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Observations and notes from today’s Redskins OTA

Santana Moss was the topic of conversation in many interviews after the Redskins concluded their second week of spring practices (OTAs) this afternoon. But there was plenty of action unrelated to Moss on the field during the workout. After all, he didn’t participate in team drills today. He continues to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery.

Before I get to my observations and notes, the usual disclaimer: It’s May!!! (and will be for five more days). Pads and contact are not allowed at this stage, so it’s perilous to draw significant conclusions. Mastering the new schemes is the main focus at this point, with the always-important physical execution taking a backseat. Please, please, please keep that in mind as we go.

And with that, we’re off…

**Overall, it wasn’t a particularly good day for the quarterbacks. I’m generalizing here, but there were too many inaccurate passes, and all four QBs shared the blame.

QB Dononvan McNabb’s underthrew a wobbly intermediate/deep pass to WR Anthony Armstrong near the right sideline, and SS Reed Doughty undercut the route and intercepted it. McNabb later had a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. QB Colt Brennan badly overthrew WR Shay Hodge on a crossing route near the left sideline. Later, he had TE Logan Paulsen wide open after a bootleg to the left, but his underthrown pass was easily broken up by CB Byron Westbrook. QB Rex Grossman also overthrew a few passes, including one to FB Mike Sellers, who was open deep down the left sideline for a potential touchdown.

**RB Larry Johnson’s size really stands out. He’s listed at 6-1, 230, which seems monstrous compared to Clinton Portis (5-11, 221) and Willie Parker (5-10, 209). Johnson is a between-the-tackles-type runner, and that’s how he continues to work in practice. He hasn’t impressed me with his speed and explosiveness, but I caution against judging that until guys put on pads and start hitting. It’ll be interesting to see how he holds up against contact, whether he’s able to punish defenders. I see him as a leading option as a short-yardage back. Johnson also had a nice blitz pick-up against H.B. Blades in team drills. We all learned last year how important it is for running backs to be able to pass block.

**RB Ryan Torain, WR Brandon Banks and WR Marques Hagans were back returning kickoffs during special teams drills today. Torain’s ability to contribute on special teams makes him a leading candidate to make the team as a fourth (or even third) tailback. I haven’t watched him enough during team drills, though. This is me making a note to do that next week.

**Kickers Graham Gano and Justin Medlock practiced field goals and kickoffs today. I was impressed by the strength of Gano’s kickoffs. He drove several of them into the end zone. I had a poor angle on the field goals, and I sometimes couldn’t tell whether the kicks were good. I will say, though, that both guys appeared to miss their share.

**Also noteworthy from the place-kicking drills, TE Chris Cooley held for a few field-goal attempts. I’ll admit it was odd to see No. 47 crouched down to hold. “You never know if…your natural holder goes down,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “We got to work guys in as second- and third-team holders. He’s a guy that we thought has some great hands and has handled pressure very well. He’s never done it, and he did a pretty good job today.”

**LT Trent Williams adjusted really nicely during one pass play against OLB Brian Orakpo. Orakpo began his rush by faking two steps inside, which Williams covered. Orakpo then bowed his rush outside. Williams kept a solid base, didn’t reach for Orakpo and ultimately sustained the block. His heralded athleticism and footwork was on full display.

**Lorenzo Alexander played left defensive end with the first-string defense for part of team drills, and he also played some outside linebacker. One on play from the linebacker spot, he strung out a run by Larry Johnson for no gain.

Alexander didn’t appear to be as smooth in his pass coverage drops as, say, natural linebackers Rocky McIntosh or Perry Riley, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise as this point. Alexander is transitioning from the defensive line positions he played in the 4-3 scheme. So far, he has impressed the right people. “I think he’s done awesome,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said after practice today. “He’s a better athlete than I’d ever have guessed. I love the guy.” How’s that for an endorsement?

**McNabb seemed in sync with his tight ends. He hit Cooley for a touchdown during red zone work and connected with Fred Davis on a beautiful throw down the left seam in team drills.

**WR Joey Galloway got inside CB Justin Tryon on a deep fly route down the left sideline and hauled in a nice throw (I didn’t note the QB, dangit.) Good example of a veteran receiver positioning himself properly. Tryon can’t give up the inside there if he doesn’t have safety help, which he didn’t appear to.

**I don’t like making too much out of such things, but the energy level at practice seemed very high. The atmosphere was quite positive. For example, everyone got a good laugh when RB Clinton Portis dropped a short pass that hit him in the chest near the end of team drills. C Casey Rabach and RG Mike Williams, in particular, ran towards Portis and gave him a hard time while other players screamed “No hands!!” This happened shortly after Orakpo intercepted a batted ball (thrown by McNabb), and Portis comically stumbled head over heels in pursuit of him.

Players seemed to be legitimately enjoying themselves. I mention it because that was not always the case last season, and that is not always the case during these spring/summer practices. It’s an indication of the unmistakable optimism at the facility these days.

**S Anderson Russell, an undrafted rookie out of Ohio State, drove hard to break up an underneath throw by Grossman. Russell is raw, and I haven’t really noticed him before this play today.

…Some other newsy items from today:

*LB Andre Carter, SS LaRon Landry and P Josh Bidwell (the Redskins’ holder) did not attend today’s voluntary OTA.

*The Redskins are still waiting for free agent RB Brian Westbrook to decide on a team. “I have been talking to his brother (Byron) a little bit, trying to get in good with him,” Shanahan said. “I don’t know if it’s helping a whole lot though, but I am going to keep trying.”

*NT Ma’ake Kemoeatu (Achilles surgery) will be ready for training camp “without a question,” Shanahan said.

*Shanahan would not say whether the Santana Moss situation could prompt the team to intensify any consideration of signing free agent WR Terrell Owens. I got the impression, however, that the answer was no. As I posted earlier, Shanahan is confident Moss won’t be suspended.