Training Camp Notes: Day 9
A breakdown of the Redskins’ ninth day of training camp, including notes on Brandon Meriweather’s return to team drills, Robert Griffin III’s upper body strength, the linebackers, officials, and more.
BY ZAC BOYER
RICHMOND – Brandon Meriweather is planning on participating in team drills when the Redskins return to practice on Monday.
Meriweather has not participated in team drills each of the last six days, and he took only a handful of snaps a week ago when he wore a brace on his surgically repaired right knee. Several players have replaced him as the first-team strong safety, including Reed Doughty, rookie Phillip Thomas, and, on Saturday, DeJon Gomes.
“They just told me to slow down,” Meriweather said. “They wanted me to slow down and not push it because at first, they were giving me a couple plays, then I’d sneak in for another one and I just kept sneaking in, so [the coaches] said instead of slowing me down, [they] just wanted me to chill and do a little drill work on the side.”
Meriweather said he was unsure as to whether the decision to not wear the brace had any effect on the team declining to allow him to return to team drills. He said he’d rather play without it, given the choice.
“A lot of people are able to play with a lot of things,” he said. “I can’t play with stuff that I feel like restricts me. I know a lot of people keep telling me it was a mind thing, but it’s just something I find hard for me to do.”
* Robert Griffin III relied on his arm strength to carry him through 7-on-7 drills on Saturday, and the constant fluctuation between his fluid mechanics and herky-jerky play may start to be somewhat of a concern. Mike Shanahan said after Saturday’s practice that Griffin has reported no soreness, no swelling, no pain or no discomfort in his surgically repaired right knee, but then admitted that if Griffin had any kind of setback in his recovery, he wouldn’t disclose it anyway.
The team will practice two more times before its preseason debut, which will be Thursday in Nashville against the Titans. Griffin, of course, will not play, but Shanahan said that after that game is over, Griffin will move on to the next phase of his recovery. He wouldn’t share what those plans are, and it seems that having the quarterback begin participating in team drills would be a large step at this point. In fact, it’d be confusing for Griffin to even join in on the controlled scrimmages until he’s demonstrated he’s completely over any of the issues he’s experienced in recent days.
And, for those counting at home, Griffin was 13-for-17 on Saturday. One pass was tipped by linebacker Perry Riley before receiver Leonard Hankerson caught it, while one incompletion was entirely on tight end Fred Davis, who stumbled out of his break on a crossing route and was a step short of the ball.
* Bryan Kehl replaced Roddrick Muckelroy as the first-team mike linebacker with London Fletcher getting a day off from practice and has essentially filled the jack-of-all-trades role Lorenzo Alexander had in recent seasons. Kehl is smart, solid in coverage and stout in the run, which he showed on one play Saturday when he broke into the backfield untouched and wrapped up Roy Helu.
Both players are essentially holding the seat warm for Nick Barnett, who the Redskins signed late Wednesday night and is not yet fully recovered from offseason surgery to clean out his right knee. If Barnett can prove he can still play, he’ll serve as Fletcher’s backup, but Kehl seems to have a hold on a reserve job because of his ability to play both inside positions, outside linebacker and special teams.
* All three backup quarterbacks were given a test in the second hour of practice with the following scenario: Start at the 50-yard line and score a touchdown with only 1:15 left on the clock and two timeouts remaining. Rex Grossman drove the second-team offense to the red zone before being intercepted by cornerback Josh Wilson with eight seconds left. Kirk Cousins needed only seven plays to score with the first-team offense, and he did so with two seconds remaining when tight end Logan Paulsen caught a pass in the end zone.
But Pat White, leading the third-team offense against the third-team defense, struggled mightily. He was sacked on the first play by rookie outside linebacker Brandon Jenkins, who blew past right tackle Jeremy Trueblood to wrap White up. Jenkins was then called for being offsides on the next play by the visiting officiating crew. White then scrambled for a modest gain of four or five yards, Jenkins again blew past Trueblood for another sack, Trueblood then was called for a false start and finally Skye Dawson caught a screen pass for 10 yards. It all added up to a net gain of six yards, a turnover on downs and the end of the game. Then again, if that crew played a whole game, there’s no way it would have ever been in that situation.
One other note on White: Earlier in the practice, he took off down the left side on a zone-read keeper that had the defense frozen and allowed him to gain roughly 15 yards. But he never finished out the play, and safety Jose Gumbs, in pursuit, simply snatched the ball out of White’s right hand. It was an outrageous mistake and a distinct lack of fundamentals for a player who needs to do absolutely everything right, and then some, to prove he can play in the NFL.
* Dawson and Nick Williams originally joined the Redskins as return specialists when they weren’t selected in the NFL draft in April, but both are showing that they may have the ability to stick on the practice squad as receivers. Dawson, listed at 5-foot-9 and 183 pounds, is a crisp route-runner who has good straight-line speed. Williams, at 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds, has twice turned Wilson inside-out while running go routes during one-on-ones.
There are 12 receivers on the roster vying for six spots at most, and realistically, eight receivers will be competing for two. They probably won’t do it, but the Redskins don’t have a natural backup for Santana Moss as a slot receiver and special teams ability will go a long way in helping their causes.
* Having four officials on site the last four days was beneficial for the players and coaches, who were able to learn about new rules installed for this season and to clarify others. But it was also important for them to be at practice, too, given that they were able to be more instructional with the players.
Line judge Jeff Seeman, for example, informed cornerback Chase Minnifield that he would have been called for pass interference when defending Aldrick Robinson during one-on-ones, and he unsuccessfully attempted to warn tight end Jordan Reed that he might not have gotten away with holding on another play. Those are the types of things that neither coaches nor players have been able to see without the officials in attendance.
Plus, it was also entertaining to hear some of the assistant coaches – most notably the outspoken Raheem Morris – heckle the officials from up close. On one play during team drills, Grossman found Hankerson across the middle on a slant, and while cornerback Richard Crawford stripped him of the ball, Hankerson was fortunate to recover it on one bounce. With the play over, Morris turned to Seeman for instruction. “Hey beanbags!” he yelled. “Was that a fumble?” It was, Seeman nodded. Hankerson took two steps after the catch.
* The first kicking competition of training camp saw both Kai Forbath and John Potter go 6-for-7. Forbath, the Redskins’ kicker for much of last season, missed his final try – a 59-yarder off the right upright. Potter, brought in as a kickoff specialist, made a 63-yarder, which would tie the NFL record if it happened in a game. “To me, 64 is the number,” said Potter, who played six games last season for the Bills. “That’s the number that every kicker wants to hit.”
* The Redskins counted more than 25,000 fans in attendance for “Fan Appreciation Day” on Saturday, which is in line with previous estimates for the size of the crowd in recent years at Redskins Park and also what the city has deemed to be a safe occupancy for the facility. It was a rousing success; several players enjoyed practicing in front of such an energetic crowd, and they showed their appreciation after practice ended by throwing footballs to fans and signing autographs for more than 30 minutes.
* Players are off Sunday and will return to practice on Monday.