Redskins looking forward to joint practices with Patriots

RICHMOND – Practices at Redskins training camp will have a different look and feel to them over the course of the next three days as Washington’s players and coaches welcome the New England Patriots to town for three joint sessions.

Those joint practices will precede Thursday’s preseason opener at FedEx Field against New England, and they will provide players and coaches with a couple of extra benefits that intrasquad session would not:

● The joint practices give the players some fresh faces across the line. After going against each other for the offseason practices and first two weeks of training camp, players have grown tired of facing their teammates. So, seeing a new face and opposing color will provide a bit of an adrenaline and performance boost.

● The practices will give coaches chance to see how their players will do against an uncommon opponent. By now, Washington’s defensive players know the offensive plays and their counterparts’ tendencies. The same goes for the offensive players with the defense. Coaches are eager to see who stands out against a new foe.

● The practice sessions also will lend themselves to scrimmage opportunities, which means additional showcase opportunities for players, and more bodies of work for coaches to use for evaluations.

“It’s not so much a measuring stick. It’s just good work against another team,” Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen said. “We’ve been seeing our defense the whole time, so we’ll see some changes in the defense, and the same for the defense versus the offense.”

RICHMOND VA, JULY 24: Washington head coach Jay Gruden during day 1 of Washington Redskins training camp in Richmond VA, July 24, 2014. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
New Redskins Coach Jay Gruden gets a chance to see how his team fares this week against New England. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

It’s the first joint practice experience for the majority of Washington’s players, but not for Coach Jay Gruden. While offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, Gruden’s team held joint practices with the Atlanta Falcons. He came away from that experience pleasantly surprised.

“I thought it was great,” Gruden said. “Initially going in I wasn’t too fired up about it, but going into it and just giving them the chance to practice against different people, I think that’s the big thing. You get tired sometimes of seeing the same people over and over again as a player is concerned. Now you’re going against somebody else and somebody else that’s trying to make a team so the competition should be fierce, I would think. It’s a great opportunity for some of these young guys to really show what they have against another football team that’s been very good for a long time. I think it’s a great chance for everybody to learn and get better and also a great chance for us as coaches to evaluate our guy and evaluate what we’re doing schematically.”

Washington’s players welcome the new setting and believe that in addition to having a chance to compete against an unfamiliar opponent, they also may wind up learning a thing or two.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III said his primary focus will be playing at his best against a talented New England defense. But he admits that when he gets a breather, he’ll take the opportunity to peek over to the other field to see how future Hall of Famer Tom Brady goes about his business, and that if possible, he may pick his counterpart’s brain for nuggets of knowledge that he can apply to his own game.

“I haven’t experienced playing against another team in practice. It’ll be interesting,” Griffin said. “To sit here and tell you I won’t be looking to see what Tom Brady is doing, that’d be a lie. He won’t be the focus of my attention the time the entire time they’re here. He’s been a great quarterback in this league for a long time and has done great things, so you always want to talk to those guys and soak up whatever knowledge you can, but at the end of the day, I have to practice against the New England Patriots defense. I’m past the goo-goo-ga-ga eyes over players that you see out there.”

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:

After a day off Sunday, the Redskins return to camp Monday morning for an 8:35 a.m. practice. They’ll be joined in Richmond by the New England Patriots. Here’s our camp guide, if you’re planning to attend.

Also from The Post:

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Gruden cuts Haslett loose; defense will focus on pass rush

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After squandering a chance, LeRibeus fights for a job

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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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