Practice got underway around 8:45 a.m., on what represented one of the hottest days this summer. The team practiced until just before 11 a.m. while operating on a schedule that closely resembles the slate coach Jay Gruden plans to use in training camp.
“We’ll practice in the morning. Good tempo,” Gruden said referring to the remainder of the minicamp and the training camp schedule. “Then obviously, we’ll break off and meet in the afternoon and do a walk-through in the afternoon, get them off their feet and then see how much they retain in the morning. We try to beat the heat a little bit – get them out here fresh in the morning, I think it’s a good thing.”
Players said that Tuesday’s action felt a lot of like training camp both because of the heat and because of the competitive nature of the practice.
Players on both sides of the ball – as well as some of their coaches, Gruden included – engaged in a steady stream of good-natured trash talk throughout the practice.
Then, late in the session, backup defensive lineman Doug Worthington and second-string center Mike McGlynn got into a tussle. McGlynn yanked Worthington’s helmet off before teammates separated the two.
Players saw some humor in the moment and predicted afterwards that the fiery nature of practices will likely return in training camp.
“Yeah, there was a helmet thrown,” Robert Griffin III said. “I’ve never seen a guy take another guy’s facemask off his helmet. So that was impressive. Emotions are high. Guys are ready to go. We’ve been at it for a while now. This is our last week of work before training camp. Everyone wants to go out on a good note. I like the intensity. Everyone showed up today ready to go.”
Gruden downplayed the incident, saying, “Sometimes competitive players push and shove, and we’ve just got to avoid that.”
The coach did praise the intensity of his players, however.
One of the biggest trash-talkers of all was secondary coach Raheem Morris, who during a series of strong stands by his defensive backs, jokingly chided the offense for a lack of big-target receivers.
“Get him out the end zone, coach!” he chirped toward wide receiver coach Ike Hilliard after DeSean Jackson failed to secure a pass in the end zone. “He’s a vertical guy. We need a sub, coach!”
Later, rookie Ryan Grant failed to come away with a catch in the opposite corner of the end zone, and Morris barked, “We need a 6-foot wideout. That back shoulder don’t look the same. Put a sub in!”
Hilliard threw up his hands, in mock frustration before laughing and jawing back at Morris.
Some other observations from Tuesday’s practice:
● Asked which player he expected or hopes to distinguish himself as the biggest threat on offense, Gruden named Griffin.
“Hopefully the quarterback,” he said. “Our quarterback’s got to be the biggest threat of all time. After that, I think that the good thing about our offense is right now, we have multiple threats and the biggest key will to be to try to distribute it evenly.”
● Gruden said before pointing out that on given days this offseason, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed, Andre Roberts, Ryan Grant and running back Alfred Morris have all shined.
● Gruden said that he doesn’t believe that a lack of size will hamper the Redskins’ receiving unit. Rookie Cody Hoffman currently is the only healthy wideout taller than 6 feet, at 6-4. But Gruden said that the 6-foot-tall Garcon plays bigger and more physical than his size, as does the 5-foot-10 Jackson.
● Gruden says versatility will rank among the strengths of the defensive line. This offseason with Cofield sidelined, we’ve seen Kedric Golston, Chris Baker and Chris Neild all line up at nose tackle. Baker has also seen time at right end with Hatcher sidelined, and Jarvis Jenkins has played both left end, and tackle in the four-man nickel fronts. Gruden said the players’ ability to line up at multiple spots will help make for a strong rotation along the line, and ensure Washington’s defensive linemen remain fresh.
● With Brian Orakpo sidelined by what Gruden said is believed to be strep throat, rookie Trent Murphy worked as the right outside linebacker, going against Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams for much of today’s practice. Williams had the strength and experience edge on the rookie, but Gruden said coaches were pleased with how Murphy faired overall, and that such opportunities will only help the Stanford product’s development.
● Young guards Josh LeRibeus and Spencer Long continue to work to show coaches their versatility. For the second straight week, the two worked at right and left guard, respectively, after spending the previous weeks of the offseason program at the opposite spots. Meanwhile, rookie Morgan Moses continues to work at backup right tackle, and second-year pro Tom Compton at left tackle after flip-flopping a couple of weeks ago.
● Tuesday represented the fourth practice this offseason that the media has watched, and once again, the offense didn’t work on any designed runs. Griffin did take off on two broken plays. But the zone-read plays that served as a wrinkle in Kyle Shanahan’s playbook have remained absent.
● The team had referees working practice on Tuesday, and the players had fun begging for penalties on non-calls. On one red-zone play, Griffin went to Reed, but Reed couldn’t get to the ball because it appeared that David Amerson held him. The referees didn’t throw the flag, so Griffin jokingly yelled, “This is OUR session,” referring to the offense, and then continued to ask why the penalty hadn’t been called. Raheem Morris yelled back, “Hey, we’re in his head now!” Later, it was Morris who stood next to the head linesman and asked why she hadn’t thrown a flag when Garcon caught a touchdown pass and proceeded to dunk the ball. The officially proceeded to tell him that portion of the field wasn’t her responsibility, and Morris continued joking with her.
● Players said – and Gruden agreed – that they are ready to strap on the pads after 11 non-contact practice sessions. Gruden said non-contact practices make it harder to evaluate running backs, and those evaluations will have to wait until the preseason games.
● The place kickers competed head-to-head to conclude practice, but both kicked on Arena League goal posts (only nine feet apart, rather than the NFL’s 18 feet, 6 inches in width). Kai Forbath made one of three attempts, nailing a 44-yarder, but missing a 37-yarder and 50-yarder – both of which seemed likely to have gone through standard uprights. Meanwhile, Zach Hocker made all three field goals on the AFL uprights, with makes from 37, 44 and 50 yards out.
— Mark Maske contributed to this report.
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