A constant rain on Thursday made for some less-than-ideal conditions for the Washington Redskins in their first day of training camp practice.
Head coach Jay Gruden said his team's play that day often mirrored the playing conditions at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center: sloppy and soggy.
Day two of Washington Redskins training camp on July 25, 2014.
Accordingly, Gruden said he challenged his team to come out for Friday's second day of practice with their minds set on improvement and being sharper overall.
"They responded very well today," the first-year head coach told the media after Friday's morning practice session.
Playing under perfect weather conditions – blue skies and temperatures in the upper 70s – Gruden said he was pleased with the way his team responded.
Those on the team, meanwhile, also noticed a difference.
"The weather was great," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "The field was a little slippery still because of the rain, but we [were] able to get out there and practice at a high tempo. (Thursday), Coach [Gruden] challenged us because he felt it wasn't a great day. So today we just came out with high energy, played at a high level and the tempo was there. Everybody flew around and made plays."
Gruden said the offensive coaches installed "probably 50 or 60" plays Thursday night into Friday, giving the unit plenty to absorb, even beyond the coach's challenge to step it up at practice.
By early next week, Gruden said he expects to have installed "the bulk of the playbook."
"Then we'll continue to tweak it – add some plays, maybe some formations off of the same plays that we're running that we're having success with," he said. "You want to make certain plays look the same that are different and that's kind of the way we built our offense."
Specifically, the offense will begin learning a bulk of its strategy in the red zone and on the goal line, for example.
"So different situations – two minute, no huddle – all that will start to come in eventually, but we're putting in the core of our offense here the first three days," he said. "By the time the end of the week comes up, Sunday night, hopefully we'll have most of it in."
Gruden said the team is still trying to figure out its identity offensively. With so many weapons available for offensive coordinator Sean McVay, the team could realistically be successful with a different approach week in and week out.
"I think balance is the key to pro football nowadays," Gruden said. "Everybody wants to say they're going to run the ball for 250 yards a game, but some defenses are very hard to run against and you might get behind so you've got to have a good balance about you – some quick game passes, some bootlegs and obviously the running game is going to be important so I think balance, diversity is a key for this offense."
Thomas, Rambo improving
Defensively, Gruden said he's noticed improvement out of two young safeties in Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo.
Thomas – a 6-foot-1, 223-pound Fresno State product – missed his entire rookie season last year after suffering a foot injury during the team's first preseason game. He was taken by the Redskins in the fourth round (119th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Rambo, also a 2013 Draft pick, came out of the gates hot in his rookie season – starting three games – but, like many other first-year players, saw there were aspects of his game that he needed to improve upon before getting back to starter status.
Gruden said both Thomas and Rambo should be important, young pieces of the team's entire makeup.
"They're doing well, especially Phillip Thomas," he said. "Rambo, you know, he's trying to build on what he did last year. He made his mistakes obviously as a young kid, but they're competing back there. We'll see a lot of that growth start to play itself out once we get in pads and once we get to the preseason games."
No concern for RobertsThe Redskins this offseason signed wide receiver Andre Roberts to add yet another speedy and talented piece to their offense.
But Roberts also adds depth to the Redskins' special teams units, and has been utilized in practice the first couple days as the team's top returner.
Gruden was asked if he was concerned about the number of roles potentially having a negative effect on Roberts.
"I think the more he plays on offense, I don't think that will really hurt his chances of returning kicks unless something happens to Pierre or DeSean where he's the No. 2 guy or the No. 1 guy," Gruden said. "That might change but right now I don't think that will have any effect."
Gruden raved about the versatility the former Arizona Cardinal's brings to Washington's roster.
"He's proven out there that he can play every position on offense at the receiver spot – X, Z and Zebra man," Gruden said of Roberts. "He's doing a great job. We had every intent of him being the No. 2 receiver – DeSean [Jackson] fell in our lap – so now he is going to play inside, which speaks to his versatility. We though he could be a good Z, now he's going to be a good Zebra and a Z and an X to spell DeSean and Pierre [Garçon] when they get tired."