Mike Jones gives his top three takeaways from Day 8 at Redskins training camp in Richmond.
1. Cravens learning as he goes: Second-year pro (but first-year safety) Su’a Cravens had probably his best practice of camp, displaying good instincts, awareness and balance in his play. It’s at times hard to evaluate safeties when you don’t know what their exact responsibilities entail or when they’re supposed to hold up in practice rather than deliver big hits. But on Saturday, Cravens seemed to be around the ball with greater frequency.
Three times, he positioned himself to hit Vernon Davis right as a pass from Kirk Cousins got to the tight end. Had he not held up, Cravens likely would have broken up those passes. Later, he made a diving attempt at an interception, getting both hands on the ball and forcing another incomplete pass.
Cravens, who this year converted from linebacker to safety, said he’s becoming more comfortable and confident on the field. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and free safety D.J. Swearinger both say they see growth in Cravens. His athleticism suits him well for the position. The main thing coaches have Cravens work on (and Swearinger is helping with) involves trusting his eyes more to properly diagnose what he sees, while not getting fooled by misdirection, and properly executing. Cravens knows he has work to do but is encouraged, as are Manusky and Swearinger.
2. Red zone offense: Washington’s first-team offense had one of its better days, particularly in the red zone, where touchdowns had been scarce.
Kirk Cousins completed a back shoulder fade to Josh Doctson, who outleaped cornerback Quinton Dunbar for an eight-yard touchdown. Cousins later hit Derek Carrier in stride with a five-yard touchdown pass along the right sideline. Cousins also scored on a draw play from five yards out and nearly had another touchdown pass when he went for Doctson on a slant from five yards out only to see Dunbar make a great play on the ball to break up the pass at the goal line. A strike to Davis may have scored from 13 yards out, but Cravens tagged the tight end at the five, and the referees working practice blew their whistles even though Davis trotted into the end zone.
The increase in productivity was a good sign for the Redskins and Cousins, who had only 14 touchdown passes on 83 attempts inside the 20-yard line and had struggled in this area thus far in camp.
3. Front seven depth: Manusky likes where his defense is heading and how guys are buying into his philosophies. He feels like depth has improved.
We’ve talked about this some already, but it was really striking today when the second unit took the field, boasting a front composed mostly of players with a good deal of experience and talent. The Redskins — lining up in the nickel package — had Trent Murphy, Jonathan Allen (the lone rookie), Anthony Lanier and Junior Galette, along with inside linebackers Mason Foster and Zach Brown. This group repeatedly overwhelmed Colt McCoy’s offensive line during the set of downs, and for good reason. Across the board, that group probably is as good as, if not slightly better than, any first-team group the Redskins trotted out last season.
Injury update: Cornerback Bashaud Breeland sat out the latter portion of Saturday’s practice, and Dunbar took his place. Breeland said later that he had tweaked his groin. Wide receivers Maurice Harris (knee) and Jamison Crowder (hamstring) received a limited amount of reps. Running back Rob Kelley (neck) returned to team drills after taking part only in positional drills the last couple days. Outside linebacker Preston Smith (ankle) and wide receiver Lavern Jacobs (leg) both sat out practice.
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