RICHMOND – The Washington Redskins completed their second day of practices with the New England Patriots, and although today’s body of work remained far from perfect, coaches and players insist that they saw improvements.
If this is the measuring stick, then the Redskins have a high mark to reach.
Two days into this joint practice experience, it’s clear that the Redskins aren’t on the Patriots’ level. Bill Belichick and his charges have a foundation that has been laid, and it’s a strong foundation. Jay Gruden and his assistants and players, meanwhile, are trying to lay their foundation, and that will take some time.
Because the Patriots are so advanced, it’s hard to gauge exactly where the Redskins are. They won’t face a Hall of Fame quarterback and coach every single week. They won’t face a pair of cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner every week either.
What the Redskins do know, is that they have work to do, and given that it’s only the first week of August, that’s okay.
Here are some of the highlights, lowlights and other observations that Isabelle Khurshudyan and I collected today:
● The defense still didn’t have a true solution for Tom Brady and the Patriots’ passing attack. They did, however, seem to generate a little bit better pressure on the quarterback. The Redskins managed some stops on third downs. But for every stop, they had three or four missed assignments in pass coverage, and Brady connected with receivers that were running free.
● Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and coach Jay Gruden both expressed disappointment in the red-zone defense. The teams got extensive work in this department today after not working on it on Monday. The Redskins struggled in pass coverage near the goal line. Ryan Clark sat with a hamstring strain, and Bacarri Rambo played in place of him. On back-to-back plays, it seemed as if Brady was picking on the second-year pro, completing touchdown passes each time.
● Brandon Meriweather’s aggression caused a problem on one play. Perry Riley Jr. wrapped up running back Shane Vereen about a yard off the line. Meriweather, however, flew in and knocked Riley off the ball carrier, and Vereen spun around, and trotted the remaining four yards into the end zone.
● Washington’s offense did not do too well in the red zone. In seven plays inside the 20, Griffin & Co. failed to get into the end zone. Revis held DeSean Jackson in check on a pair of smoke routes, and linebacker Jerod Mayo had a hard hit on Alfred Morris to stop him at the line of scrimmage. Morris later got stopped at the 2-yard line by a gang of tacklers.
● The run game did look solid in general, however, with Morris running like his usual powerful self. Roy Helu Jr. looks like he has that third-down back job for now. Chris Thompson and Evan Royster made a couple of nice catches, but Helu is more well-rounded right now.
● As a whole, Robert Griffin III did a better job of getting the ball out of his hands. He went to his check-downs more willingly rather than waiting for something to open up downfield. He didn’t throw an interception today, and Gruden chalked that up as improved decision-making.
● Gruden said Griffin still has work to do in the decision-making department, however. At times, Griffin gets himself into trouble because he tries to extend a play with his athleticism rather than just throw the ball away. When this happens, the quarterback can wind up, as Gruden put it, making a bad play into a worse play. Gruden said Griffin needs to do a better job of throwing the ball away. He knows Griffin doesn’t like throwing the ball away in practice, but acknowledged that because he needs to develop better timing – and a sense of when to do this – in games, he should probably instruct him to do so in practices. Gruden said he would address that with Griffin.
● Special teams is where some guys will make this team, and here’s a look at some of the guys on the first-team punt unit: E.J. Biggers, Adam Hayward, Darrel Young, Trent Murphy, Nick Sundberg, Niles Paul, Will Compton, Darryl Sharpton, Phillip Thomas, Bashaud Breeland and the punter, Robert Malone.
● Some of Washington’s defensive backs did better in one-on-one drills during red=zone action. DeAngelo Hall broke up a pass in the corner to Julian Edelman. But Breeland and David Amerson both lost their matchups with Edelman. Meanwhile, Tracy Porter had a pass breakup on a pass to Danny Amendola.
● The Redskins will have one more practice with the Patriots – at 8:35 a.m. Wednesday morning. This will be a practice played in shells, and given that the starters will not play much in the preseason opener, this session will be more important than the game, Gruden said. “No question,” Gruden said.
● Gruden said he doesn’t yet know how many plays his starters will get. He’s hoping for eight to 10 plays, but he says that if the offense struggles with a couple of three-and-outs, he could extend their playing time.
● Gruden also said that it’s possible that defensive end Jason Hatcher will return to action on Monday, if not sooner. He was doing drill work with strength coach Ray Wright in game pants and a helmet and jersey today, but not in pads. Even if Hatcher does return, however, he will not likely play in the second preseason game, the coach said.
Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.
The Redskins’ lone joint practice with the New England Patriots on Wednesday begins at 8:35 a.m. Here’s our camp guide.
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Mailbag: On Patriots practice and Ryan Clark