Kellen Clemens arrived at Redskins Park, had less than a week of class-room sessions to cram Kyle Shanahan’s offense into his brain and then found himself under center Thursday afternoon, barking out calls he was still trying to perfect and firing passes at receivers whose names he hardly knew.
“It’s just like driving on the freeway – going the wrong way,” the sixth-year pro said Friday morning after his second practice with the Redskins, who signed him as a free agent last week.
“It’s been crazy. But it’s a lot of fun,” the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Clemens added. “It’s good dudes in the quarterback room, I’m really enjoying the first few days of learning this offense and how we’re attacking defenses, and getting to know some of the teammates. It’s been good. It’s just been a blur so far, and I’m just trying to keep up with the installation and the offense as much as I can.”
In Washington, Clemens is hoping to start over after his career failed to take off with the New York Jets, who drafted him with the 49th overall pick in 2006. Clemens served as a backup for the majority of his time with the Jets, with his most significant workload coming in 2007 when as a second-year player, he started eight games and passed for 1,528 yards (completing 52.0 percent of his passes) and five touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Two years ago, the Jets drafted Mark Sanchez and handed him the reins.
The day after the free agency market opened last week, Washington and Clemens reached a deal, and the quarterback believes he has found a promising situation.
“Kyle’s offensive philosophy and his play-calling mentality is something I can relate to; how he wants to attack defenses and read coverages and certain things,” Clemens said. “That’s a thing that’s gotten me really excited is to get to meet with him. He says how he’s approaching a play, and before we had talked, in a lot of cases, it’s how I would’ve thought to attack the coverages. It’s easy to pick up on because a lot of it’s similar to what I’d been taught. And for it to carry over, it’s been a big help. If I was starting from scratch, then have mercy.”
Also appealing to Clemens was the fact that the Redskins’ quarterback situation is anything but stable. The offense very much remains a work in progress, with erratic veteran Rex Grossman and unproven fifth-year pro John Beck duking it out for the starting quarterback job.
When asked about the expectations he has set for himself, Clemens said “my goals are pretty simple.”
He elaborated: “You have to keep it realistic to some degree. I want to come in and work every day. I’m a guy that asks a lot of questions, so I’m sure I’m going to get a little annoying to Matt [Lafleur], our quarterbacks coach. But, I’ve got two guys that have been in the system two and one years now, so three years combined, and I can ask them a lot of questions and they’ve been good helping me out. I just want to come in and work hard and make the most of whatever opportunities they give me.”
But “realistic” doesn’t mean Clemens is settling for the second- or third-string job.
“I think any competitor always wants to play, and I’m certainly a competitor. I look forward to whatever opportunities I have to get out on the field: preseason or whatever. The decision of who Coach Shanahan puts out there Week 1, that’s his decision. I think the thing he’s told the team is that the best player are going to play. So, has he said anything specifically to me? No. But, I’ve been here six days, I’ll keep working, and whatever opportunities I get, I’ll keep working.”
Clemens’ handle of the offense remains limited, but in Friday’s practice, he still seemed to demonstrate a good command for the portion that he knows, spreading the ball around and firing crisp passes to receivers.
“He’s picked things up very quickly,” Mike Shanahan said. “I like the way he’s handled himself. Since he’s had his opportunity to come in here and he’s been in here about 14 to 15 hours a day to get a little edge. He’s done a good job over a practice and a half of being able to go into a huddle, run an offense and execute it. I’m very optimistic about his potential.”