Here are some observations from today’s practice:
● Running back Silas Redd Jr., who sprained his ankle on Tuesday, did not practice. Gruden said on Tuesday that the second-year back would likely sit out this session, and he did.
● Cornerback DeAngelo Hall (Achilles’ tendon) did not do any individual drills today after taking part in some of that segment on Tuesday. He still is expected to be at full strength at the start of training camp.
● The Redskins did a lot more work on their red-zone offense after struggling in that area for much of the offseason, and on Tuesday. It was tougher to gauge the play in this facet of the game today, because Gruden was in a bit of a more generous mood, giving his offense the benefit of the doubt here and there, much to the dismay of the defensive players.
● On one play, outside linebacker Trent Murphy beat rookie tackle Brandon Scherff and got to Robert Griffin III in the backfield, but Griffin still dumped the ball off to running back Matt Jones on a screen pass. It would’ve been a sack, but Gruden gave the offense the five yards, setting up second and five. On the following down, Jones picked up about three yards before getting tagged by a few linebackers, but he kept running, and Gruden gave the offense a 7-yard gain and first down. Nose tackle Terrance Knighton yelled out, “Make them earn them yards! They didn’t earn that!”
● On first and goal, Griffin went for tight end Logan Paulsen on a fade route, and Paulsen caught the ball, but he didn’t get two feet down as he went through the back of the end zone. Gruden gave the offense the touchdown, and Griffin celebrated by giving a fist pump, and kneeling and crossing himself. An equipment manager and several defensive players all waved their hands, signaling an incomplete pass.
● Gruden did, however, give the defense credit on the next red-zone drill, which this time was a 7-on-7 segment (the first was 11-on-11 action). Griffin took the snap, hesitated and held the ball, and Gruden yelled out, “Sack! Good job, D! Make him hold the ball!”
● The results were mixed the rest of the way. Griffin connected with Andre Roberts for a touchdown, but then overthrew Niles Paul in the back of the end zone on the next play. He went for a heavily covered Pierre Garcon, who ran an in-and-out route, and tried to put the ball in a spot that only Garcon could get to, but that pass led the wide receiver out of bounds. Gruden walked over and praised cornerback Bashaud Breeland for his tight coverage. Griffin later found DeSean Jackson in the back of the end zone, but Jackson let the ball go through his hands for an incompletion.
● Other portions of practice were devoted to red-zone and goal-line situations as well, and like the segments before them, they produced inconsistent results. This is an area that will demand a fair amount of attention during training camp.
● An interesting element to note is that Matt Jones, and not Alfred Morris, received the bulk of the first-team action in the red-zone drills (running the ball a number of times). Gruden said you can’t really read too much into that, however, and that Morris has had an outstanding offseason, and that these are important teaching moments for Jones.
● Murphy got into the backfield a couple of times today, although he was a little over aggressive on one play early in practice as Griffin got him to jump offsides with a hard count. Meanwhile, Preston Smith continues to make strides as he starts opposite Murphy. But once Ryan Kerrigan returns, I’d expect Murphy to be ahead of the rookie initially, and on nickel packages, it’s possible that all three could share the field.
● After taking over as starting nose tackle last season, Chris Baker has yet to line up at that position this offseason now that the team has brought his best friend, Terrance Knighton, into the mix. Baker has spent the bulk of his time lining up at left defensive end on the second unit. Jerrell Powe has seen a fair amount of action at backup nose tackle.
● The most active cornerback of the day was rookie Tevin Mitchel. Playing with the second unit, he lined up both on the outside, and at nickelback depending on the play. He blanketed Rashad Ross in coverage, denying him one touchdown as Ross came down out of bounds while trying to hang onto the Colt McCoy pass. Later, Mitchel intercepted McCoy on a pass intended for Ryan Grant in the back of the end zone. Later still, McCoy wanted to hit Jamison Crowder in the back left corner of the end zone, but with Mitchel playing tight coverage, McCoy had no choice but to throw the ball away. Gruden gushed over Mitchel’s play and the speed with which he has picked up the defense and the responsibilities of the various cornerback positions.
● Gruden continues to praise the work of Bill Callahan and the way he holds his linemen accountable. Today it was Arie Kouandjio who drew a false start penalty and was then instructed to jog a lap around the field as punishment.
● Jeron Johnson got the start at strong safety today after playing behind Duke Ihenacho on the practices that previously were open to reporters. Trenton Robinson remained at free safety with the second unit, and Akeem Davis and Kyshoen Jarrett were the third-string strong and free safeties, respectively.
● Gruden is very impressed with second-year wide receiver Ryan Grant. “He’s awesome, man. He really is,” Gruden raved. Wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard praised Grant as well when asked about him today. As was the case last year, Grant is a very polished route runner. He looks even more confident this year, and he has strong hands and goes after balls, making tough catches. What makes it hard for him is he has Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson ahead of him. He’s doing everything possible to prepare himself to make the most of any opportunities he receives this season.
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