Redskins minicamp: Observations from Wednesday’s practice

The Redskins on Wednesday concluded their second day of minicamp practices.

Today marked the continuation of the foundation-laying process, and coach Jay Gruden expressed satisfaction with the amount of work that his unit has put in.

The Redskins ran about 80 plays on Tuesday, and between 65 and 70 on Wednesday, Gruden said. The coach said the high number of plays have given players plenty of opportunities to display their abilities to coaches while also learning on the fly as they head toward training camp.

“I feel like Robert [Griffin III] and the quarterbacks [are] very in control of what’s in so far,” Gruden said. “We’ve had breakdowns here and there over the course of the last couple weeks, but overall I feel good where we’re at. I think the receivers are doing a good job. The running backs are doing an excellent job from a protection standpoint. Offensive linemen and defensively there’s been a breakdown here or there, but overall I feel good with where we are. There’s a long way to go as everybody does this time of year but we’re making just progress slowly but surely and we’ll get there.”

Here are some observations from today’s practice session:

● Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and cornerback Richard Crawford continue to make progress in their recoveries from major knee surgeries. Both players continued to work on the side with the team’s athletic trainers, but part of their regiment included sprinting up a hill at Redskins Park.

● Offensive coordinator Sean McVay praised the work that his players got in during the offseason and said that he’s happy with the progress quarterback Robert Griffin III has made. He hopes his players come back fresh and motivated when training camp gets underway on July 24, but says he does hope Griffin continues to work on his fundamentals during the next month. He said Griffin has done a great job “from the neck up,” as far as absorbing the revamped playbook, comprehending his responsibilities and executing.

● McVay continued to radio plays into the quarterbacks’ helmets during practice but says that Jay Gruden will stick to the plan of serving as primary play-caller during games, and that he expects the coach to consult him here and there during games.

● McVay said he doesn’t think he and Gruden will have trouble spreading the ball out to their many weapons on offense. He said the schemes are designed to exploit the weaknesses of the defense, so one player could have a bigger day than another on a given day, but that he believes that it also is designed to have balance, and feature the strengths of all of the players.

● Through 12 offseason practices, it’s clear that instruction in strong technique ranks among one of the emphases of this coaching staff. Whether it’s Ike Hilliard running the receivers through drills that require them to scoop tennis balls off the grass, or Randy Jordan having his running backs run through a tight metal archway before getting thumped by oversize pads or medicine balls, or Brian Baker directing the outside linebackers through a pass-rushing grid spray-painted on the grass, the coaches are finding all kinds of creative ways to school players in the fundamentals.

● Special teams coach Ben Kotwica has an assistant in Bradford Banta, but he also has enlisted the help of position coaches on both sides of the ball during portions of his unit’s drills. Today, he had Ike Hilliard working with the gunners, defensive backs coach Raheem Morris instructing the jammers on their techniques and Baker working with tacklers. Gruden said the move helps ensure that the players get the best instruction possible, and Kotwica said it also helps further motivate players and sell them on the importance of special teams units when they see coaches from other areas of the team working on this phase of the game as well.

● Brian Orakpo returned to the field after missing Tuesday’s practice with what Gruden said is believed to be strep throat. Meanwhile, fellow outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan sat on Wednesday with some soreness in his back. With Kerrigan sidelined, Orakpo worked almost exclusively on the left edge as opposed to his usual right edge. Rookie Trent Murphy, meanwhile, continued to play on the right end. It’s all a part of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and Baker’s plan to make the pass rushers more versatile, which will allow them to take advantage of matchups. Baker said he aims to take advantage of Orakpo’s speed, Kerrigan’s power, and Murphy’s craftiness and flexibility.

● It’s hard to evaluate running backs during practices because there is no contact. But rookie Silas Redd – an undrafted free agent out of USC and former teammate of Evan Royster’s at Penn State before transferring – has displayed a good burst of speed and elusiveness as a runner, and good pass-catching ability. Meanwhile, Roy Helu Jr., Royster, Redd and Lache Seastrunk continue to rotate in that third-down back role, with Helu usually getting the first nod.

● Defensive ends Jarvis Jenkins and Doug Worthington both recorded pass deflections at the line in today’s practice. Jenkins’s play came early in Wednesday’s session. Worthington’s came on the final play, and the pass went up into the air and came down in the arms of backup inside linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough, who has had three interceptions in practices this offseason.

● Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson displayed some improved route-running ability as he put a move on rookie Bashaud Breeland, causing the cornerback to slip, and then made a catch from Kirk Cousins on an in route. Robinson later got cornerback David Amerson turned around on a route, but Robert Griffin III overthrew Robinson by about 10 feet.

● Baker praised Murphy as a fast learner, and for his instincts, and Murphy displayed this during one play when he blitzed off the right edge and then recognizing Griffin zipping a pass into the flat, the 6-foot-5 Murphy managed to get a hand up, and knocked the throw – intended for DeSean Jackson – to the ground.

● Griffin today ran his first designed quarterback keeper that we’ve seen thus far this offseason. He might have done it in an earlier practice, but he hadn’t during any of the ones open to reporters.

● DeAngelo Hall may have had the highlight of the day as he blanketed Jackson in coverage and then made a diving grab for an interception on Griffin on a route along the right sideline. The catch was so impressive that his defensive teammates cheered and slapped him on the back and helmet after Hall chucked the ball high into the air, and fullback Darrel Young even jogged over to dap Hall up.

Click for a collection of Jones’s observations from previous offseason practices.

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mike Jones · June 18

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