Speed was the most commonly used word in Paul Richardson’s scouting report when the Washington Redskins signed him in free agency this offseason, but that wasn’t all that was on display Wednesday.
The new $40 million man showed off his hands and some toughness on what may have been his best practice of training camp. He had a reception of about 30 yards when he ran past Josh Norman and outstretched parallel to the ground to haul in an Alex Smith pass. The 6-foot, 170-pounder got behind another pair of defensive backs earlier, but Smith overthrew him. He added another touchdown in a short-yardage period where he put a nasty outside-in move on cornerback Quinton Dunbar after bouncing back from getting the wind knocked out of him a couple of plays earlier. Richardson had another diving catch for about 20 yards during the workout.
“I’m comfortable every day,” Richardson said. “I’ve been comfortable since I got here. We’re just connecting, making plays. I see the ball and try to go get it.
“We’re just throwing it more. We see a lot of things on film we want to get to. I think today was a day we really wanted to make a point to get to those things. Alex made it a priority to throw some of those corner routes, throw some of those deep balls, and we connected.”
Many observers continue to be skeptical about Smith’s ability to throw the deep ball, but that hasn’t been an issue during camp.
The top three wide receivers of Richardson, Jamison Crowder, and Josh Doctson (who went down with a shoulder injury during practice, but later tweeted “#imgood”) have all had strong camps, but there’s a bit of a gap between them and the rest of the rotation. Maurice Harris, Brian Quick, Robert Davis and Trey Quinn have all had their moments, but the team kept just six receivers last season. Some won’t make the 53-man roster, and special teams ability will play a role in that decision.
“Very important, if one guy can stand out on special teams, then that’s your fourth — period,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “You know, we understand that we have to improve on special teams instead of just saying that on the podium or in meeting rooms, we’re going to have to commit to it by maybe keeping somebody that is better on special teams, but maybe not quite as polished at receiver.
“A lot of teams do that, but usually your fourth guy is going to be more of a true wide receiver. Your fifth guy could more in that role. So, we’ll have to wait and see even as a backup returner, a flier or whatever it might be.”
Play of the day
Richardson had a couple plays that could have fit here, but there was a Jordan Reed reception that fans loved for a couple of reasons. Reed had a five-yard diving touchdown catch in the back of the end zone from Smith on a third-and-goal situation, in a preview of a connection that could be fruitful during the season. Reed seemed to get more physical work Wednesday than before, going through an individual blocking drill early in practice. The diving touchdown showed some trust in those two toes that underwent surgery, and was a reminder of how valuable of a target he can be at 6-2, 245 pounds with soft hands.
Anderson running wild
Second-year linebacker Ryan Anderson surprised many when he ended up in coverage against speedy running back Chris Thompson. The diminutive third-down back came out of the backfield and turned up the sideline with Anderson trailing. But Thompson didn’t pull away and the 6-5, 265-pound Anderson ran with him stride for stride.
Anderson has been dealing with back spasms in training camp, but is expected to see an increased role in 2018.
“As a rookie, I think a lot of the guys have high expectations,” Gruden said of the 2017 second-round pick, “of their coming in and leading the league in sacks and tackles and forced fumbles and passes batted down and all that stuff. But in reality, you’ve got to earn your stripes, especially if you’re playing behind somebody of great quality like Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith.
“So, he’ll get his work and we’ll continue to work him. The big thing for him is to put practices back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back together [and] continue to get better. But I see steady improvement and growth from him in the weight room, his weight, his effort, so I like where Ryan’s at.”
The Redskins signed free agent linebacker Dadi Nicolas. To make room on the roster, they waived offensive linemen Alex Balducci.
Nicolas was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. The 6-3, 239-pounder played 11 games as a rookie, but ruptured his patellar tendon in the playoffs and did not play in 2017.
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