On Thursday morning, the Washington Redskins held their first full-team practice open to the media since the first week in January as part of offseason training actitivies (OTAs).
The highlight of practice revolved around the return of injured Redskins Robert Griffin III, Brian Orakpo, Brandon Meriweather and others to the practice fields at Redskins Park.
Griffin III did not suit up in a jersey or mingle with his healthy teammates on the main practice field, but was able to jog and throw to other players recovering from injury, including receiver Pierre Garcon, running back Roy Helu, Jr., and tight ends Fred Davis and Jordan Reed.
Orakpo, who has described himself as 100 percent recovered from his Week 2 pectoral injury, appeared to be a full participant in practice, going through drills and seven-on-seven drills with the team.
Meriweather joined Griffin III on the back field without a jersey on and worked with the trainers on agility, strength and stretching drills.
After practice, Brandon Meriweather described his progress as encouraging and said he hopes to be ready to practice by the start of training camp. Head coach Mike Shanahan affirmed this goal and said he was impressed with his progress so far.
Even on a team with mostly familiar faces from last season, it is difficult to gauge talent or progress at this point in the offseason. Practices are open to the media once a week for the remainder of offseason actitivies, but these offer only brief glimpses into the development of the team.
Fans will not have a live look at the 2013 Washington Redskins until the start of training camp on July 25th at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
With that being said, here is a short list of observations from today's portion of practice open to the media:
- This is a critical season for third-year receivers Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson and converted tight end Niles Paul, who have each shown flashes of excellence but struggled with consistency. Each player had targets and receptions during seven-on-seven drills, with Robinson and Paul taking deep passes the distance downfield.
- Griffin III was joined by a host of other players recovering from injury on the backfield, including Chase Minnifield, Jordan Bernstine, Jordan Reed, Brandon Meriweather, Roy Helu, Jr., Fred Davis, Chris Thompson, London Fletcher, Doug Worthington and Josh LeRibeus. Josh Wilson and Adam Carriker were not present at practice, as they were receiving treatment inside.
- One notable observation to make is the quality of the arms on the roster heading into training camp. In years past, the Redskins have relied on undrafted rookie free agents that had little likelihood of making the roster. This season, the Redskins enter training camp with four veteran options under center: eventual starter Robert Griffin III, second-stringer Kirk Cousins, veteran Rex Grossman and newcomer Pat White.
- Practice did not lack mobility without Griffin III in the backfield, as the coaching staff continued to keep the quarterbacks on the run.
- Pat White was brought in to restart his NFL career in an offense tailor-made for the mobile quarterback, but will not be an exact decoy of Robert Griffin III. For one, he throws left-handed, which affects the way that protections and plays are drawn up to allow him to throw on the run.
- Alfred Morris, Evan Royster, Jawan Jamison and Keiland Williams all got opportunities at running back during seven-on-seven drills. While it is impossible to gauge conditioning when contact is prohibited, Royster appeared much healthier than last offseason when he was battling injury heading into training camp. Coaches still hope to have rookie Chris Thompson (ACL) back in time for training camp.
- Today was the first opportunity to watch special teams drills under new special teams coordinator Keith Burns, a former Broncos linebacker under head coach Mike Shanahan. The competition is still young, but the Redskins had Santana Moss, Richard Crawford, Nick Williams and Skye Dawson back receiver punts out the JUGS machine.
- The atmosphere of practice was up-tempo, thanks in part to the music which was being played out of the loud speakers at one end of the field. In addition, players dressed for practice in everything from full-length pants (Logan Paulsen) to sleeveless jerseys (Moss, Hankerson, Keenan Robinson, Vic So'oto) and helmet visors (Paul, Dezmon Briscoe).
Play(s) Of The Day: Defense
Rookie defensive backs David Amerson and Bacarri Rambo made it look easy on consecutive plays in seven-on-seven drills, picking off Grossman and turning into playmakers.
Amerson got the first opportunity, showing remarkable elevation in front of the intended target. Making the catch near the sideline, Amerson had a clear path to return the ball, high-stepping his way into the end zone.
Not to be outdone, Rambo played deep safety on the next passing play and took advantage of a miscommunication that left no receiver in the area. Picking off the pass, he weaved his way to the sideline where he was corraled and pushed out of bounds.
Play Of The Day: Offense
Showing veteran poise, Grossman bounced back on his next passing opportunity, looking downfield for receiver Aldrick Robinson.
Robinson, who had consecutive games with touchdowns over 50 yards last season, did not catch a pass after the Thanksgiving Day victory in Dallas. Flashing his trademark speed, Robinson zoomed past DeJon Gomes and Amerson, catching Grossman's pass in stride and taking it the distance for the score.
The Redskins wrap up the first week of OTA practices today, letting veterans hit the road early for the long holiday weekend. Rookies report for meetings tomorrow and the team will reconvene next Tuesday at Redskins Park.
Coaches and scouts will review film of the three practices this week and continue to make adjustments to the offseason plan.
While the coaching staff is satisfied with the 90-man roster heading into training camp, injuries and waiver moves can affect that plan, as the Redskins will continue to tinker where necessary.