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Observations and thoughts from Tuesday's Redskins practice

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Here are some observations and thoughts from Tuesday’s minicamp practice. Please remember players aren’t wearing pads and contact is limited, so drawing firm conclusions could be hazardous to your health.

In the team drills portion of practice, the offense took possession at a certain yard line and drove on the defense as if it were a game situation. If the defense prevented a first down, both sides were replaced by the next group. Entertaining stuff.

QB Robert Griffin III made most of his throws from the pocket instead of the keepers that make you really take notice of his speed to the edge. It’s interesting, especially at this point, to watch him work through his progressions.

“I’m just more comfortable with everything,” Griffin said after. “I felt like I knew where I was going with everything, saw certain things in the defense and exploited it.”

What things?

“On certain plays where the play side might be to the left, but you’ve got a key, and you see that to the right, so you go to the right with whatever route it is on that side,” he said. “It’s just little things, that’s the simplest way I can put it, just knowing what you’re supposed to do.”

Early in practice, he threw incomplete to TE Chris Cooley near the left sideline after looking right. Cooley was covered, but he was in man-to-man coverage. The window was tight, maybe non-existent, but Griffin ambitiously tried to fit the ball in. Incomplete.

Soon after, he threw deep over the middle to a crossing WR Santana Moss after going through his reads. FS Madieu Williams, however, drove on the route and knocked the ball down. The throw was accurate. That result leads us to believe either Griffin was late, had no open receivers or should have gone elsewhere.

Soon after that, Griffin rolled left on a keeper and threw a deep pass across his body intended for, I believe, Moss. The receiver was about 40 yards down field, and Griffin overthrew it by 10 yards. On one hand, the arm strength was so impressive. But ultimately it was an incomplete pass that belies the deep ball accuracy he was known for at Baylor.

Griffin was sharper later in practice, hitting Moss from the pocket for a 20-yard gain over the middle on a play-action dropback. Such completions are particularly impressive because the fake handoff forces Griffin to take his eyes off the defense and turn his back to it. For him to come out of the fake and find Moss open shows growth.

***

Two examples of Griffin’s intense competitiveness occurred Tuesday.

One: He acknowledged he plans to get together with some receivers during the upcoming six-week dead period to throw routes. Griffin will spend the break in Texas, he said, but no extravagant vacation is planned.

“It’s important for us to be successful, and that’s what you have to do,” he said.

Two: Griffin actually was disappointed after connecting with WR Santana Moss for a 60-yard touchdown during team drills. On the first play of the offense’s series, Moss caught a 15-yard pass over the middle. CB DeAngelo Hall, who was covering Moss, slipped. That allowed Moss to take it to the house.


Griffin clapped his hands and bowed his head in disappointment, though, because the touchdown meant the first team offense’s series was over. He had to come off the field and leave the work to the backup quarterbacks.

Griffin’s competitiveness is a special trait, and it’s a major reason why I believe he won’t be a bust. Whatever he doesn’t succeed at as a rookie, he’s going fully exert himself to fix it. Add in his physical tools, intelligence and high character, and the odds are favorable the Redskins will get what they expect.

I’ll have more on Griffin in Thursday’s paper.

***

WR Pierre Garcon made two fine catches because of exceptional body control.

He provided the highlight of practice by catching a touchdown from QB Robert Griffin III on a fade near the left sideline. Griffin’s throw was a tad underthrown with plenty of air under it, which allowed Garcon to jump and play the ball even though CB Cedric Griffin was in good man-to-man coverage. Garcon snared the ball with one hand for a highlight-reel catch and then pegged it at the wall of the bubble in celebration.

“I seen it was kind of underthrown a little bit, and I was just going after the ball…at its highest point,” Garcon said.

Earlier, Garcon caught a short pass from Griffin at the sideline for a first down. He was running full speed out of his break but suddenly slowed his stride in time to drag his back foot and stay in bounds.

Garcon afterward said keys to body control include core strength and a feel that comes from experience.

“You gotta do some sit-ups,” he cracked. “There’s no real way to say you control your body, but you gotta work towards it. After a while you get used it. You get to doing it without knowing it.”

***

Garcon and Santana Moss, and also Brandon Banks and Anthony Armstrong, have showcased themselves this spring while fellow WRs Josh Morgan (right leg) and Leonard Hankerson (right hip) continue their recovery from surgeries.

Entering training camp, the health of the receiving corps is a significant concern, considering 1) Morgan and Hankerson are two of the coaching staff’s top three receivers; and 2) they have lower body injuries, which generally are more difficult to get by with than an upper body injury.

Morgan and Hankerson expect to be ready for training camp, but will they be able to practice without limitation? We’ll see. Hankerson is relatively inexperienced in the NFL, and Morgan is adjusting to a new team. Their participation is very important.

Read more about Morgan’s status: here.

***

Undrafted rookie CB Chase Minnifield stood out on the defensive side. Click here to read the details of his day and his outlook on making the team.

***

It wasn’t a great day for the two quarterbacks competing for the backup role. QB Rex Grossman was intercepted by Minnifield, who obviously eluded Grossman’s vision. Grossman also missed an open WR Terrence Austin on a hot-read slant to the right because Grossman didn’t set his feet to make the throw.

One good moment for Rex: A 60-yard catch-and-run touchdown down the middle to TE Logan Paulsen. Grossman hit Paulsen in stride inside a window that wasn’t big. Pauslen beat ILB Lorenzo Alexander, whose pass coverage continues to be a work in progress as he shifts inside.

QB Kirk Cousins overthrew several play-action passes during team drills, but he did make a nice back-shoulder throw to WR Lance Lewis for a touchdown late in practice. Lewis lined up wide right, and I’m not sure how the slot DB failed to knock the pass down as it sailed over him.

***

TE Niles Paul’s blocking is going to be spotlighted once the pads come out. OLB Rob Jackson burst inside him to stop a running play Tuesday. Jackson was quicker off the ball and got across Paul’s face by staying low. Paul’s speed on pass routes has been a positive this spring, and we’ll soon get a better gauge of his blocking ability. His experience as a blocker in Nebraska’s option offense bodes well, but can he block bigger defenders inside?

***

LG Erik Cook had to hold DE Kedric Golston on a stretch play to the left because Golston got across him. Cook’s chances of making the final roster are in serious doubt after the Redskins drafted three offensive linemen. The former seventh-round pick struggled at center last season after LG Kory Lichtensteiger tore knee ligaments (recall that C Will Montgomery moved to LG) and the Redskins went with Maurice Hurt at left guard instead. Neither option was attractive.

***

K Graham Gano made a 57-yarder at the end of practice, while K Neil Rackers’ 52-yard attempt hit the right upright. Rackers’ side work during 11-on-11 team drills included an interesting side drill. He attempted field goals of about 40 yards with the ball spotted on the sideline. The sharp angle shrunk the opening of the uprights, forcing Rackers to be more accurate. He made both kicks I saw.

***

Second year WR Aldrick Robinson caught a deep ball by torching safeties Tanard Jackson, Jordan Bernstine and LB Donnell Holt. Jackson is new to practice because of injury, and Bernstine and Holt are rookies, but Robinson still showcased his fine speed. It will be interesting to see in training camp how Robinson, a sixth-round pick last year, has grown as a route runner. He could also make himself more valuable if he shows prowess as a kick returner.

…that’s it for Tuesday.

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