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Gibbs Looking For Signs of Progress

After weeks of weight-room workouts and league-sanctioned "Organized Team Activities," the Redskins returned to the practice fields in full force on Friday for the team's third and final mini-camp of the offseason.

In less than two months, training camp will be underway, so coaches and players are treating the mini-camp as a final opportunity to implement offensive and defensive packages.

"We had some good work today," head coach Joe Gibbs said after practice. "The best thing is that everybody's here. We're just going to go as hard as we can for the next three days."

While impressed with the effort and energy at practice, Gibbs said it was too soon to offer an overall evaluation of the players-especially since the team has been practicing without pads for the entire offseason.

"We added a lot of players this offseason, so I think I'd have a tough time judging everyone right now," Gibbs said. "I think we can tell a lot about a guy's heart. But it's hard for me to judge because I haven't been through this with this team before. We don't really have a proven team. I think it'll be when we put the pads on and play the games when we'll really find out."

For now, coaches are monitoring how well players have learned the playbook--and how well they are applying that knowledge to the practice fields. Gibbs said he wanted the team to focus on specialty drills this mini-camp, particularly the two-minute offense and short-yardage and goal-line situations.

"It's more of an assignment thing right now--that's what we're watching for when we evaluate film," he said. "I think you can probably tell the most when we look at the passing game and the pass defense. It seems like we have some real talented guys there on both sides of the ball. We're making good plays there."

With all the new faces on the roster--more than 30 players have been added since the end of last season--the expectation is that it'll take time for the team to jell. Some of the newcomers include potential starters in running back Clinton Portis, quarterback Mark Brunell, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, linebacker Marcus Washington and cornerback Shawn Springs.

But having three mini-camps this offseason and an experienced coaching staff appear to be helping the team develop a solid foundation.

Said Portis: "We're headed in the right direction. Everybody's upbeat and positive about what's going on, and everybody's looking forward to the season. You see players running around, you see players interacting--we're coming together as a unit. When we do that, with all the talent here, it'll be hard to beat us."

Added wide receiver Laveranues Coles: "Coaches have put a lot on the table for us and we've had to absorb a lot all at one time. They're trying to see how much we retain and how well we perform on the field."

On the defensive side of the ball, Brandon Noble participated in about eight plays on Friday. It was the first mini-camp action other than basic drills that Noble has participated in since severely injuring his knee in a preseason game against last year.

Noble said he was so excited about practicing Friday that he arrived at Redskins Park at about 6:45 a.m.

"I was anxious," Noble admitted. "It was a relief to get out there and get in on those first couple of plays. It'll be a relief the first time I go in with full gear, too."

Noble remains hopeful that he'll be able to play this upcoming season.

"My knee feels good," Noble said. "I've been very fortunate in the fact that it hasn't been very painful or too much of a struggle. It's just a matter of constantly working hard. After the surgery, I came out of that and the doctor said there was no reason I couldn't play this fall. I think that really made me believe that all I had to do was work."

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