Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Observations and notes from today’s Redskins OTA practice
Man, it’s HOT outside. The only thing standing between us and training camp is that players weren’t allowed to wear pads or hit today. Otherwise, it felt exactly like August here at Redskins Park.
That said, it’s important to keep in mind the usual disclaimer when digesting my observations and notes from today’s OTA practice. It’s not training camp yet. Players’ top priority is learning where to be and what to do in the scheme. Physical execution isn’t paramount yet, so I hesitate to draw any significant conclusions.
And with that, let’s go…
**My lasting impression from today’s practice was that second-string QB Rex Grossman really struggled with his throws. In general, he wasn’t accurate, and his timing appeared poor. S Chris Horton dove to break up Grossman’s first throw of team drills, and things devolved from there. S Lendy Holmes made a nice leaping interception of a Grossman pass, and he almost nabbed another wobbler later on. Near the end of practice, Grossman had a pass batted at the line of scrimmage, and LB Chris Wilson picked it off. Grossman also overthrew several other receivers. On the whole, it was not pretty today.
Not to make too much of one practice—I’m heeding my own disclaimer here—but it makes you wonder how bad things could be if, gulp, No. 5 were to go down for any amount of time. And for the record, Donovan McNabb has started all 16 games just once in the last five seasons.
**RB Clinton Portis is the Redskins’ first-string running back at this point, but RB Larry Johnson worked with the first-string offense in goal-line drills today. I expect Johnson to be the Redskins’ leading option in such situations.
The more I watch Johnson, the more I’m convinced he’ll be the “2” in the 1-2 punch with Portis. He shows the patience needed to be a successful runner in a zone-blocking scheme. He also runs hard inside the tackles and seems better suited than Portis to absorb the punishment in the trenches. I spoke to Johnson about how he’s fitting in so far, and I’ll post that later.
**WR Joey Galloway might be 38 years old, but that hasn’t stopped him from consistently getting separation from defensive backs in these OTAs. He got open between SS Reed Doughty and FS Kareem Moore on one play near the right sideline today, and McNabb hit him in a tight window with a beautiful throw for a 25-yard gain.
Galloway has gotten plenty of reps this spring because WR Santana Moss is recovering from knee surgery and WR Devin Thomas was out until last week with a hamstring injury. The Redskins have to be pleased with what they’ve seen so far. Galloway didn’t succeed in New England last year partly because he wasn’t a good fit in that program, so don’t put him in the “finished” column quite yet. It’ll be interesting to see whether some of this spring success carries over to camp, when pads, the heat and the workload take a massive toll on players.
**Lorenzo Alexander, Rob Jackson and Andre Carter all lined up at left outside linebacker during team drills. Carter (biceps surgery) returned to team drills but was limited to only a few snaps. On one pass play, he dropped to his left, then changed directions and slid right, and then he went back left again once he saw rookie TE Dennis Moore cut into the flat. Carter did pretty well with all the direction changes on the play, and he’ll get smoother as he gets more reps.
**I saw QB Colt Brennan make one great throw and one horrible throw. The good: Brennan hit WR Roydell Williams in-stride in a tight window, beating S Anderson Russell, near the left sideline for a 20-yard gain. Brennan was rolling left and threw across his body, but the ball was very strong.
The bad: LB Alvin Bowen picked off Brennan in red zone drills and would have returned it for a touchdown if the play had been allowed to progress that far. Brennan was looking to throw over the middle and didn’t see Bowen until it was too late. He tried to hold up, but the ball slipped out of his hand and easily into Bowen’s. Brennan yelled an obscenity as Bowen sprinted the other way, to the defense’s delight.
**With starting ILB Rocky McIntosh absent from today’s voluntary practice, fourth-round pick Perry Riley played with the first team alongside ILB London Fletcher. Riley got quality depth on a pass coverage drop in red zone drills and broke up a pass from McNabb. I’m not sure if Riley is entrenched in such a high spot on the depth chart (ahead of incumbents H.B. Blades and Robert Henson), but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and his staff are going to give Riley a long look.
**I made a note last week to watch RB Ryan Torain more. I’m sorry to say that my observations today were inconclusive. Torain hit the line of scrimmage hard, but he had no running lanes playing behind the second- and third-string offensive lines. Torain was repeatedly stonewalled at the point of attack. On one play, Rob Jackson easily beat TE Logan Paulsen and stuffed Torain.
Considering all the O-line problems this team had last season, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the reserve units aren’t clearing wide paths right now. Perhaps we’ll have to wait until training camp, when linemen are actually hitting with pads, to get a clearer look at Torain.
**For those closely monitoring the nose tackle situation with DL Albert Haynesworth sitting out the voluntary portion of the offseason program, free agent NT Ma’ake Kemoeatu practiced in position drills today. It’s the first time we’ve seen him involved to that extent; previously he has worked out on the side while rehabilitating from right Achilles’ tendon surgery.
“The [training staff] got tired of me in the training room, so they kicked me out and put me in a helmet,” Kemoeatu joked. He said that his right foot/calf feels stronger than last week and that he’s about two weeks ahead of schedule on his recovery. And by the way, that dude is a massive human being.
**I saw CB Phillip Buchanon, WR Bobby Wade and WR Brandon Banks returning punts during special teams drills.
…other notes from today:
**In addition to McIntosh and Haynesworth, SS LaRon Landry, CB DeAngelo Hall and P Josh Bidwell did not attend practice. Coach Mike Shanahan addressed only Bidwell’s absence, saying he told Bidwell to stay at home with his kids. Bidwell is an 11-year veteran, so Shanahan is comfortable with his preparation.
**Owner Daniel Snyder, speaking at a Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation Scholarship Fund event, said he believes New York’s acquisition of the 2014 Super Bowl will help his attempt to win a future Super Bowl bid for D.C.
“I think we’re ripe to get one in the future,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll be that long.”
**Snyder also said he hasn’t talked to Santana Moss about his connection with Dr. Anthony Galea, the Canadian doctor charged in the U.S. with intending to distribute human growth hormone. Snyder was then asked about his policy regarding conversations with players. “If they want to talk football, they can talk to the coach, talk to the general manager.”
**The WRCF announced that Kiana Hardy, a recent graduate from Oxon Hill High in Prince George’s County, Md., is the 2010 scholarship recipient. Her award is $25,000. She’s going to Spelman College in Atlanta and wants to become a bilingual pediatrician (the other language being Spanish). Very impressive.
“I’ve worried about how I was going to pay for college,” Hardy said. “This helps so much.”
That’s about it. If you have any questions about certain players or anything else, let me know in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer!