- Robert Griffin III did not have a strong day throwing the ball for a variety of reasons. This is a crucial season for Griffin, who now has a coach he feels comfortable with and more weapons at his disposal. So he must produce and show improvement. He knows it. Griffin did not have a great start to camp, though it wasn't as if his protection was all that great either. One thing when throwing to DeSean Jackson: You need time. He will get open, but at times Griffin will have to sit in the pocket for 3.5 seconds. “Robert was a little erratic,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “The balls were a little wet early on, the ball didn't come out of his hand right a couple of times. He'll be the first to tell you he needs to improve and I'll be the second to tell you he needs to improve. That's going to be the case every day.”
- It wasn't just Griffin who struggled offensively. There were dropped passes. There were missed assignments (not atypical on a first day of course). The flip side, of course, is that the defense did a solid job. The question with the defense involves yards after contact, something they've done a poor job with in recent years. And with no live hitting it's hard to know if they've improved in that area. But their rush was solid, with pressure inside and occasionally off the edge.
- Jackson's speed was evident, once again. Not that anyone had doubts about Jackson's speed, but you could see it in the spring and once more Thursday. He sped past the defense on a skinny post deep that resulted in an underthrown incompletion. The next time they tried to hook up, Griffin led him on a deep ball as he needed. It allowed Jackson to make a long run, creating a little more separation from the defensive back. Jackson dropped the ball however. If they can gain some consistency on the deep ball -- Griffin must get used to throwing to someone with Jackson's acceleration downfield -- they will become a dangerous weapon.
- On Wednesday, Jay Gruden talked about having a schedule, but knowing he had to be flexible. He found out why a day later: Heavy rain caused a 30-minute delay to the start of practice in the morning and a thunderstorm forced them indoors in the afternoon. It rained throughout the morning, easing up in the second half of the workout. “We were fortunate to get every play in,” Gruden said. The players put a positive spin on the rain. “You have a practice like today where weather plays a huge factor and you have to block that out,” Griffin said. “We got better just having to go through a wet practice.”
- One player who can't be overlooked with the attention so heavily on the receivers is tight end Jordan Reed. He did not do anything spectacular Thursday, but he did make a nice grab over the top of strong safety Phillip Thomas. It was a throw that required confidence and trust from Griffin because the coverage was sound. But Griffin clearly trusted Reed last season and still does. Reed catches anything near him so even if Griffin is a little off Reed has shown it doesn't always make a difference.
But Morris is right that the run game, for Washington in particular, remains important. Or, at least, should. Here are some numbers from a story I wrote last week on Morris and the run game that makes it clear of his importance.
- Last season, the Redskins ranked third in the NFL in yards per rush (4.78). They averaged 5.33 yards on zone-read carries and 4.65 on traditional runs; the latter number would have left them tied for third.
- The Redskins actually led the NFL in rushing vs. seven-man fronts (275 times for an NFL-best 1,332 yards).
It’s not as if the Redskins’ coaches have said anything to suggest the run game won’t be a factor. But Morris never has been one to worry about his workload. “It doesn’t matter whether we get 20 carries a game or 40,” he said. “We just have to make the most of them.” Nor does he feel any different after two seasons and a combined 611 regular-season carries. But one thing that impressed the coaches as a rookie was his ability to withstand punishment and not get worn down. “I’m feeling a lot better, a lot more confident,” Morris said. “Whether it’s the beginning of the season or the end of the season, the beginning of the game or end of the game, I get better and better. That’s just how I am. I’m a workhorse. I can take a heavy workload. It doesn’t really bother me whether I get minimal carries or maximum. It doesn’t matter how much it is. I’m out here to get better and help my team. [But] the more I do, the better I get.”
Three days ago, Hall posted a series of tweets that suggested annoyance at not being included when there were discussions about the NFL’s top corners. Among his tweets: “I'm listening to this debate about who's the Best CB in the league. All I have to say is the film don't Lie... Go put mine on and let's talk
I'm listening to this debate about who's the Best CB in the league. All I have to say is the film don't Lie... Go put mine on and let's talk— DeAngelo Hall (@DeAngeloHall23) July 21, 2014
He’s coming off one of his best seasons, but when there’s a discussion it usually involves players such as Seattle’s Richard Sherman, with whom Hall debated on Twitter about this in the offseason, or Arizona’s Patrick Peterson.
Hall often was asked to cover the opposition’s best receiver. Last season, that list included Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and Dallas’ Dez Bryant among others. In many ways Hall had a better year than when he last made the Pro Bowl in 2010; a 3-13 season did not help his cause.
“As a corner if you don’t feel like you’re the best, you’ve got a problem right there. I never said I was the best. I would be a fool to think 11 years in I’m the best in the game right now,” Hall said. “I definitely think I’m pretty successful at what I do. If you really watch film, I put my film against any corner in the league and we’ll see what he does and we’ll see what I do and we can go from there. If you put me out there against a receiver, any one of them, I’ll take my chances. I never said I was the best, but I definitely feel I should be in the conversation.”
Hall said he’s not sure why he’s not included, saying perhaps it’s his reputation. He did not play as strong in 2012 as he did a year ago, though in the previous year he was often covering in the slot. Last season he stayed outside. Some critics say he’s not as strong in off-man coverage as he is when playing press.
“My reputation precedes me a little bit,” Hall said. “I don’t go out there to please the media or the guys who are ranking corners. Probably earlier in my career I did, but now I’m all about just – the proof is in the pudding. I let my play speak for itself, but if you sit down and watch film and compare my numbers against those guys – any corner – I’ll take myself in a heartbeat.”
- Robert Griffin III did not look sharp Thursday morning, whether due to his own play, the pass rush (the defense was getting to him) or the rainy weather (it rained much of the morning). Even Griffin admitted that “we weren’t as efficient as we wanted to be today, including myself.”
- More often than not, Griffin was unable to throw the ball. Fault in those situations is tough to determine without knowing everything that’s going on; even the coaches have to go back and watch the film to see. But it was a constant problem for the offense.
- When Griffin just worked on throwing the ball in individual work, he was more consistent (as he should be, of course). Better torque on his delivery. Bringing the ball from higher up, unlike last season. Better off his back foot.
- He and DeSean Jackson nearly connected on two deep balls. The first was underthrown, with too much air under it. Jackson blew past the secondary, but the pass allowed corner Courtney Bridget to catch up and deflect the pass. On the second, Griffin led Jackson across the middle, giving him more of a chance to separate from another undrafted corner, Bryan Shepherd. But Jackson dropped the ball. I know it came against two undrafted players, but this is what Jackson does against a lot of corners. A key for Jackson, though, is to lead him on deep throws.
- Griffin missed Pierre Garcon with a low pass on one bubble screen and promptly did some pushups as punishment. Later, Griffin was nearly pick-sixed by safety Brandon Meriweather on an out route to Jackson. The ball was too far inside, and Meriweather got his hands on it. The ball popped up and Jackson caught it, but out of bounds.
- For what it’s worth, Griffin donned a black sock and black cleat on his right leg and a white sock and white cleat on his left. “I call it the yin and the yang, white and black working together. We’re all brothers. We’re doing it together.”
- Robert Malone and Blake Clingan both punted today and both were inconsistent. Malone had a booming punt that traveled probably 60 yards. But he also had wobblers that had poor hang time.
- Ryan Grant looked good in the one-on-one matchups; they’re set up for the receivers to do well. But he showed a crispness to his routes, at one point driving off rookie corner Bashaud Breeland with a tricky route. He looked like he was going to run a slant-and-go, so Breeland turned for that, but Grant cut to the outside and was open by about 10 yards. Again, a savvy route for a rookie and a tough one for a fellow rook to cover. Grant later ran a nice, patient route to get open against the No. 2 secondary.
- During those one-on-ones, Jackson did a nice job creating extra separation against David Amerson by driving him off and running an out route. Again, keep in mind these drills are tougher on the corners.
- Morgan Moses worked at left tackle with the second defense with Tom Compton on the right side. Compton looks much more polished, as he should, considering it’s his third season. But Compton did a solid job (when I watched him, at least) of staying low and balanced. It enabled him to stop Brandon Jenkins on some rushes. I’d like to see Compton more against starting rushers. Rookie
- As for Moses, he still looks like he has a way to go. A bit sluggish off the ball. It’s sometimes hard for him to get a quick first step, it seems, in the run game because he can’t set as hard because he can’t get low enough. It can be worked on. Rookie lineman Frank Kearse got inside Moses on a run in part because of this.
- For a tall linebacker, rookie Trent Murphy (6-foot-5) does a good job staying low. Saw that on one play against left tackle Trent Williams and it enabled Murphy to get inside him and help stop a run attempt.
- Breeland worked inside as the slot corner. Didn’t pay a ton of attention to him in this role, but he showed good patience against Nick Williams on a route. When Williams cut to the middle, Breeland stuck with him.
- Mentioned Amerson in the one-on-one drill, so need to point out one strong coverage he had against Garcon in press-man. Amerson’s technique looked solid; good feet, and he placed his left hand on Garcon’s right shoulder at the snap. Amerson’s long arms give him an edge here, and he had tight coverage. Garcon was not open. A fan yelled to Amerson praising his coverage, which prompted Garcon to turn and smile at the fan.
- Another for what it’s worth: Garcon and Jordan Reed were the last two players off the field, both spending time working: Reed on routes; Garcon catching pass after pass.
- Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had a nice spin move that caught right tackle Tyler Polumbus off guard. He took Polumbus upfield, then spun back to the middle and might have sacked Griffin (if not for having to pull up because, well, he’s the quarterback). It happened on the play in which Jackson dropped the deep ball.
- Didn’t see a whole lot from rookie running back Lache Seastrunk (just because I wasn’t paying attention to him as much as I will other days). But he did have a nice grab on a low throw around his feet. And he showed the ability to cut at full speed running with the ball.
- The second-team inside linebackers were Will Compton and Adam Hayward. I liked Compton a lot last summer as a guy to develop, but after signing three veteran free agents in the offseason, he enters camp in a big battle. But he has good instincts. Hayward did bat away one pass.
RICHMOND, Va. -- He shed the knee brace earlier in the offseason and focused hard on his fundamentals. Both were positive developments for Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. He also pointed out another after Thursday's opening practice of camp.
"It's a good thing to have two coaches who believe in you," Griffin said.
For Griffin, there's a definite change in his psyche working with first-year coach Jay Gruden and new offensive coordinator Sean McVay. It represents a change, whether fair or not, in Griffin's mind over the previous regime of Mike and Kyle Shanahan. And it's one reason Griffin was excited entering camp. Indeed, he gave Gruden a bear hug at one point early in the first session.
Last year at this time, he was off to the side, rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee and wondering if he could trust his coaches.
"The stress is off him," Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said, "worrying about reps, worrying about a head coach you don't really know if he likes you or doesn't like you. Things like that. From the jump, from the moment Jay came in here, Robert knew that Jay wanted him and wanted to coach him. [Gruden] felt he could be special. We all see that."
Griffin endured a difficult 2013, struggling to gain consistency after receiving no reps in the offseason and playing no games in the preseason. He did not look as explosive, whether from hesitation in the pocket or the knee brace. A subplot all season was his relationship with the Shanahans. Finally, Griffin was removed from the lineup with three games left -- he does not like to say he was benched -- to, Shanahan said, make sure he was healthy for the offseason.
Griffin also heard whispers about his ability to read defenses.
"You don't go from the ability to read defenses one year and not have that ability the next, so I don't believe that one bit," Griffin said.
Now Griffin gets a coach who doubles as a neighbor and has a different demeanor.
"It's a normal head coach-quarterback relationship," Griffin said. "Jay brings a lot of energy. He's funny. He's personable. We're excited to have him here."
Griffin and the entire offense were off in the first practice, whether because of defensive pressure, the steady rain that fell most of the morning or the fact that it was the initial workout. Still, that didn't dampen his spirits. It's not just about who's coaching, either.
Griffin's demeanor all offseason was upbeat for a number of reasons: He played a big role in trying to recruit free agents, he worked with quarterbacks guru Terry Shea in the offseason, and the drama that surrounded him all of 2013 had evaporated.
"Everyone feels different in the organization," Griffin said. "We all come in with a lot more energy. There's a togetherness in that locker room. For me, personally, not having to come off a knee surgery is a big boost for me. I had an opportunity to work on my craft in the offseason. It was great to hang out with the guys and be around them.
"We all know it's beneficial to be out there in practice and to not have to worry about injuries. Other than that, I don't pay that stuff any mind. I'm ready to go."
Part of that excitement stems from DeSean Jackson
“Repetition,” Gruden said. “Reps, reps, reps.”
And then Gruden added:
“You can never have too many reps.”
Griffin spent all offseason working on his fundamentals and learning Gruden’s offense. But there’s more for him to do.
“The more you see that play against different defenses, the more you see the blitzes that he has to handle from a quarterback position, step it up in the pocket, his fundamentals, his footwork,” Gruden said. “It’s very difficult to miss an entire training camp and a preseason and come in Week 1 and say, ‘Here’s the ball. Go play’ It’s very difficult, so all quarterbacks need the reps. They desire the chance to compete not only on Sunday but every day during the week, and Robert is an ultimate competitor.”
Gruden made it clear, just in case it wasn’t, that Griffin is the best quarterback in camp -- by a good amount. Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy are the backups. Of course, the Redskins have made it a point to make life more comfortable for Griffin after a rugged 2013 season. Griffin was heavily involved in recruiting players from other teams; his happiness in public or private conversations was evident. He has a new lease with a new coach and no knee injury to worry about.
The coaches have been pleased with how Griffin has handled himself mentally, saying he’s doing a great job with the command of the game, his progressions, his audibles to runs. More is needed.
“He’s got a long way to go. He understands that,” Gruden said. “The preparation -- both physical and mental preparation -- he’s got a great understanding and a great feel for that already as a young guy and the maturation process that he has to have.
“The ability to make mistakes, learn from mistakes, take criticism -- it makes you a better person and a stronger man, and he’s realizing that, and he’s just going to continue to get better. He’s got all the talent in the world, there’s no question about it, so we’ve just got to get it out of him each and every day. He’s going to come to work and try to be a great player.”
Another obvious storyline is Gruden and Griffin’s relationship. Gruden did say “The big thing is not to make it so much about Robert, but make it about the Redskins.”
But Gruden also said when it comes to their situation that, “happiness comes with wins.” But Gruden understands a happy Griffin could be a highly productive one.
“Nobody’s going to be happy if we’re 2-14,” Gruden said. “Our whole goal is to make sure we make him as comfortable as possible with this system and that when he’s out there on Sundays, he’s comfortable and feels good about the direction we’re going offensively. And if we can make him feel comfortable and put him in a comfort zone and a place where he can succeed, then I feel like we’ll have a much better chance with this franchise to be successful.”
- It’s the first day of practice and it could be a wet one. There’s a 50-percent chance of rain at the start of the 8:35 a.m. practice so there’s a chance we’ll get soaked (indeed the rain had started early in the morning). But it’ll be interesting to see how many fans attend the workout and see what sort of buzz there is surrounding the team. I remember long lines on the first day last summer. I will say there’s a strong feeling of anticipation among the players after the way last season ended. It’s not just Robert Griffin III who’s ready to get started -- and it’s not just because they have a new coach, either. It’s a fresh start for many and a chance for some to reclaim good vibes (like Griffin and DeSean Jackson). Gruden is not a guy who will generate buzz, but there’s a definite new energy and part of that stems from him and his decisions. In many cases the players are just ready to prove that 2013 was a fluke.
- There aren’t any full-pad workouts allowed for Thursday or Friday, per the CBA agreement. So we’ll basically see what we saw during the spring workouts. That means it won’t be as revealing as you’d like them to be. However, after not having seen the players for a month perhaps you’ll see some changes in some of the rookies -- how much Morgan Moses is still bending at the waist, for example. There also isn’t a lot of surprise as to who will line up where. Keenan Robinson will open up alongside Perry Riley at linebacker, just as he had all spring. Robinson is a better three-down option than Darryl Sharpton or Akeem Jordan. But, for the most part, the biggest questions involve the punting and kicking game.
- Players are available after practice, with cornerback DeAngelo Hall and Griffin scheduled to speak at the podium. Griffin will be much more available than in the past when he was limited to once a week. But early in the offseason it was clear that this would change, and it’s something Griffin likes. There are no pressing issues with him so the fact that he’s available does not mean there will be news every day. I’m anxious to talk to Hall after his few tweets the other night. He’s coming off a solid season, yet clearly feels overlooked when people talk about the game’s top corners. So yeah, that will come up, and I’m guessing he won’t shy away from speaking more on the topic.
Notes and observations from Jay Gruden's presser Wednesday:
- Jay Gruden clearly had more of a game face on than previous pressers. Yes, you can tell that training camp is here. It's not like he was uptight (the way Joe Gibbs would get on Fridays during the season). And it's not as if his answers were short (Gruden speaks in paragraphs; that's good for a writer). But he was definitely locked in on what he wants to accomplish in camp.
- He has a bit of crustiness to him, like when he said, "Nothing is worse than when you let someone go and they kick your ass later on."
- A little crustiness is good, but it's also part of his personality. Gruden is a friendly guy and the players seem to like him. That's great if you win. But he's not just here to win friends. "My relationship with all the players, hopefully is a good one and a strong one," he said, "one that I'm the coach, they're the player. Moving forward, I've got their back and we are going to do everything we can to help them." The key part: He's the coach, they're the players. Otherwise, you end up allowing players to run the ship. And that's where a little crustiness can help him.
- Gruden will rely on others, something we already knew. It's one reason why the Redskins wanted to keep Jim Haslett around, to provide guidance from experienced voices. But Gruden reiterated Wednesday that "every decision I make will have input." Whether this works or not, I don't know. But I think the result is a staff that feels more ownership; same with the players. Now they just have to prove they can win.
- Gruden was asked if he looked at previous coaches who have struggled in Washington and what he could learn. The problem is, they all struggled for different reasons but in general it's been an organizational issue. Some lacked players; others lacked support; others lacked the ability to do the job. What Gruden needs to do is get quarterback Robert Griffin III to play at a certain level and make sure the defense improves.
- Any time to reflect on his journey to reach this spot ended long ago and probably shortly after Gruden accepted the job -- he made it clear he likes to look forward. His feelings now? "Anticipation. You're excited about the season. You're nervous. you've got butterflies walking out there every day."
- Do not expect any crazy drills during practices from Gruden. "I don't think there's any special drill I'm going to do that nobody's ever done before. I hope not. It'll be football." Translation: No slip-and-slides.
- This is not related to Gruden, but: Maurice Hurt is in a battle to win a roster spot and he reports out of shape? What are the odds that he somehow wins that roster spot? I did not think he was going to make the roster before camp. His chances just went down. Seriously; how does this happen?
Gruden would not speculate as to when the others would return, but said Hatcher, a big free-agent signing to help the pass rush, likely would return before the others. Players can be activated off the PUP list at any time during camp. Hatcher underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee in June and was scheduled to miss four to six weeks. If it takes six weeks, that would mean he’d miss the first two weeks of camp.
Bowen is coming off microfracture surgery and Hankerson tore his ACL and LCL last season. Meanwhile, corner Richard Crawford (coming off ACL surgery) and corner Tracy Porter (shoulder surgery) will be available from the start of camp.
District of Columbia Police said Wednesday they are searching for the 28-year-old Davis, who lives in Leesburg, Virginia. He's suspected in a domestic assault that occurred in the early morning hours of June 2 in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, known for its nightlife.
Davis was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in February for his second violation of the league's substance-abuse policy. He said he was suspended for taking a supplement that included a banned substance. He says it wasn't for marijuana, which was the reason for his first suspension. A day after his suspension was announced, he was charged in Virginia with driving while intoxicated.
Davis played for the Redskins from 2008 to '13 and is now a free agent.
Early in the Washington Redskins' spring workouts, it became clear. Jay Gruden was being Jay Gruden on the field. He served as a defensive back on some plays, a safety on others and brought an energy that was his own. It was a good first step in being a head coach in the NFL: Be yourself. That's what most coaches always say and Gruden, with a brother who won a Super Bowl and a father who has been involved in the game for decades knows this.
Of course, it's about much more than pretending you're a defensive back: It's having core beliefs and staying true to them as well, whether it's in how you delegate or how you deal with player problems. In that regard, Gruden remains a work-in-progress.
Gruden's first camp begins Thursday, with players reporting Wednesday. There's still so much to learn about how he'll be as a coach -- and going through his first season will be revealing, whether good or bad.
"I don't know how I'm going to be," Gruden said earlier this offseason. "I'll be myself and go from there. The biggest thing is you want to give your players every avenue to be successful. If they need a kick in the rear you kick them in the rear. If they need a pat on the back, you pat them on the back and hopefully I'm a good judge of when to do both. We'll see."
Gruden also saw how Marvin Lewis handled his job in Cincinnati. Lewis has held the Bengals' job since 2003, despite a couple rough seasons. Perhaps it gives a clue as to how Gruden wants to be.
"Marvin is a father figure to those guys," Gruden said. "Treats them all with respect, didn't take a lot of stuff off the field or on the field, great with discipline but also maintained a loose ship. He had a consistent approach every day. He didn't treat A.J. Green differently than he did Dane Sanzenbacher. That's important."
Before Gruden gets started with camp, we deliver him some wisdom gathered earlier this offseason from a handful of other coaches on their advice for a first-time head coach:
Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis: "The first thing you learn so much of is that you have to deal with injuries. That's the thing more than anything else. Dealing with injuries is difficult. And those are the unforeseen things that happen all the time. You're not sure when it's going to happen and you're not sure who will be the next person. It's inevitable that you'll get a surprise on a Wednesday or Thursday that you didn't know about on Monday or Tuesday. You're going to have the left corner who now has this issue and the right guard has this issue and so forth. Why aren't I playing more? Why am I not doing this? You have more on your plate to deal with than you've ever had."
Kansas City's Andy Reid: "It was important that I'm asking players to let their personality show that I let mine show, that they know I'm all in and most of all that you'll give them an opportunity from a coaching standpoint to be the best they can possibly be. You have to present that to the guys and it has to be real. Players can read through it like that if you're putting on an act. I try to be myself and be honest. Sometimes that can be the hardest thing. You're dealing with young kids, but this is their livelihood. They're making a lot of money. In a lot of cases they're making more money than their parents ever dreamed of making. You have to be honest with them. That's very important."
Tennessee's Ken Whisenhunt: "There's a lot more going on than what you anticipate and what you're exposed to as a coordinator. You're only looking at one side of the ball. When you step into that role as a head coach now all of a sudden you have all three phases. You have a lot of different things going on. I wouldn't say I wasn't prepared for it, but the volume of things that come up as well as the things that are non-football, like what time do the buses leave to go to the airport for the road trip. It's fitting all those things into your schedule and making time to make sure you get them all done while you're still involved with football is an important piece of it. ...There's a lot of things on your plate. I was lucky because I had good coaches I could lean on. That's a big piece of it, too."
Baltimore's John Harbaugh: "The biggest thing is how big the job is. There's a lot going on all around you and it moves quickly. I didn't really understand that at first. You've got to live it, not just one year either. You learn every year. It's a complicated job."
Denver's John Fox: "The first thing is to be yourself. Most of us aren't smart enough to be anybody else. All these guys here work hard, it's not like you have to learn that. And you don't get to spend much time with football, you're managing people. I didn't want to be a head coach for a long time because of that. Then I decided it's something I wanted to try and I actually enjoy it, the managing of people -- whether it's your coaching staff, hiring your staff. That's a real important thing to begin with and then it's just managing. You have your own managing style but be yourself. That would be the first thing I'd tell guys."
Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin: "That was a long time ago, man. I'm trying to get better every year and for me it's all about that. I realize the variables change. I need to be what my guys need me to be as opposed to what they want me to be. That's always my focus."