessary because they likely won’t put him in too many situations where he’s asked to drop.
“When you’re seeing everything than what’s right in front of you, it gets blurred,” Murphy said.
He said the more they’re in camp the better he’ll get at this. But it’s an important part of his development. Lessen the information so you don’t get overloaded; look for one clue that reveals all.
“Sometimes you can look at the hip of a guy and from what his hip does, you can tell what everyone else on the field is doing,” Murphy said. “You don’t have to see them.”
Every day brings more lessons. In college, Murphy had a terrific spin move and he showed it in the spring as well. But he still has to learn how to use it against NFL talent. Even rookie Morgan Moses, who struggled with it in the spring, stopped it cold in a one-on-one drill on Sunday.
“As good as I’ve had it, the subtlest thing gives it away,” he said. “Or you try to run wider to set it up more. That triggers something in the linemen’s mind and then he sits on it. That’s where it’s just important to stay on your line.”
What stands out: His height. It's tough to miss a guy who’s nearly 6-foot-6. But he has a knack for playing lower than his height, which has come in handy (saw it against tackle Trent Williams where Murphy got low and shot inside against the run).
“He can play like he’s 5-11 when he has to,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said.
Murphy’s consistency helped him in college and that has been noticeable in camp, too, on his rushes. He stays on his intended path to the quarterback. Murphy might lack the burst of an elite rusher, but it’s the other parts of his game that give him a chance to be good in this role.
“A lot of it is first step and alignment on the guy across from you,” Murphy said, “and then staying on that angle no matter what. A lot of times guys let the offensive lineman or end or back dictate to them where the line is going to be. But you have to be disciplined to stay on your line no matter what.”
What needs to be seen: Whether he can generate legitimate pressure in the NFL. Of course, that won’t be known until the games begin. Murphy has beaten the backup linemen, but he’s still proving that he can do it against the starters. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares here in the preseason, especially as he gets more acclimated and disciplined with his eyes.
Current projection: He’ll be the No. 3 outside linebacker. Nothing will change that, unless one of the starters gets hurt and he has to move into the lineup. And there’s no one who is challenging him for the job Washington drafted him to do. Murphy also will help on special teams. They’ll use him all over, outside and, as a rusher, over the guard.
It was the slogan. It was the documentary. It was a coach who figured they could ease him back in. It was a doctor calling him superhuman. It also was a group that overlooked the obvious: When it comes to playing quarterback in the NFL, especially for a young guy, there’s no substitute for repetitions. That’s where Bruce Allen, in essence, said the Washington Redskins organization erred last summer when it came to Robert Griffin III.
That's easy to say now. Although his return was heavily debated, it wasn’t as if many in the organization were saying behind the scenes that Griffin should wait a few more weeks.
His knee was ready and cleared by Dr. James Andrews. His game? Another matter. Griffin did not look sharp in the throwing sessions the media could watch. But at the time, you figured it was natural rust and would be shed soon. Griffin, after all, was an athlete on a different level.
Ah, but playing quarterback is about more. It’s safe to say Griffin could have used a few more weeks of nurturing his game before returning. The problem at the time was this: The Redskins were entering the regular season, and he didn’t have time to continue rebuilding his game. Coaches often say young quarterbacks grow more in the offseason between their first and second seasons. Griffin didn’t have that. It took him a while to gain any sort of consistency and rhythm. A big play or game would be followed by erratic play; it never really changed.
There’s no doubt coach Mike Shanahan felt as if he had no choice but to insert Griffin. Allen never mentioned him, but Shanahan had the ultimate authority. There was so much hype surrounding Griffin's desire to return, which left the coach wondering how it would be perceived if he didn’t start him. Shanahan had the utmost confidence in Kirk Cousins -- but Cousins sprained his foot and missed two weeks, not returning until right before the opener.
Shanahan could have made a decision, just as he could have made one in the 2012 playoff loss and not used Griffin. A coach with two Super Bowl rings has that authority. Shanahan failed to make the decision; no one from the organization publicly disagreed with the move, either.
It’s funny, though, because life is different for Griffin with Jay Gruden. It’s almost as if the Redskins are trying the George Costanza approach: Whatever was done in the past, do the opposite. Gruden is more player-friendly and certainly more compatible with Griffin. They are trying to decrease the importance of his legs (the Shanahans incorporated them in part to ease the transition to the NFL), at least on designed runs; when he has run in camp, it’s been off scrambles. If any situations arise with Griffin when it comes to injuries, my guess is they will take a different approach there, too.
Gruden knows what went wrong here in the past. But it wasn’t just one or two people who learned a lesson when it came to handling Griffin’s injury. It was an organization. More than one person shared in this responsibility. If they learned from it, Griffin and the team can move forward with confidence.