RICHMOND — If they didn’t know it before Monday, the Washington Redskins learned that they have a hard-nosed runner in rookie Samaje Perine.
The Oklahoma product isn’t one to shy away from contact, even in practices, where defensive players are told to pop with a shoulder pad, or wrap up a back and then quickly release him so everyone avoids injury. Perine missed the memo and ran like it was a game, and his teammates got a little upset because they weren’t bracing for that type off contact. But hey, Perine will learn balance in practice, and his teammates will be on guard for a little extra power from the rookie.
Running backs coach Randy Jordan loved what he saw from Perine on Monday, and the other days of camp as well. He didn’t know exactly how well-rounded Perine would be. Jordan knew he could run, and run hard. But because Oklahoma had the speedy Joe Mixon, a second-round pick of the Bengals this year, the Sooners didn’t really use Perine as a pass-catcher much.
But Perine has shown he has good hands and the ability to run routes well. He has some work to do in the pass-protection department. Perine did well against other young linebackers, but when he drew the assignment of fending off a seasoned veteran such as Mason Foster, he struggled with positioning and lost his one-on-one battle.
Despite all the promise Perine shows, he still has a lot to learn. There are all kinds of little details that go into a running back’s assignments. He’s intelligent and has a good foundation, Jordan says, citing his background at a big-time program. He says Perine has the understanding of a third- to fourth-year player. But some things will take a while to unlearn.
Jordan would like Perine to modify his running approach a little. The key word: balance.
Although powerfully built at 5-feet-11, 236 pounds (and not an ounce of fat), Perine has to learn that he can’t just run everybody over on every carry. He needs to run smarter. It’s possible to be aggressive and pick and choose when to deliver a blow and when to juke a guy.
Eventually, defenders get a feel for a running back, and they figure out how to stop him. So, Jordan tells Perine, he has to feel out his defenders as well and learn when to throw a change-up. Maybe it’s pounding it the first and second time, and the third time you’re using your eyes to find an alternate path. “Sell that hard run, and then: Ah! Boom!” Jordan says while demonstrating a last-minute slam of the brakes hesitation and dash to the right.
Perine will largely remain a thumper, which Jordan understands and likes. Jordan really can’t wait for the preseason games, when defenders are actually trying to tackle Perine. He expects the young back to generate a lot of yards after contact. But “adding more tools to his bag” will pay off. It will help Perine get more out of runs, and make it harder for defenders to get a read on him.
A couple of other observations:
The mixing and matching continues at nose tackle. Phil Taylor and Ziggy Hood both got some first-team snaps Monday. We haven’t seen as much of Joey Mbu with the first team lately, but there’s all kinds of swapping in and out, so until we get to preseason games, everyone will be kept guessing. A couple of players said they’re struggling to figure out what their coaches have planned, but they’re just trying to work hard regardless.
Matt Ioannidis looks bigger and quicker entering his second year. But he actually weighs less. He trimmed fat and added muscle after altering his weightlifting regiment. The defensive lineman routinely lost one-on-one matchups with veterans last year, but now he’s coming out on the winning side a decent amount of times.
Quarterback Nate Sudfeld still has a ways ago before he finds the consistency needed to move up the depth chart. The second-year player will have a great throw, and then follow it with a wobbly, underthrown pass. He looks decent in the pocket, but when forced to move, he still looks stiff and awkward.
Ryan Grant is still getting plenty of action, and the past two days, he has seen time as a slot receiver with Jamison Crowder sidelined with a hamstring injury. Grant — with his crisp route-running ability — is probably better suited for this role than he is at outside receiver. But he’s not better than Crowder, so he’ll continue to vie for time as a versatile rotational guy as he and Doctson fight for the third starting job in Washington’s three-receiver sets. Playing on the outside, Grant had a nice route where he sold it deep then lost cornerback Josh Norman with a hard comeback. But the next play, Norman blanketed Grant and swatted away a slant pass. Grant had a few nice catches operating out of the slot. Then, late in practice, while Grant was back on the outside, Cousins was under pressure and he threw the ball where he thought Grant would be, but Norman picked it off and Grant hadn’t turned to see the pass.
Kicker Dustin Hopkins doesn’t have any competition in camp, and Coach Jay Gruden said he doesn’t see a need for such right now. However, Hopkins missed two attempts from 48 yards out (hitting the left upright both times) during Saturday’s practice, and on Monday he went 3-for-4 with makes from 27, 38 and 40 yards and a miss from 38 yards out.