Training Camp Notes: Day 4
A breakdown of the Redskins’ fourth day of training camp, including notes on quarterback Robert Griffin III, the one-on-one drills involving the linemen, the running backs and linebackers and more.
BY ZAC BOYER
RICHMOND – Even though he despises the situation so much he has subversively named it “Operation Patience,” Robert Griffin III said he understands the reason why the Redskins are limiting his participation in practice early in training camp.
“I mean, I say jokingly that I have to be compliant,” Griffin said Monday. “You know, Coach [Mike Shanahan] isn’t gonna let me go out there and do that kind of stuff. I don’t feel like I’m pushing it, or if I was to do it, that I’d be pushing myself or pushing my leg. I feel like I’m ready for that, but we’re being real cautious right now and taking it slow.”
Griffin believes in what the Redskins are trying to do: Give him a chance to work his way back up to full speed as he recovers from reconstructive surgery on his right knee. He knows it would be foolish to immediately get involved in team drills, which were more physical Monday than they were Saturday, the first day pads were worn in practice.
But he also believes that his best way to prepare for the season is to not hold back, even if that means that he may have too much confidence in the health of his knee.
“All I do is I go out there and I prove to my teammates and prove to my coaches and the fans that I’m ready to go, and that’s my only goal,” Griffin said. “I spent all offseason trying to master the offense and you can never truly master an NFL offense, but I’m pretty close, and being a student of the game watching film, all those things – I’ve just got to take it as they give it to me.”
Shanahan said Monday that nothing about Griffin’s participation had changed since Saturday, but the Redskins also asked him to do different things. He was one of the three quarterbacks who led the team in a two-minute drill that was more of a pass skeleton than anything, given that the unit – Griffin, of course, threw with the first team – didn’t face a defense.
But he again participated in 7-on-7s, going 8-for-10 on Monday, and was then a spectator when team drills began. It will likely be at least a week before the team even considers working Griffin into 11-on-11s.
Griffin’s competitive nature will, of course, make him want to do as much as he can as soon as he can. That’s part of the reason why every report about his rehabilitation, from January through June, included some reference to him being ahead of schedule.
This time, though, Griffin will be forced to follow the schedule to a T, knowing that any deviation from it could have significant consequences.
* Pierre Garçon demonstrated a knack for making some of the more difficult catches last season, but in training camp, he’s making all of them. There’s been no more reliable receiver on the team in the four days of practice than Garçon, who is proving that any questions about the torn plantar plate in his right foot or offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum aren’t valid.
Garçon did have one notable drop on Monday when, in team drills, he took a ball to the chest and couldn’t hold onto it. Otherwise, he’s proving to be even more of a No. 1 receiver than last season, when he led the team with 633 receiving yards.
Griffin started to build more of a relationship with Garçon as the season wore on, especially once the receiver returned from his foot injury after the Redskins’ midseason bye week. They both know that the chemistry could pay off in a big way this season.
“I’m gonna lean on him and he’s gonna lean on me and we’re gonna make things happen,” Griffin said. “I look forward to us putting up some big numbers and going from there and helping this team win.”
* Asked for one player who has stood out most during camp, Griffin named the player he used to go against in high school – receiver Aldrick Robinson. Entering his third season with the Redskins, the former seventh-round draft pick out of SMU was kept on the roster last season because of his speed, but he’ll have to do more this year if he wants to continue to develop and stay in the league.
So far, it appears Robinson has. He’s made several tough catches in recent days, including a noteworthy grab on a short post route Monday afternoon in which the ball was ahead of him and above him and he was still able to grab it. There may have also been no better reception in all of training camp so far than when Robinson beat cornerback Josh Wilson deep, pulling in a rocket from Kirk Cousins ahead of safety Reed Doughty and nearly 50 yards downfield.
Robinson didn’t play often last year – after filling in for Garçon in the season opener against the Saints, in which Garçon’s foot injury occurred – he was mostly on the field for a dozen or so plays a game. The problem then became that when opponents saw Robinson line up, they knew he was going deep and he became easy to control.
He’ll almost assuredly stick as Garçon’s backup at the X receiver spot, the split end, again this season. If he can show his reliability, especially on intermediate routes, he could have a much easier time getting on the field, perhaps even as a potential future slot receiver. It’s not a role that would fit his skill set all that well – he’s got more long-term speed than short-range burst – but Santana Moss is entering the final year of his contract and it’s unknown where his future lies.
* The linebackers easily manhandled the running backs during one-on-ones, changing the conversation from questions about the pass rush to questions about pass protection. Only fullback Darrel Young, himself a converted linebacker, had any chance against anyone his group faced.
Young has taken great pride in learning his position over the last three years, and in a way, it’s unfortunate he’s marginalized so much with that role in the Redskins’ offense. He would be a standout on any early-1990s team that ran power-I over and over again. Young handled outside linebacker Vic So’oto for an eternity – nearly five seconds – and it wouldn’t be surprising if So’oto is still out on the field trying to get past Young.
Otherwise, the group is mediocre at this point, which is the one benefit of three more weeks, and nearly a month, of the preseason. Rob Jackson shed Roy Helu remarkably easily early on. Brian Orakpo had no problem steamrolling Evan Royster. And while 5-foot-8, 187-pound Chris Thompson believes that protection is all technique, all the technique in the world isn’t going to help him against DeMarcus Ware – or Darryl Tapp, who once slipped by him with a simple swim move.
* DeAngelo Hall’s injury came when he tried to change direction while guarding undrafted rookie Skye Dawson on a short hitch. Hall said he doesn’t believe the injury is anything serious, but given the way that answer was pried out of him, the hesitation could mean it’s a bit bigger of a deal than he let on. The cornerback was scheduled to go for X-rays late Monday, and the results will be known as early as Tuesday morning. Rookie David Amerson, to that point exclusively working on the right side, replaced Hall on the left with the first team.
The untapped note in all of this is that it was Dawson – not Garçon, not Moss, not anyone – who shook Hall out of his boots. Sure, it didn’t help that Hall appeared to get his cleat stuck in the turf, which is coming up in clumps at the training center (and may indeed be a worthy simulation of the surface at FedEx Field). But Dawson, from TCU, is a remarkably crisp route-runner who has the required burst and explosion. The situation at receiver is crowded, with seven players fighting for what could be just two spots, and Dawson is also getting time as a punt and kickoff returner. The 5-foot-9, 183-pounder could be worth a look.
* Adam Gettis was out of action with a strained hamstring, so Tevita Stevens got work as the second- and third-team right guard.
* Devery Henderson turned heads during his last nine years in New Orleans because of his speed, but it doesn’t look like he’s got much left. The 31-year-old receiver loafed on a short crossing route midway through team drills and Chase Minnifield jumped his route and snatched the ball. Aside from veteran leadership, it’s tough to see what Henderson brings to this group at this time.
* Tony Pashos is remarkably close to locking up a spot as the backup right tackle with Maurice Hurt on the physically-unable-to-perform list and Jeremy Trueblood being wholly uninspiring. By sheer coincidence, Pashos went against Tapp several times during one-on-one drills, stopping the linebacker cold on the first attempt and at least preventing him from getting to the quarterback flag on two other occasions. He’s physical and tough, which has been his mark during a decade in the league. Trueblood, on the other hand, is just too stiff and upright. He’s been working exclusively with the third-string offense and has had very little opportunity to move up in the last four days.
* One note on Tom Compton, the backup to Trent Williams at left tackle: He was beat easily by Stephen Bowen on one of the last drills of the one-on-one session. Bowen is a solid pass rusher on the right side of the line and is strong and fundamentally sound, but Compton is going to need to stop Bowen – and easily – if he hopes to be successful as a left tackle.
* With his suspension looming, Jarvis Jenkins worked more as a second-team defensive end behind Chris Baker on Monday. It’s a simple proposition for Baker, who started learning the position this summer: Prove you can play it, or Kedric Golston will start the first four games.
* At the end of offseason workouts, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett mentioned the Redskins trying to find a way to get Orakpo, Jackson, Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Brandon Jenkins on the field at the same time. Kerrigan was lining up as a standard defensive end at one point in the morning walkthroughs, which is not unlike he did on occasion early last season before Orakpo was hurt. That could be the solution, but even then, not all four outside linebackers were on the field.