Training Camp Notes: Day 7
A breakdown of the Redskins’ seventh day of training camp, including notes on Brandon Meriweather once again sitting out of team drills, the depth on the offensive line and more.
BY ZAC BOYER
RICHMOND – Even though the Redskins entered their second week of training camp on Thursday, having begun practice a full seven days earlier, Brandon Meriweather continued to stand right where he was during all of offseason workouts: on the sidelines.
The strong safety was medically cleared to return to football-related activities early last month after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee in December. Meriweather, though, has only participated in team drills for a handful of snaps, and he did not join his teammates at all over the past four days.
“He’s not ready to go in team situations yet,” Mike Shanahan said Thursday. “As he gets in better football shape with his knee, we’re going to put him in those situations. Right now, he’s still getting individual work. We’re still running him [in 7-on-7], but we’re not going to put him in team situations until we feel like he’s ready to compete.”
Meriweather only played in one game for the Redskins last season, and he didn’t even finish it. A series of incidents with his left knee kept him out of the first nine games, and when he made his return in the Nov. 18 game against the Eagles, he played only three quarters before tearing the ACL in the other knee.
It seemed like a foregone conclusion that Meriweather would be able to play for the Redskins in their season opener on Sept. 9, coincidentally also against the Eagles. And while there’s still over a month to go until that game, that Meriweather has had yet another setback is starting to become a concern.
Reed Doughty has filled in for Meriweather as the first-team strong safety, and on Thursday, rookie Phillip Thomas opened team drills in that spot.
“I’ve just been progressing so much and I feel like I’m doing a great job and it’s starting to show,” Thomas said after practice. “They’re allowing me to play.”
Meriweather was a Pro Bowl selection in 2009 and 2010, when he played for the Patriots, but he struggled in 2011 in his only season with the Bears before joining the Redskins.
He has big-play ability – he’s physical, and, as a former cornerback, quick – but it could very well be that Meriweather won’t be all that the Redskins expected when he finally gets on the field.
* The intensity at practice on Thursday was the highest it’s been throughout training camp, especially considering the fields were soaked from an afternoon full of steady rain. There was a lot of work on the red zone offense and the two-minute drill, neither of which Robert Griffin III was able to participate in.
Griffin put on a show when he completed 16 of the 17 passes he attempted in 7-on-7 drills in the first hour of the practice. He seemed to address any confusion as to whether he was favoring his right leg, which he had surgery on, over the past two practices with a more stable plant and drive. One throw to Logan Paulsen had an incredible amount of zip on it; the tight end caught it for about a 10-yard gain, drawing an ooh from the crowd.
He completed his first 11 passes, but he led Pierre Garçon too far on an out route on the 12th for the receiver to bring it in. Curiously, none of the attempts were for more than 15 yards; Griffin gradually worked up to longer gains during the drill on Wednesday, when he was significantly less successful in the rain, but didn’t do so Thursday.
* The signing of Nick Barnett is a win-win for the Redskins, who get a player who has consistently performed at a high level over 10 years for cheap. The linebacker signed a one-year deal late Wednesday and reported to his first day of training camp on Thursday, and the team even trotted him out for an introductory press conference after the morning walkthrough.
Barnett had more than 100 tackles in each of the past two seasons, when he was with the Bills, but concerns about the health of his right knee kept him off the radar until the start of training camp. (By the way, Barnett said he had “a couple teams” that he talked to; who will be the first player to admit he was just hanging out at home waiting for a phone to ring?) And while he has started each of the 139 games he’s played in during his career, he will slot in initially as a backup to London Fletcher at mike linebacker.
Given the layoff, Barnett isn’t ready for football yet, and he went through a round of conditioning drills following the morning walkthrough. Shanahan said the team will gradually ease him onto the field to “get him ready to be able to play in the season.” That should be a good indication the Redskins expect him to make the team, adding to their depth inside but bumping Roddrick Muckelroy to the roster bubble.
* Four players were held out of Thursday’s practice as they nurse injuries: cornerback DeAngelo Hall (right ankle), receiver Donté Stallworth (hamstring), guard Adam Gettis (hamstring) and running back Chris Thompson (left knee). Four others were kept out for rest: Doughty, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, tight end Fred Davis, running back Roy Helu. Two others left practice with hamstring injuries: receiver Joshua Morgan and cornerback Richard Crawford.
Thompson has now missed three consecutive days of practice, which is peculiar. The running back tore the ACL in his left knee last season while at Florida State, and he, like Meriweather, was cleared to return to football within the past month. But he told NBC Washington that his left quadriceps has been acting up as he has tried to compensate for the stiffness in the knee, which isn’t a good sign.
With Lichtensteiger out, Josh LeRibeus filled in as the first-team left guard, while Jacolby Ashworth, an undrafted rookie who was a left tackle at Houston, picked up some additional snaps as he and LeRibeus shared second-team duties.
Morgan’s expected absence the next few days means Leonard Hankerson will get a good run at Z receiver, or flanker. It looks like he’s finally gotten over his problem of dropping passes, and now he could use some semblance of a rhythm to try to build some continuity.
* Speaking of the offensive line, the units haven’t changed so far in camp. Trent Williams, Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus are the starters. Tom Compton, LeRibeus, Kevin Matthews, Gettis and Tony Pashos are the second team. Xavier Nixon, Ashworth, Matthews, Tevita Stevens and Jeremy Trueblood are the third team. (Maurice Hurt, on the physically-unable-to-perform list, could fit somewhere on the second team with Stevens likely moving to third-string center, the position he played at Utah.)
The competition is very stratified. Shanahan even said so Thursday.
“When you take a look at our tackle situation, I think it’s very obvious to everybody who’s first-, second- and third-team right now, but there’s a lot of different situations that can occur,” Shanahan said before listing players who are injured or can play multiple positions. “We feel like we have more flexibility right now than we’ve had in the past.”
The Redskins will keep eight or nine offensive linemen; the decision comes down to Compton, Pashos, LeRibeus, Gettis, and Hurt. Pashos has been much more physical and better in pass protection than I expected, given the gruesome foot injury two years ago that cost him all of last season, but it may be tough to keep nine linemen if the team has to keep four tight ends. Compton is practically a lock; Hurt was a left tackle at Florida, but aside from a few snaps in training camp the last two years, he’s never worked at that position with the Redskins. LeRibeus and Gettis can both play all three interior positions, which would theoretically make one of them expendable.
* The preseason opener, against the Titans in Nashville, is a week from tonight. Time flies.