The Redskins took one last opportunity to beat up on each other on Saturday before finally getting the chance to face an actual opponent on Monday.
For the second time in nine training camp practices, the Redskins practiced in full pads, getting one final tune-up before the New England Patriots come to Richmond, Va., for three days of joint practices prior to the two teams' preseason battle on Thursday at FedExField.
Among those hitting each other the hardest at Saturday's practice – which was also the team's annual Fan Appreciation Day at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center – were the linebackers and the running backs, who were putting in real-time work on their pass protection.
"Any time we are in shoulder pads, you'll see us do those drills with the backs because we know how important it is to protect the quarterback," head coach Jay Gruden said. "That's a vital part of the game and some of them have struggled earlier but you can see them slowly start to progress with their fundamentals and we're just teaching the fundamentals now."
Gruden credited running backs coach Randy Jordan with giving each of his players the one-on-one attention needed to make improvements against the pass rushers.
"You guys look at the one-on-ones and you see they got a chance to go inside, gap outside, gap in," Gruden said. "In team periods, they don't have much space to work. But I think we're just working with technique on them and they're going to get better. It takes time and it takes work."
Injury reportWide receiver DeSean Jackson was held out of Saturday's practice with what Gruden said was "a little soreness in his legs."
"Just trying to keep him fresh," the first-year coach explained. "He's been running a lot."
Several other players appeared to suffer minor injuries during Saturday's practice – none of which were believed to be serious, however.
Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson appeared to be favoring his leg towards the end of practice. Outside linebacker Rob Jackson, meanwhile, had his shoulder wrapped in ice.
Offensive tackle Trent Williams was a full-go in Saturday's practice after being kicked in the shin Thursday and sitting out Friday.
Rookie safety Akeem Davis also returned Saturday after missing a couple days due to the birth of his daughter.
Setting the toneGruden was asked about his approach to evening meetings with his team, particularly during training camp, which can result in some long days for both players and coaches.
Gruden said it's important to use those evening meetings as a way to keep his players motivated for the next long day ahead of them.
"At the end of the day, they've had a long practice, they've had a walkthrough, they've had a meeting," Gruden said. "You've got to try to keep their attention and grab it so they can focus in on the next day and what you're installing."
Gruden said he'll often use evening meeting time to show the team standout plays from that day in practice.
"[I] just try to keep them motivated," he said.
Orakpo as a leaderGruden said he's seen no signs that outside linebacker Brian Orakpo is upset that he didn't get a contract extension with the Redskins this offseason.
Orakpo, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, signed his franchise tender with the team March 27.
"He's been to every OTA. He's been to every practice and he's practicing as hard as anybody on this team right now," Gruden said. "And I think he's having a good time."
Gruden said Orakpo has been nothing but professional each and every day.
"From a contract standpoint, I don't know if he's satisfied, unhappy or whatever it is, but it's not showing with his play on the field and his leadership roles," he said. "He's not missed any time in the meeting room, he's out here on time, practicing his butt off and I've been very, very impressed with Brian Orakpo so far."
Hall at safetyDeAngelo Hall has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL for a long time now, so why has he been spotted at safety in some recent practices?
Well, because he "wants to," Gruden said. And because it's giving other cornerbacks a chance to get practice reps at his cornerback position.
"We're just trying to move people around and maybe take a look at somebody at corner," Gruden said. "Instead maybe play [Bashaud] Breeland at corner a little bit, move somebody in his spot, but DeAngelo has been a shining star so far in this camp wherever he is."
Standout plays, highlightsMore than 20,000 Redskins fans were in attendance Saturday to watch practice, and were treated to several highlights, including:
Day of restThe Redskins have the day off Sunday, getting the opportunity to rest their bodies before the Patriots come to town Monday for three days of joint practices.