News & Notes: Darrel Young, Kellen Clemens, Offensive Line, Kickers And More
By ZAC BOYER | firstname.lastname@example.org
ASHBURN – Darrel Young spent a significant amount of time in training camp last year wondering about his status with the Washington Redskins.
An undrafted free agent linebacker out of Villanova a year before, Young was being converted to fullback, knowing full well that aside from a remarkable effort and performance, he was a target for getting cut.
He survived, though, and on Tuesday, almost two weeks into his third training camp, Young was listed as the starting fullback on the first depth chart released for Friday’s preseason opener against Pittsburgh.
“It’s just a dream come true,” the 5-foot-11, 246-pound Young said. “I didn’t know what would happen in terms of when they brought me back after last year. They told me they were going to play me at fullback, so it’s just a great experience.”
Mike Sellers, primarily the Redskins’ starting fullback since 2005, has spent more time at tight end this month. That made room for Young, who has prepared for the opportunity by spending extra time learning the playbook and picking up blocking schemes.
“When I looked at him on film, I saw that he was a great hitter, and I asked him if he thought about coming over and if he had ever played [the position] in high school or college,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “He said he had, so I thought he’d have a good chance at the fullback position.”
“I like fullback,” Young said. “You get the ball more and plus you get to hit, and that’s the fun part.”
- Rex Grossman has already mastered the two-minute offense, as you certainly remember. Kellen Clemens, apparently, has not. With Grossman leading the offense to a touchdown in the two-minute drill near the close of Tuesday’s practice, Clemens went the other way. Staring at Anthony Armstrong, Clemens threw an interception to rookie defensive back Dante Barnes … on fourth-and-17 … with only 14 seconds gone on the clock. Granted, the pocket broke down and Clemens was forced to throw across his body on the run, but his ability to do so was supposed to be something that helped him stand out from Grossman and John Beck.
- Jarvis Jenkins, who appeared as the primary back-up to Adam Carriker at left defensive end on the first depth chart, had trouble completing his sprints Tuesday. “He was doing some extra sprints and got tired at the end,” Shanahan said. “At  pounds, kind of just getting used to the system that at times, these guys will get a little winded. But he goes full speed all the time and he’s just getting into football shape.” And no, don’t plan on Jenkins having to pass a conditioning test.
- I’m working on a story for tomorrow about the changes and adaptations on the offensive line and had a moment to chat with offensive line coach Chris Foerster on a variety of matters related to the unit’s play. He was great on the play of center Will Montgomery, who moved over before the season from guard.
“It’s been good for him,” Foerster said. “The center position has some demands that can be difficult, and some guys can’t do it. Will can do those things. Also, the center position, as you move inward, there are less demands as well. There’s not as many things to challenge you as there are at guard. This, for him, has worked out well. Some of the challenges he had at guard are not there at center, and he’s able to take care of the challenges at center. He’s really doing a nice job. He’s a quiet leader, a strong personality, a strong guy – as far as physically strong – and is able to anchor that line.”Then I asked how he sets himself apart from guard Kory Lichensteiger, who also snapped in college and could have moved to the position, and Foerster continued.
“For [Will], I think his natural position on the line is center. There’s more things that guys need to do on the edges the further you move out. It requires more foot speed, more bend, a better change of direction, things like that. He’s got them, but he just doesn’t have them quite like Kory. Then again, he has some traits Kory doesn’t have. You have to do the balancing act of what Kory’s limitations are at center and guard. Do they hurt him more or less at center or guard? Will’s the same way. You have to balance that, and I would say, ‘How do I get the most out of this player? Do I put him at this position, or do I get more out of this player? How does that diminish this here?’ It’s all a balancing act, about getting the right guy at the right spot and maximize their abilities.”
- Right guard Artis Hicks was held out of Tuesday’s practice because of what Shanahan said was a mild concussion. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (hamstring) and receiver Malcolm Kelly (foot) were both out, tight end Chris Cooley (knee) occasionally took part in drills and tackle Clint Oldenburg (illness) and linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (hamstring) were fully cleared and participating. Kerrigan even spent time working with linebackers coach Lou Spanos in a one-on-one situation midway through practice to go through his coverage and technique.
- The kicking competition continued Tuesday, though I was less captivated by it than I was on Monday. Both Shayne Graham and Graham Gano made six of their seven attempts during the organized practice, with Graham missing from approximately 45 yards and Gano missing from nearly 50. Gano was listed first on the depth chart for the Pittsburgh game. To enhance their accuracy, the kickers lined up two bogus uprights within the real ones, cutting the makeable area to half its typical width. It was about as wide as the Arena Football uprights, so maybe the loser of the competition will have to go compete there.
- Young played against Tim Hightower in college, as Hightower played at Richmond. “We game-planned a lot as a linebacker. We knew he was going to bring his A-game every week, and it showed on film. He’s still doing it today, and he’s become a great player.” There’s no doubt Hightower has taken over as the team’s top running back with Ryan Torain out because of a broken left hand, but the 6-foot, 222-pound back has to work on his ball control. He’s had issues with fumbles throughout his career and hasn’t shown much change during training camp. “A few of those have just been on handoffs,” Shanahan said. “We hand the ball off a bit differently and he runs quite hard. But we’ll just keep on practicing with people trying to strip the ball, and hopefully, that will eliminate the problem.”
- Also struggling with ball control is Leonard Hankerson, the rookie receiver out of Miami. Hankerson is a big guy at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, and has big hands, but has looked like he’s disinterested in catching the ball on several occasions and is more focused on his run. “Drops usually are an indication of bad hands or a lack of concentration,” Shanahan said. “It’s got to be one of the two. He’s got a very big upside, and sometimes guys are thinking about what they’re doing instead of concentrating on the ball. You’ve got to catch the ball with your eyes, and sometimes he’s looking to turn upfield. I think in time, I think it will be very natural for him to catch the football because he’s got great hands.”
- The Redskins are going to treat Friday’s preseason opener a little bit differently, given the modified schedule because of the lockout, but Shanahan didn’t want to divulge what he’s thinking Tuesday because he hasn’t talked about it with the rest of the coaches or any of the players. “We’re approaching this camp a little different than we have because we haven’t had the offseason program, the conditioning, the weightlifting, so everyone’s not in football shape,” Shanahan said. There was a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Saturday that Dallas coach Jason Garrett would call Denver coach John Fox about their plans for their first game, but Shanahan said he doesn’t plan on talking things over with Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin.