On Sunday morning, the Washington Redskins held their first practice open to the media in almost exactly four months as part of the 2013 rookie mini-camp.
The practice fields at Redskins Park were full of familiar numbers and unfamiliar faces, as five returning first year players, seven 2013 draft picks, 12 undrafted colllege signees and 47 college tryouts worked out.
In addition to the tryout atmosphere of the rookie mini-camp practices, the weekend is designed to acclimate players to professional football in a situation with their peers.
All of the practices are unpadded and non-contact, featuring players adjusting to the tendencies of their teammates on the fly.
Assessing talent is difficult for the coaching staff and nearly impossible for the media, who is offered only a snapshot of what the players showed over the course of the weekend.
Rookies who excel in this weekend's tryouts will likely have the opportunity to return to the Washington Redskins for the remainder of the offseason workouts and training camp as part of the team's 90-man roster.
Then begins the uphill battle to making the 53-man roster or eight-man practice squad.
For those that don't impress the scouting and coaching staff this weekend, their NFL aspirations are likely finished.
This is both a performance-boosting incentive and a mentally rattling degree of pressure for this weekend's participants.
With that being said, here is a short list of observations from today's portion of practice open to the media:
- Not counting the versatility of tight end Jordan Reed, the Redskins did not address the receiver position in the 2013 NFL Draft. As a result, the team focused four-of-12 college free agent signings on receivers.
- Of these receivers, the common attribute is smaller, shiftier runners who may be able to help in the return game on special teams (Jason Thompson is the exception, measuring in at 6-3).
After letting Brandon Banks go this offseason and seeing middling results out of the kick return game last season, the Redskins are still in the market for a top-end kick returner, of one is available. Keep an eye on how Skye Dawson, Nick Williams and Chip Reeves play into the competition this offseason. * Each of these three receivers could also be a possibility at slot receiver, as the team continues to look for the long-term answer behind veteran Santana Moss. Moss showed last season that he can still be very effective (team leading eight touchdowns), but he is likely nearing the end of his career with no heir apparent in place. * It is particularly difficult to assess the play of offensive linemen and running backs in non-contact drills, but offensive tackle Xavier Nixon and running back Jawan Jamison had plenty of opportunities to impress this weekend. * Jamison did not need to fear linebackers during seven-on-seven drills, but showed off some of the shifty running that made him a desirable late-round draft pick. * He will not be joined by fellow drafted running back Chris Thompson until training camp, as Thompson is still recovering from an ACL injury last season. * Nixon talked to the media after practice and said he would approach rookie mini-camp with the same intensity whether he was drafted No. 1 overall or went undrafted, but said his undrafted status will give him that little extra motivation. * Nixon said the coaching staff told him upon signing him that he fit well into the Redskins' zone blocking scheme based on experience at Florida, as well as his natural footwork and athleticism. Said he has experience at left and right tackle and feels like Washington is a perfect fit to latch on. * There should be opportunity to catch on at inside linebacker, as the Redskins lost primary backup and special teams stud Lorenzo Alexander during the offseason. Offseason additions Marvin Burdette, William Compton and Ricky Elmore join incumbent reserves Bryan Kehl, Keenan Robinson, Roddrick Muckelroy and Vic So'oto to compete.
Play Of The Day: Offense
There weren't many true touchdowns during non-contact seven-on-seven drills, but a deep pass from Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin to TCU receiver Skye Dawson left no doubt.
Aplin is an undrafted tryout competing for a shot at perhaps the deepest position on the team, but showed nice touch on the pass, hitting Dawson in stride.
Dawson is a 5-9, 183-pound college free agent signee who has his best opportunity of sticking around if he can make an impact on special teams.
Play Of The Day: Defense
Late-round draft pick Bacarri Rambo told media members on his conference call that he was afraid that teams had forgotten about him, as the talented safety slid all the way to the sixth round.
Coaches are unlikely to forget his awareness and ball skills after he plucked a deflected and bobbled pass out of the air in coverage, racing down the left sideline for a modest interception return.
Rambo had his troubles at Georgia but flashed his playmaker skills today, reminding everyone that he was second in college football with eight interceptions during the 2011 season.
The Redskins will return to offseason workouts tomorrow, with the rookies traveling back home and the veterans returning to Redskins Park.
Coaches and scouts will review film of the five rookie mini-camp practices and make roster moves accordingly. While most draft picks are favored to hang around, some veterans and college free agent signees may be released, paving the way for another NFL dream to be fulfilled.
The full 90-man roster will report to the team's facilities in several weeks for full-team workouts and OTA's.