By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 5, 2007
BALTIMORE, Aug. 4 -- The most telling aspect of the Washington Redskins' scrimmage with the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday was not so much who participated, but who did not. Coach Joe Gibbs barely used most of his veterans, erring on the side of caution with anyone nursing any sort of injury instead using the afternoon to evaluate the team's depth.
Very few Redskins regulars took part in the 11-on-11 drills at M&T Bank Stadium with the first-team offense and defense comprised of a hodgepodge of talent. Neither unit looked remotely like it will in next weekend's preseason opener in Tennessee, or in the Sept. 9 season opener. Starting quarterback Jason Campbell, for instance, took considerable work during seven-on-seven drills, with no semblance of a pass rush to fret about, but never faced a full defense.
The Redskins essentially held almost all players coming off offseason surgery out of even individual drills, with linebacker Marcus Washington (hip surgery), guard Randy Thomas (knee surgery) watching. Tailback Clinton Portis (knee tendinitis), tackle Chris Samuels (knee sprain) and cornerback Jerametrius Butler (hamstring) already were ruled out earlier in the week by injuries. Guard Jason Fabini (groin) did not take part in many plays, and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd was expected to play but opted not take part when his shin splints flared up, Gibbs said. The Redskins also decided to keep key veterans, like center Casey Rabach, tackle Jon Jansen, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and cornerback Shawn Springs, on the sideline for much of the day.
"We came out of it without any [new] injuries, which is good, and we looked [at] a lot of the guys we wanted to look at, who have a chance [to make the team]," Gibbs said. "We decided against putting some of the front-line guys in, particularly on offense, and we kind of picked and choosed on defense who was out there. Next week in the preseason it'll be a whole different deal, and the front-line guys will be taking quite a bit of the action."
For Washington's rested stars, this amounted to a long weekend off. The Redskins hold far fewer two-a-days than most teams, and this has not been an overly physical camp, several veterans have said privately. On Friday the team did individual drills, then spent most of the 70-minute practice in a walkthrough to prepare for the scrimmage. With a host of veterans taking little work Saturday and the team off Sunday, some players will have gone from Thursday evening until Monday afternoon without participating in a rigorous practice. The extreme heat has played a role in the shorter sessions -- it was 141 degrees on the turf at one point Saturday -- but the demands on Redskins players have been less than those placed on other teams thus far.
Coaches plan to make more thorough talent evaluations a week from now, after the game against the Titans, but some things were clarified by the scrimmage.
The staff clearly wants to pair rookie safety LaRon Landry with Sean Taylor as often as possible. Landry, who reported to camp late after a four-day contract impasse, worked with Taylor on the first-team defense, and both were often communicating with linebacker Lemar Marshall to ensure proper alignment. While rookies rarely start immediately under Gregg Williams, the assistant head coach-defense, Landry could be an exception.
"He's going to have to work his way in and earn it," Gibbs said of Landry. "But our defensive coaches said, 'Hey, let's put him out there right off the bat and see what kind of chemistry we have there.' That was kind of the game plan there."
Campbell looked calm in seven-on-seven drills, taking almost all of the snaps, but with a shaky offensive line the team took no chances. The "first-team" line today consisted of no one who is a certain starter, and with the Ravens dropping into a zone, Campbell was forced to take underneath throws. "I just have to be smart as a quarterback and take what the defense gives you," Campbell said. Tackle Todd Wade, making the shift to guard, worked with several units as he looks to make the tricky transition. "I thought I could improve on some things," Wade said, "so I wanted to go back out there again" with the second team.
Washington's overabundance of quarterbacks meant a limited workload. Even with Campbell not taking part in the 11-on-11 drills, there were not many reps for Casey Bramlet and Jordan Palmer, who hope to push veteran Todd Collins for the No. 3 spot. Palmer took over for Bramlet midway through a series and passed for a touchdown, but was shaky. Mark Brunell and Collins showed signs of rust, too, and either Bramlet or Palmer could be let go this week.
"With five guys there, it's hard to get the work," Gibbs said. "We're probably going to have to make some decisions there to trim things down, because now it starts getting real serious. You go to preseason and you can't waste a play there."
A few relative unknowns made strong showings. Running back Marcus Mason, an undrafted rookie from Youngstown State, tore off a few quality runs and received lots of work (12 carries for 34 yards). Veteran reserve Derrick Blaylock (six carries for 20 yards) continued his strong camp as well, and could get more work as Portis recovers from his lingering knee problem.
"Both of those guys have looked impressive to us," Gibbs said. "This was important for us to start formulating some plans now, as far as who is going to play and how much they'll play in preseason."