RICHMOND – The Washington Redskins concluded their three days of joint practices with the New England Patriots, but today’s action essentially was a glorified walkthrough with 19,855 fans in attendance.
The starting offenses trotted through scripted plays against New England’s first-team defense, and vice versa, and then the second and third units.
Everything was scripted, from the pregame stretching routine (which differs from the pre-practice program slightly) and warmups on down to the 15-play selections for each offense. There was no level of competition; just players and coaches making sure they had their responsibilities committed to memory.
Obviously, this doesn’t lend itself to many observations. But here are some closing thoughts on the week of joint practices, and a few other nuggets.
● It was interesting to get different players’ perspectives on what they got from the week. Some, like Robert Griffin III, Barry Cofield and DeAngelo Hall saw it as a measuring stick, and good tool to show them what areas in their games require extra attention. Others appreciated the extended visit from the Patriots because it broke up the monotony of training camp. Brian Orakpo ranked among the second group of players, as did DeSean Jackson. Orakpo said not much else could be taken from the practices because they still did take place in a controlled setting, where pass-rushers couldn’t go all out in their efforts to get to a quarterback. Meanwhile, the offensive linemen for the most part agreed that they weren’t a fan of the joint practices. Trent Williams said he didn’t mind the monotony and preferred to go against a teammate in practice. Kory Lichtensteiger agreed. He said teammates can get competitive, but at the same time, they’re mindful to take care of each other, while opponents are not quite as attentive to this aspect. Neither gave a specific instance of dirty or risky play, however.
● Jay Gruden said he’d willingly hold another joint practice in the future as long as his team didn’t have to travel to do so. He said there was “no question” that the sessions – particularly the first two days of action, which featured drilling in every game scenario imaginable – proved more beneficial to his starters than would this Week 1 preseason matchup.
● This week also hammered home the lesson of “You play like you practice.” Tom Brady demands excellence in practice just as he does in games. He got on receivers if they didn’t hustle to the line, or back to the huddle. You know how great basketball players never miss during warmups? Brady was the same way in practice. He didn’t throw bad passes. I didn’t see a single overthrow during 11-on-11 action. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald charted Brady as having completed an impressive 60 of 80 passes during the first two days of practice. The only incompletions I saw came on drops by the receiver, or a good breakup by defenders. Brady rarely underthrew a ball, and even when he did, the balls still were catcheable. Barry Cofield said, “He’s like a surgeon back there. Just precise.”
● It’s not really fair to compare a third-year quarterback to a 15-year veteran/future Hall of Famer, but you could see where Robert Griffin III needs to improve, and that’s a good thing. I think the biggest thing for him at this stage of his career is stability and trust. Brady has had the fortune of having this, spending his entire career with Bill Belichick. It’s still extremely early, but judging by the way Jay Gruden and Sean McVay preach strong technique, fundamentals and mental sharpness, they could be the right guys to tutor Griffin. I don’t believe that his rookie year was a fluke and that he is the quarterback we saw last season, as some would say. But I don’t believe he’s anywhere close to a finished product. Jay Gruden continues to stress this.
● I like the way Gruden has thus far shot it straight when asked about Griffin. He doesn’t mind stating what the quarterback must work on. He doesn’t try to baby him with nothing but compliments or “those discussions are between us and will remain private,” as Mike Shanahan would, out of fear of rubbing Griffin the wrong way. I think Gruden has the right style to work with this quarterback. Griffin sees and hears everything – whether that’s good or not – and I think he appreciates Gruden’s honest assessment and balance between instructing, praising and offering constructive criticism.
● Gruden said he’s excited about his first game as an NFL head coach, and he said the butterflies will be there pregame, but then he expected to settle in. He continues to stress that he wants order on the sideline. We’ll see how this goes. Ninety guys on a sideline is a lot.
● Jim Haslett will return to the sideline after coaching the defense from the booth last season. He said it gave him the ability to see the whole field. But he has scrapped that approach and will be on the field, communicating directly with players rather than through assistants.
● Bruce Allen will have a role on game days beyond greeting the tail-gaters at FedEx Field. He’ll be up in the booth helping with the decision-making on replays and when to challenge calls or not, Gruden said.
● Everyone’s interested in seeing who shines tomorrow, and who shows a need for improvement. The preseason stars are always fun to follow, but some of them also don’t even wind up making the team. This will be interesting, because a lot of young guys have a chance to make this team.
● But, not a lot of stock can be put in these games, as Orakpo cautioned. He said, “we went 4-0 in the preseason last year,” and we all know how the rest of the year played out.
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The Redskins and Patriots open their preseasons Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at FedEx Field. The game airs on NBC-4 and CSN, and The Insider will host an open thread during the game.
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