On Tuesday, the team holds the first of 10 offseason practice sessions that will take place over the next three weeks. The practices continue Wednesday and Thursday, then resume Monday.
This marks the first time the Redskins’ veterans and rookie additions will share the field.
For the better part of the past two months, Washington has held voluntary workouts, and some of those sessions have featured some on-field unit and position work with players and coaches. In the final week of April, the Redskins held a three-day voluntary veteran minicamp. Then, a week-and-a-half ago, Washington hosted its rookie minicamp, which featured eight draft picks, 10 free agent additions and a collection of tryout players in five practice sessions.
Now, the veterans and first-year players come together for what will represent their most intensive workloads of the offseason to date.
“We’ve only been on the field for three practices,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said, referring to the veteran minicamp. “Everyone is eager to get more work on the field, to keep figuring out our plan of attack to go out and win games.”
After an offseason marked by changes in the coaching staff, comings and goings in the front office, a free agency period that featured high-profile additions on both sides of the ball as well as more modest moves, and a less-than-flashy draft, the dust has finally started to settle for the Redskins.
The nuts, bolts and framework are in place for Coach Jay Gruden, his staff and players. But a significant amount of experimentation, assembling, tinkering and molding lies ahead.
The players by now have received an introduction to the offensive and defensive playbooks, but they will dig deeper.At the same time, Gruden and his assistants will use the next 10 offseason practices and the mandatory full-squad minicamp in late June to gain a better feel for which elements of their systems work best for their personnel.
Gruden’s highest priority involves helping Griffin rebound from a trying 2013 season and recapture the magic of his rookie year. The Redskins also must figure out how to best fit wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts, as well as new starting left guard Shawn Lauvao, into the puzzle.
On defense, Jim Haslett’s to-do list includes tweaking a system that must generate more pressure on the quarterback while also improving in pass coverage. Defensive lineman Jason Hatcher and safety Ryan Clark, both free agent additions, are expected to help in those areas. Washington also must settle on a starter at inside linebacker following the retirement of London Fletcher.
“Now we get to get on the field and get in some work before training camp,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “We’ve had a chance to put things in in the classroom, and put it on the board, but to actually line guys up and run it and get a field for it and where Hatcher’s going to be, and get a feel for Ryan Clark and some of the young guys and see how [cornerback David] Amerson adjusts to being a starter, it’s going to be good.”
Keenan Robinson, a 2012 fourth-round draft pick, returns from a 2013 campaign lost to injury and could step in for Fletcher. But Washington also signed veterans Akeem Jordan, Adam Hayward and Darryl Sharpton to compete at inside linebacker.
Coaches also will use the offseason practices to continue educating their rookies. Outside linebacker Trent Murphy, a second-round draft pick from Stanford, will likely be used as a situational pass rusher this season behind Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Meanwhile, right tackle Morgan Moses and right guard Spencer Long — both third-round picks — could compete for starting jobs.
The remaining five draft picks and undrafted free agent additions will likely battle for the remaining spots on the depth chart.
Gruden expressed encouragement by the groundwork laid during the rookie minicamp. But he lamented the timing of this year’s NFL draft, which was pushed back two weeks. The rookies are further behind than in previous years and must make up for lost time.
That, the coach said, places a higher importance on those players getting in quality offseason work as they work toward July’s training camp and the preseason.
“That is an issue,” Gruden said, “and that’s a negative of moving [the draft] back. . . . There is concern, but it’s part of the reason we drafted who we drafted. We drafted smart guys. We tried to draft smart guys that are football smart and played in good systems and hopefully they’ll be able to learn fast. But earlier, what we did in free agency, we’re not necessarily having to draft guys that come in and play 70 snaps a game right away. They can come in and be a backup and play situationally and then learn and learn and develop, and that’s the beauty of what we did in the free agent market this year. So they’re going to come in and compete, and how much they can handle will be determined after training camp and preseason.”