Five areas to monitor as the Redskins get back to practice

Phillip Thomas

An ailing Phillip Thomas may be running out of time to show coaches what he can do. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

After breaking camp in Richmond on Tuesday afternoon and getting a day to settle back in at their homes in Northern Virginia on Wednesday, the Washington Redskins return to the practice fields at team headquarters at 8:35 a.m. Thursday.

Over the course of the next four days, they will prepare for their second preseason game  Monday night’s date at FedEx Field with the Cleveland Browns.

Here are five areas we’ll be keeping an eye on leading up to that matchup:

1. Jason Hatcher’s activity  Coach Jay Gruden said there are no plans to play the defensive end this coming week, but they will ramp up his activity gradually. After being restricted to individual drills the past four practices, Hatcher could start to see some action in team drills. As he does, the team’s medical staff will closely monitor his left knee to make sure it responds favorably, and that there are no setbacks. Hatcher is eager to return to full strength, but knows he also must remain patient, because while it would be nice for him to get some game action in during the preseason, Sept. 7 in Houston represents the main goal.

2. Banged up youngsters  Second-year safety Phillip Thomas hasn’t practiced fully since July 31 because of a hamstring strain, but he hoped to make a return to action today. Coaches haven’t minced words regarding his situation. He needs to get healthy and show them what he’s capable of doing. He’s already behind, having missed all of last season with foot surgery. The hope is that he can quickly be brought up to speed. Meanwhile, fellow 2013 draft pick Chris Thompson (ankle) needs to get back into the mix in a crowded running back competition. Every day that he sits and competitors Evan Royster, Lache Seastrunk and Silas Redd get repetitions only puts the scatback at a further disadvantage. Like Thomas, Thompson’s coaches would like to count on him, but don’t know if that’s possible. The clock keeps ticking.

3. Starter reps  Gruden said he hasn’t decided how much his starters will play in the second preseason game. The offensive starters played one series in the preseason opener, the defensive starters played two. The coach would like to increase the workloads in Preseason Week 2, but much of it will depend on the health of the starters. “We have Thursday, Friday, we’ll be in some pads and then Saturday, we’ll taper off,” Gruden said. “I’ll see where we are from a health standpoint and we’ll go from there, but I expect them to play a little bit more than last week.” Among the veterans nursing injuries: Cornerback DeAngelo Hall (back), tight end Jordan Reed (stomach virus) and safety Ryan Clark (hamstring). Wide receivers DeSean Jackson (ankle) and Pierre Garcon (hamstring) have practiced fully the past two sessions and hope to make their preseason debuts Monday.

4. Griffin’s progress  The goal for the young quarterback is to get better every day.  Coaches have observed progress in his development, but he still has a long way to go. Decision making and accuracy remain the key areas in which Griffin can improve the most. He has yet to have a practice where he looks dominant. He will have bright moments followed by struggles, and then some other promising play. As he continues to gain comfort in this system, his consistency should improve as well.

5. Bashaud Breeland’s situation  The rookie cornerback made a bone-headed decision Monday night in Richmond and was cited by VCU Campus Police for possession of marijuana. The league won’t hand down a punishment until the legal process plays out, but it’ll be interesting to see how Gruden handles this, and if this impacts Breeland’s playing time this week. He had been one of the better young defensive backs on the field this camp. Breeland declined to comment when reached Wednesday evening.

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:

The Redskins practice at 8:35 a.m. on Thursday and Friday.

Also from The Post:

Outside linebackers coach Baker is hip to technique

Rookie CB Breeland cited for marijuana possession

Haslett sees improvment in Redskins’ tackling

Some assembly required: Redskins still coming together as a team

Mike Jones’s 53-man roster projection

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Rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland cited for marijuana possession