RICHMOND – The Redskins had mixed feelings as they came away from their three days of joint practices with the Patriots.
Coach Jay Gruden and his staff were especially pleased with the first two days, which featured full-pad, live action with all kinds of game scenarios, which not only helped prepare players for the season, but also provided coaches with additional evaluation opportunities.
“I thought it was a great experience,” Gruden said. “It exposed some things that we really have to work on as a staff and it exposed some things we have to work on as players. Overall, we competed very well. I’m excited the way we came off the ball and competed in all the drills, but moving forward we know that we have a long way to go, but we’re not [as] far [off] as we think.”
Gruden said the main thing the practices revealed about his staff’s approach involved the way they communicate from the sideline during fast-paced situations.
“We hadn’t really done a lot of up-tempo stuff with our [practices],” Gruden said. “We did a couple two-minute situations, a couple up-tempo stuff. But the up-tempo with Keenan Robinson calling defenses for the first time, [Defensive coordinator Jim] Haslett, [defensive backs coach] Raheem [Morris], everybody communicating to the defense was a little off-kilter. On the sideline it will be a little easier, people will have their headsets on and it will be easier to communicate, but there are some things we can work on and we will work on and we’ll get it done.”
Some of Gruden’s players agreed that the practices revealed a lot.
“It’s been a great opportunity to play against a completely different offense – different run scheme, different pass scheme, no-huddle, up-tempo,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “I think it opened our eyes to a lot of things. I think we have a lot to work on. It’s one of the best teams in the league year in and year out, so that’s a good measuring stick, and I think we have a long way to go.”
Said Robert Griffin III: “Situational football is what you get out of these situations – different teams, red zone, two minute, short yardage, third and long, and we’ve been able to respond in all of those situations.”
But, others said the main benefit of the sessions involved breaking up the monotony of camp. The real lessons will not come until the actual preseason games, they said.
“We did some great things, but it’s still practice. It’s still not live. It’s still nothing to simulate a real, live game,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “We didn’t learn anything. It’s practice for us. It’s not live. You’re really not out there form tackling or blowing anybody up. But I thought we had some great looks. Different game situations we were able to get off the field. It looked good on film. We had some great days.”
Orakpo also joked that he was glad to have a break from facing left tackle Trent Williams every day.
But Williams disagreed.
Asked if he’d like to have joint practices next year, the two-time Pro Bowl player said, “Not really. That’s just my opinion. I just wouldn’t want to. Yeah, it did. But I’ve never done it, so it was the only thing I was used to: the monotony of doing it every day. I was used to it. But, it did break up the pace. I can’t say it didn’t make us a better team, because I think it did.”
Center Kory Lichtensteiger shared Williams feelings, noting possible safety risks associated with practicing against an unfamiliar opponent.
“When it’s your own team, you look out for one another,” Lichtensteiger said. “Sometimes the competition gets a little too turned up for a practice, where if it’s your own guys, your teammates. You know who that person is. They’re a good guy, and you’re looking out for them ultimately. I don’t know if that’s always the case when another team comes in.”
Lichtensteiger didn’t share the initial concern some others had that practicing against an opponent would surrender any secrets.
“There are certain things we have in [the playbook] we didn’t begin to run,” he said. “Everybody is playing their cards close to their chest, but at the same time you want to do enough to know if your bread-and-butter is working.”
Gruden said that he is open to having joint practices in the future, however. But he would only like to do so if it meant the Redskins could again operate out of their own facility and not travel to another team, as did the Patriots, who after spending this week in Richmond will travel next week to hold joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I wouldn’t mind doing it again,” the coach said. “It just depends on the situation. Obviously, I would like to keep it here. I don’t really want to travel, but if we have to, we have to. But, we’ll look at it again, Bruce [Allen] and I and the coaching staff, and see how it fits logistically and moving forward.”
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