Redskins training camp: Observations from Day 4


Brandon Meriweather is working to balance physical play with staying under control. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

RICHMOND – Sunday’s practice represented another waterlogged day for the Redskins. At one point, the morning session was in danger of being moved inside, as lightning was spotted roughly 45 minutes before practice.

But the storm moved out, and the team got the practice in. By the time the session concluded a little before 11, the skies had started to brighten.

Despite the soggy conditions, the Redskins had a better practice today than they did in Thursday’s rain-soaked session. Quarterback Robert Griffin III said that having played in the rain three days earlier, players were mindful of what adjustments in technique they needed to make, and how to compensate for the slick surface and balls.

Here are a couple of other notes and some observations from today’s practice.

● The Redskins have a lot of players competing at both defensive back and wide receiver, and although most of them are playing pretty well and pleasing their coaches, there hasn’t been a lot of distinction between them thus far. At cornerback, DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson are leading the way, and veterans E.J. Biggers and Tracy Porter have an edge as well, with rookie Bashaud Breeland showing promise. For now, Courtney Bridget Jr., Richard Crawford, Chase Minnifield, Peyton Thompson and Brian Shepherd are almost interchangeable. Wide receiver is similar. Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts are the top three targets. Then there’s Santana Moss, of whom Coach Jay Gruden has spoken highly because of his versatility and experience. But right now, Aldrick Robinson, Ryan Grant, Lee Doss, Cody Hoffman, Rashad Lawrence, Nick Williams, Rashad Ross and Jerry Rice Jr. are all jockeying for position. The best way for anyone to distinguish himself is special-teams play, coaches say. Because the reps for the younger players will begin to decrease on offense and defense, they must show they can help in another area.

● The offense seemed to get the better of the defense for a number of big plays today, and that’s because several times, Washington’s offensive starters went against the fourth group of defensive backs. With so many on the roster at that spot, there are leftover players after the first, second and third teams rotate through. This gives the guys lower on the depth chart a chance to measure themselves against the top offensive players. But it also means the defense – even in situation when the starting front seven is in – has given up some big plays here and there. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett would’ve preferred to avoid those instances, but at the same time, he understands the situation.

● Saturday, when his team strapped on pads for the first time, safety Ryan Clark sported game pants while the rest of his teammates wore team-issued practice shorts. Clark explained that he did so because he was in game mode. Today roughly a dozen teammates – Garcon, Aldrick Robinson, Keenan Robinson, Brian Orakpo, Perry Riley Jr., Brandon Meriweather to name a few – followed Clark’s lead.

● Clark praised Gruden’s stance on the need for the team to have as many pad practices as possible. It’s the only way to truly prepare for game-type situations and develop that physical style of play, he said. “Physicality wins football games. We have to get used to being physical. We have to get used to hitting,” Clark explained. “The guys up front, whether it’s blocking or fitting in blocks, in the secondary, fitting up running backs, fitting up receivers, so it’s good that we get opportunities to be in pads. These kids – because I can call them kids now – they’re spoiled. They were in college systems where you practice one time a day. I remember being in the NFL where we practiced in pads two times a day. And, you know, if you look at the game and the deterioration of tackling now, that may be part of it. Obviously I’m part of the executive board of the NFLPA, so we collectively bargained for that, and it’s good because it keeps guys healthy. But as many times as you can get in pads, as many times Coach Gruden can give us those opportunities to see things from that perspective, that can really help this team.”

● Saturday afternoon, Gruden said he had to talk with Brandon Meriweather about a hit that was close to being illegal according to league rules on leading with the head. The coach said he reminded Meriweather that he needs to lower his strike zone. This morning, Clark said that he too has had conversations with Meriweather on the same topic. But at the same time, Clark says that Meriweather has to continue to play physically and not shy away from contact – just be smarter.

● Speaking of Meriweather, he has held the role of fan crusader this camp. Yesterday, cornerback David Amerson was walking off the field right after practice, and Meriweather told him to go back and pick a child out of the crowd to take a walk with, which is keeping with the tradition Bruce Allen had the players start last year. Amerson explained that he had to get in work on the JUGS machine, and then do a TV interview. Meriweather told him, “That [stuff] can wait. Go grab a kid.” Amerson obeyed. Today, Clark addressed the media from the podium (Redskins PR picks a different player each day) and Meriweather interrupted the news conference to ask Clark to sign an autograph for a fan begging for it. Clark explained that he was in the middle of taking questions. After cracking some jokes and asking questions of his own, Meriweather brought the fan into the media work room and had Clark stop and sign the man’s arm with a permanent marker. Clark completed the favor, and went back to taking questions. Meriweather and the overjoyed fan left.

● Coaches continue to praise the progress rookie outside linebacker Trent Murphy has made. They love the size, athleticism and versatility the second-round pick out of Stanford displays, in addition to his football instincts and ability to learn quickly. Today, Murphy showed off his athleticism as he ran down Moss on a reverse and stopped him for a short gain.

● Backup quarterback Kirk Cousins made some noise today. He threw a great ball to Lawrence, connecting on a 70-yard touchdown pass on which Lawrence got a step on safety Phillip Thomas. Cousins later got pretty animated when Robinson drew a pass interference call on Minnifield while trying to haul in a pass. Gruden made the call and Cousins clapped his hands and cheered, running up to Gruden and yelling, “Good call, ref! Good call!” Gruden got a chuckle out of the reaction.

● Aside from the penalty, Minnifield had probably his best practice thus far, recording an interception and two pass breakups. This came a day after he made a couple of key plays. The second-year player said he feels much more comfortable this year. He missed his rookie season in 2012 because of knee surgery, and then spent all of last season on the practice squad. He said the extra year gave him a chance to learn more while also becoming more explosive. He’s hoping to prove himself worthy of a 53-man roster spot instead of the practice squad this year.

● Fourth-year defensive end Jarvis Jenkins had his best practice as he played with a fire and nastiness he hadn’t displayed during the first three days of camp. He recorded a sack as he overpowered left guard Shawn Lauvao and got back to Griffin. On the next play, Jenkins delivered a hard tackle to knock ball-carrier Roy Helu Jr. backward. Jenkins also did well in the one-on-one drills versus linemen.

● The offensive line had one of its brightest moments when the unit picked up an all-out blitz and gave Griffin time to fire the ball 30 yards upfield to Roberts during 11-on-11 action.

● Griffin had two close calls during the second 11-on-11 segment of practice. His first two passes nearly got picked off. Inside linebacker Keenan Robinson dropped the first, and Amerson missed the second. As a whole, Griffin had another sharp day and moved the ball well, however.

● The Brian Orakpo-Trent Williams matchup is always fun to watch in 1-on-1 drills. The two go back and forth, exchanging blows. Orakpo won the first battle, catching Williams off guard with a bull rush that ran the left tackle right into outside linebackers coach Brian Baker, who stood in the spot the quarterback would’ve been in. Later, Williams came out on top as he thwarted Orakpo’s first attempt, and then quickly slid to the right to keep the linebacker from dipping to the inside to the quarterback.

● Williams proved far too savvy for Murphy, and kept the rookie out of the backfield despite his initial move and counter-move.

● Tyler Polumbus had his best play of camp as he completely manhandled Rob Jackson on their 1-on-1 matchup. The right tackle absorbed Jackson’s bull-rush attempt and then flipped the linebacker onto his back.

● Grant had a couple of nice plays: one a touchdown catch from Cousins, and the other being a catch from Griffin despite being heavily covered by Biggers.

● Helu made that that Griffin-to-Grant connection possible because of a nice pickup of a blitz from Meriweather. The running back stopped Meriweather in his tracks, and Griffin fired the ball downfield. Later, Meriweather got his revenge, however, as on third down during the move-the-ball drill, Helu took a bad angle on the safety, and Meriweather slid to his right to avoid contact and get to the quarterback.

● There were some mixed results for young safety Bacarri Rambo. He had a rare display of physicality as he flew into a pile and knocked Chris Thompson to the ground, ending his run. But on the next play, Rambo was late in getting over to pick up Moss, who made a catch on an in route around the 15-yard line and scored on what turned out to be a 40-yard touchdown pass from Cousins.

● It’s been documented that rookie running back Lache Seastrunk will require some developing in the pass-catching department because Baylor rarely used him in this capacity. Today served as a reminder, as Cousins swung the ball out to his left – but still behind the line – to Seastrunk. The back couldn’t hold onto the ball and slapped his helmet with both hands and got ready to run back to the huddle before Gruden yelled, “Get on the ball!” Because it wasn’t a forward pass, it was a live ball. Two defenders dived at the ball, as did Seastrunk, but it squirted out of bounds before linebacker Adrian Robinson scooped it up.

Find previous days’ practice observations here, and all blog posts from training camp here.

What’s ahead:

Washington practices on Monday at 8:35 a.m. in Richmond. Here’s our camp guide.

Also from The Post:

The Jay Gruden philosophy | Reid: Approach may be hard to maintain

OLB Jenkins waived, OL Hurt activated | Other OLBs have impressed

FS Clark sees no need to lay off the hard hitting

ILB Keenan Robinson ready for signal-calling duties

More NFL coverage: Home page | D.C. Sports Bog | The Early Lead | Fancy Stats

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @lizclarketweet | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

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 · July 27

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