After five straight days of at-times grueling training camp practices – some held under the hot summer sun, some under rain showers, and others filled with bone-crushing hits – the Washington Redskins on Tuesday were allowed to rest for a day.
When they got back to the grind Wednesday morning, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said it would've been easy for the team to come out to the Bon Secours Redskins Training Center practice fields with a dull and sluggish attitude, but instead, the Redskins were more than ready to go.
Evan Redmon of Son of Washington provides another look at some of the action at today's practice sessions.
Gruden said the team's offensive, defensive and special teams units all had a strong practice on Wednesday, giving the organization plenty of momentum heading into its first preseason game Aug. 7 against the New England Patriots.
"I thought it was great," Gruden said. "Usually after a day off, players have an off day. Today was not the case. I thought we ran around pretty good."
After wearing full pads on Monday for the first time all season, the Redskins on Wednesday practiced in just shells and shorts. On a mild, sunny day in Richmond, Va., the team was able to make several quality plays, left tackle Trent Williams said.
"Today was a great pace," the Pro Bowler said. "Usually after going a few days real hard – contact like we did – and you have an off day, you come back … after the off day (and) practice is a little sluggish and guys aren't on their assignments. But today (went) really well – we didn't see that type of sluggishness. Everybody competed fast, fast-paced ball."
On offense, Gruden mentioned a 70-yard touchdown reception by tight end Niles Paul, who was found by quarterback Kirk Cousins wide open down the seam on the second-team offense's first play of the 11-on-11 "move the ball" drill.
Defensively, the first-year head coach said the team was excellent on third downs in Wednesday's practice, getting off the field on 10 out of 15 attempts.
"Guys were still running to the ball and buying into Coach [Jim] Haslett on defense and Coach [Sean] McVay on offense," Gruden said. "It's been very productive. I'm very encouraged from what I've seen so far."
Injuries, roster movesGruden on Wednesday delivered some tough news about a rookie cornerback trying to make the team as an undrafted college free agent.
Courtney Bridget Jr., who injured his shoulder during Monday's practice, will need surgery, and was placed on the Redskins' waived-injured list. If he passes through the waivers process without being claimed, Bridget will be placed on Washington's injured reserve list.
Taking Bridget's spot on the 90-man roster on Wednesday was defensive end Jake McDonough, who spent portions of last season on the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts' practice squads.
Returning to the practice field on Wednesday was wide receiver Pierre Garçon, who tweaked his hamstring running a route during Monday's practice.
Gruden said Garçon participated in individual drills at the beginning of Wednesday's practice, but was held out of team drills as a precaution.
"I think he probably wanted to go but it's important for him to make sure he's fully recovered," Gruden said. "Some of these light pulls, you think you're OK and then all of the sudden you burst out sprinting and you reinjure it. So we just want to make sure he's back to 100 percent and can open it up and run before he goes again."
Also missing practice Wednesday for "personal reasons" was offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus, Gruden said.
No fly zoneIn the past two seasons, only one ballcarrier has more rushing yards than the Redskins' Alfred Morris, and that's Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson.
Despite this fact, most football experts don't tend to list Morris as one of the top-tier running backs in the league.
Gruden said he knows what he has in Morris, however, and said the Florida Atlantic product has had a great training camp so far, as he's worked hard to add the passing game to his list of talents.
"Alfred is not flying under the radar in our eyes, that's for sure," Gruden said. "He's had a great camp. He's caught the ball very well too which is a pleasant surprise for us out of the backfield, so Alfred's going to get his touches."
Gruden said he'll utilize the running game to take pressure off quarterback Robert Griffin III and the team's passing game, and Morris will be a key part of that strategy.
"It's a very important part of our offense with the nakeds and the playactions off of it," the first-year head coach said. "We base our offense on the run game, so the effectiveness of Alfred Morris is going to take us a very, very long way."
Reed-ing defensesLike Morris, Gruden sees second-year tight end Jordan Reed being a major part of the Redskins' offense in 2014 and beyond.
Gruden said Reed has continued to improve in his route running and overall understanding of the tight end position, which is "one of the most difficult positions to play" in the team's offense.
"You have to know two tight end spots, you have to know all the patterns, all the hand signals, all the routes, not to mention all the blocking schemes and protections if you're in protection," Gruden said. "He has a lot on his plate right now, and he's going to make a few mistakes here and there, but [tight ends coach] Wes Phillips has been working his butt off with him."
Gruden said he likes how fluid of an athlete Reed is.
"He's effortless the way he runs and very smooth and very difficult to cover and he can stop on a dime and get out of cuts," Gruden said. "He's very sudden, and he's got a good feel for the zones. It's just a matter now of perfecting his craft, both in the passing game when he has to protect and in the running game."
Depth chart decisionsGruden was asked Wednesday whether he's in the process of determining who could possibly be on the Redskins' 53-man, regular-season roster.
Although the Redskins' coaching staff does utilize a depth chart board, Gruden said the spots are constantly revolving.
Any decisions for the final roster, Gruden said, will be made after a full slate of preseason games and practices.
"It's early stages of our evaluating process, but we do have a good feel for the guys, but only time will tell," he said. "The more you tackle in these preseason games, some guys are going to emerge that you didn't think are going to emerge and some guys are going to kind of fall back that you wouldn't expect to fall back."
Gruden said the games are the best overall way the coaching staff can evaluate its players.
"The games are going to be a major part of how we evaluate the bottom half of the roster and the backups and the depth of our team," he said.
Patriots practicesGruden confirmed the Redskins will have some live practice sessions against the Patriots when they come into town Aug. 4-6.
"I think that time will tell but we're going to come out here and we're going to have some team sessions with them that are live, that aren't live," he said. "It will be ones against ones maybe twos against ones."
Gruden said he's looking forward to the challenge of practicing against one of the top organizations in sports the past 15 or so years.
"It will be a good mix for them and a great test for us to go against obviously a very good football team that's been a very great football team for a long time and to see another team prepare, it will be good to see," he said. "These guys have been consistently to playoffs and Super Bowls for the last 10-15 years. To see how they consistently go about their business is going to be good for all of us in this building."
Top playsHere are some of the standout plays and happenings at the Redskins' practice on Wednesday:
WR Rashad Lawrence makes an impressive catch in the back corner of the end zone in 7-on-7s, dragging his feet for the score. — Washington Redskins (@Redskins) July 30, 2014
Rookie WR Ryan Grant with an impressive practice thus far; has caught several passes, and just got separation to make tough reception. — Washington Redskins (@Redskins) July 30, 2014
Back at itThe Redskins return for another normal day of practice – an 8:35 a.m. morning session and a 4:10 p.m. walkthrough session – tomorrow.