Redskins training camp: Observations from Day 9

RICHMOND – Jay Gruden called another audible Friday, opting for a pad-free practice as he looks to ensure that his players have adequate time to heal from various bumps, bruises and soreness in advance of next week’s joint practices with the New England Patriots.

“I think that for the most part everybody this time at camp in the NFL probably has a little soreness right now,” Gruden said the evening before. “Now, it is how you manage it, how you get the most out of them and how you are going to tailor practice. … My goal is to get them to Monday, ready and healthy so they can compete against New England at their finest form.”

Practice still had a pretty good tempo, particularly the team portions, during which the offense focused on the no-huddle and hurry-up attacks. After some bright spots and some drive-killing miscues, the players came away encouraged for the most part.

“I think it takes time for everything: three-step, five-step, seven-step, and no huddles thrown in there. That stuff is about timing,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “Guys have to get used to running a play, coming back and running another play in 10 to 15 seconds as opposed to letting the clock run down. It’s a process. Today was the first day, so I felt like we did a good job of everybody recognizing the code words we’re using and getting out and running the plays. I thought that was extremely good for a start.”

Griffin said the players like running the hurry-up offense, and he definitely does. He enjoys the challenge of being the field general, running the offense and calling the shots on the fly.

“I think every quarterback likes to go out there and have more command of the field, run it quickly. But, whatever coach wants to call, that’s what I’ll run,” Griffin said. “It challenges a defense to make their checks a lot faster as opposed to coming out of the huddle, come up to the line and playing the check game with the ‘mike’ linebacker. You kind of get a play, run it quick and exploit what the defense is trying to do. And it makes them have to adapt quick and play fast. It really tests your endurance. That’s the main thing.”

● Today was another rainy day for the Redskins, but they must be getting used to this, because it didn’t seem to severely hamper the quarterbacks and receivers, although there was one bad snap because of the slippery conditions.

The Redskins had referees in practice for a second consecutive day, and in keeping with the league’s new emphasis on enforcing illegal contact on receivers after five yards, the officials were rather strict.

● Rookie outside linebacker Trent Murphy is doing well in the pass-rushing department but has some work to do in pass coverage. He was called for illegal contact four times while matched with tight ends.

● E.J. Biggers and David Amerson lamented the fact that it’s already hard enough to play defense in today’s NFL, and that pass-catchers do plenty of pushing off as they come out of breaks and go after passes. But, they also said, they can’t let the fear of drawing a flag cause them to become tentative.

● Coaches say inside linebacker Perry Riley Jr. has made a jump forward in his development, and Riley credits the work of assistant Kirk Olivadotti. Riley says the coach, hired this year as Jim Haslett revamped his staff, has so much knowledge and a great way of teaching. He feels like he will be a more complete linebacker this year. The one-on-one pass coverage drills for the inside linebackers exhibited this. Riley had done poorly on his first two attempts and was guilty of illegal contact as he got turned around and grabbed fullbacks Stephen Campbell and Darrel Young to keep from losing them. Olivadotti pulled Riley off to the side and walked him through aspects of his technique that needed fixing. Riley came out the next time and intercepted a Colt McCoy pass intended for Young.

● Defensive coaches are very encouraged by how Riley and fellow inside linebacker Keenan Robinson have looked. Those two seem to be locked in as the starting ‘jack’ and ‘mike’ ‘backers, respectively.

● It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out behind those two, however. Will Compton remains on the second unit, but Darryl Sharpton, Adam Hayward and Akeem Jordan continue to rotate at the other inside linebacker spot. Sharpton, a fifth-year pro, has good athleticism and speed, and a bit of a nasty streak as well. Coaches like that. Hayward  doesn’t seem to make game-changing plays, but he knows where to be and is steady and reliable. Special teams is his forte. Jordan can make all the calls, but he lacks the speed and athleticism of the other two. He routinely came out on passing downs when he played for the Chiefs and Eagles. I’m curious to see how the numbers shake out at this position. Coaches could very well go with only four inside linebackers as they form this roster, but five remains a possibility.

● Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson seemed to have one of his better days. He caught a deep touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins after getting past Richard Crawford. Cousins and Robinson can thank Niles Paul for that play. Paul pancaked Murphy as the rookie tried to go low and get around the tight end and attack the quarterback on his blindside. But Paul’s big block bought Cousins the second he needed to locate Robinson and make the throw.

● Robinson also had a touchdown pass from Griffin during seven-on-seven action. It was a 60-yard touchdown pass, again against Crawford.

● Crawford continues to struggle as he tries to make this 53-man roster after missing all of last year with torn ligaments in his knee. As mentioned yesterday, he frequently seems a step late, and his assignments in turn make key catches. Another battling cornerback who has yet to consistently stand out is Terry Porter, whom Washington signed this offseason with plans of using him as the nickelback. But thus far, Biggers still looks like the better of the two, and despite his youth and inexperience, rookie Bashaud Breeland looks a little better than Porter. If you had to go with four cornerbacks right now, I’d have to say Hall, Amerson, Biggers and Breeland. But, there’s still time for things to change. Porter did miss all of the offseason with shoulder surgery rehab, so we’ll see how he looks in a couple weeks and if he’s able to make up some ground.

● With Trent Williams resting his bruised shin, Tom Compton got the start at left tackle. That was pretty telling because until today, Compton had worked exclusively at right tackle (behind Tyler Polumbus, and then in place of Polumbus when the veteran was away). Compton does have experience as a swing tackle, because that’s what he spent all of last year doing, flip-flopping in practice. But rookie Morgan Moses has worked as the second-team left tackle throughout training camp. However, he has struggled, and with Williams sidelined, coaches felt that Compton was more ready to step into a first-team role. The Redskins did give Compton more tight end help than they did Williams. Compton wasn’t perfect as two shaky plays stood out. But as a whole, he had a fair showing.

● The first play when Compton appeared to be in some trouble: Brian Orakpo got around him only to have Compton slide back and around to his left more, trying to keep the linebacker from getting to the quarterback. The rest of the pocket was beginning to collapse, and Griffin sensed Orakpo coming up from behind, and so he stepped up, but Kory Lichtensteiger and Shawn Lauvao both were getting shoved into his path. The quarterback spun off the line and took off to daylight off Lauvao’s shoulder and picked up 20 yards, much to the delight of the fans.

● Griffin had another impressive play, but this one wouldn’t have counted. Griffin rolled to his right with Murphy and Riley breathing down his neck. Both Compton and Chris Chester appeared to be guilty of holds as Griffin continued to scramble and then hit DeSean Jackson for 60-yard touchdown pass. The fans, and some players, celebrated until they saw that the officials hadn’t missed the hold, and a couple yellow flags marked the spot.

● Griffin later had a nice play where he scrambled to avoid pressure and located Alfred Morris for a completion.

● The quarterback went to Young on a bootleg pass early in the 11-on-11 portion of practice. But a couple plays later, he had Young open underneath and with pressure coming. Griffin opted not to dump the ball off to Young on that roll-out throw and forced it a little further upfield to Roberts, who was headed out of bounds and heavily covered. Cornerback Peyton Thompson reached in and swatted the ball away.

● Second-year back Chris Thompson got a fair amount of action as the third-down back during the hurry-up offense portions of practice.

● Griffin later had a pretty pass, floating the ball into Roberts over the top, dropping it in perfectly so the receiver could catch it in stride. Roberts bounced off DeAngelo Hall, who had provided some coverage over the top, turned and darted toward the end zone.

● Second-year safety Bacarri Rambo has been short on highlights, but he made a play today, intercepting a Kirk Cousins pass downfield as the quarterback attempted a deep throw to Robinson.

● The punting battle continues, but today, first-year pro Blake Clingan appeared to do a little better than third-year veteran Robert Malone. Both are good-sized, strong-legged punters (Malone is 6 feet 2, 243 pounds; Clingan is 6-3, 223). But Clingan had the better hang time today with unofficial times of 5.06 seconds, 4.89 seconds and 4.62 seconds. Malone, meanwhile, had hang times of 4.31 seconds, 4.64 seconds and 3.88 seconds, by my stopwatch.

Find previous days’ observations here. Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

What’s ahead:

Washington has a walk-through Friday afternoon at 4:10 p.m. Here’s our camp guide, if you’re planning to attend.

Also from The Post:

Reid: Is Chris Thompson the answer?

Williams sits; Garcon and Thomas return

Decision on kickers will go down to ‘the very last minute’

Wise: Training camp’s preferred flavor? Vanilla

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

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @lizclarketweet | @JReidPost | @Insider

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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