RICHMOND — Tuesday at Redskins training camp began with a trip to the Richmond Raceway, where driver and noted Redskins fan Dale Earnhardt Jr. took quarterback Kirk Cousins, linebackers Will Compton and Ryan Kerrigan, right tackle Morgan Moses and cornerback Josh Norman for a few laps around the track.
Norman shrieked when he and Earnhardt pulled back in in the No. 88 Chevrolet and Cousins quoted liberally from the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. There was no cougar riding in the backseat, though.
The rest of the day had the same relaxed feel. Players wore shells for practice, the last one before Thursday’s preseason opener in Baltimore, and the session was relatively short.
The Redskins Charitable Foundation, in partnership with Good Sports, also handed out $60,000 worth of sneakers, jerseys and other athletic gear to several Richmond schools and youth organizations before practice.
Dale Jr. vs Josh Norman. pic.twitter.com/svx6ekupOv— Nora Princiotti (@NoraPrinciotti) August 8, 2017
Afterward, Cousins, Earnhardt and Norman ran a few plays with Norman covering Earnhardt. Norman, kindly, didn’t press Earnhardt but the driver did catch two out of three passes thrown by Cousins. The third was a catchable ball, but Earnhardt didn’t feel like laying out for it. Norman and Earnhardt then went to hand out cones of shaved ice from a local food truck to kids who had come to see the practice.
There was a little bit of actual football practiced, though, so here’s what we learned on Day 11 of Redskins training camp.
Six players ruled out
Wide receiver Jamison Crowder (hamstring), tight end Jordan Reed (toe), wide receiver Kendal Thompson (leg), cornerback Fabian Moreau (pec) and safety Montae Nicholson (shoulder) won’t play against the Ravens, coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday.
Crowder was limited in practice Tuesday but the Redskins will take their time with him. Likewise with Reed. Moreau and Nicholson will both have checkups after the Ravens game could start seeing more contact in practice and start doing team drills and one-on-ones as soon as next week. Both players avoided the physically unable to participate (PUP) list at the start of training camp but have been limited so far during camp.
“They haven’t participated in any team drills or one-on-one matchup drills yet, but I think hopefully starting when we get back to practice they’ll start,” Gruden said. “That’s the goal.”
Cousins wants to play as much as possible
Gruden maintained that he’s still not sure how much playing time he’ll give his starters Thursday. Cousins is unlikely to play more than a series or two, but he’d like to get out there as much as possible.
“There’s no such thing as ‘I was too ready for the game, I had too much experience,’” Cousins said. “But I understand the need to pull a player when the value gained by playing isn’t there and the risk of injury is much higher.”
Beyond remembering the feeling of playing at game speed, Cousins wants reps making sure he’s hearing play calls clearly through the crowd noise. He wants to go through the warm-up process, then have to stand for several minutes on the sideline between drives. He wants to see blitz packages he’s not intimately familiar with and have the offense practice substitutions.
“All those things that are true of game day are not well-simulated in a practice because that’s not the way we structure practice,” Cousins said.
Defense rules the day
Practice was more like a walkthrough, and even Cousins admitted that he wished that things had been coming at him a bit faster in preparation for the game Thursday. On one play in the red zone, Cousins dropped back to pass, but found all his receivers covered while the defense had only rushed three. Cousins chose to hang onto the ball and start running, and was annoyed when he didn’t feel like he was getting full effort from defenders. “Come get me!” he yelled.
Cousins felt he’d been denied a chance to work extending the play, an area of emphasis this season.
“The pass rush wasn’t 100 miles an hour and I want it to be 100 miles an hour because I want to feel Terrell Suggs is coming off the edge and get ready for what it’s going to feel like in a real game,” Cousins said.
Still, for the most part, none of the Redskins quarterbacks were moving the ball efficiently. It became apparent quickly that cornerback Kendall Fuller is the No. 2 punt returner, behind Crowder, and kicker Dustin Hopkins impressed with a 55-yard field goal right between the uprights, but the fact that the punt return and kicking units were the ones getting a lot of use shows the ineptitude.
Cousins‘ first series included a dropped pass by Ryan Grant, a broken play where tight end Niles Paul went in motion but then seemed to run a different route than Cousins was expecting, two more incompletions toward Grant, and a couple short runs by Rob Kelley.
It’s training camp, they were barely practicing and Cousins was working without his top three receivers (Reed, Crowder, Doctson), so this is all basically meaningless. Colt McCoy didn’t have a great day either. Cousins did say after practice that he needs to be able to adjust, no matter who he’s throwing to.
“That’s certainly a goal of mine is to play well regardless of who’s in there,” Cousins said. “In this league, with how much attrition takes place, you’re not going to have the luxury of playing with the same starting receivers for 10 years. So, welcome to the NFL.”
Cousins is right about attrition, but he’s not going to have to go for long without all three of his top targets unless disaster strikes.
Injuries: Along with Crowder (hamstring) being limited, wide receivers Levern Jacobs (lower leg) and Maurice Harris (knee) and linebacker Preston Smith (ankle) didn’t practice. Smith’s sprained ankle is expected to keep him out for a week or two, so he’d already been ruled out for Thursday’s game.
Extra point: Earnhardt was pretty handy on the race track, but he did have one automobile-related malfunction Tuesday.
I was so geeked out about going to @Redskins training camp today, I left my truck running all day at the airport. No bs.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) August 8, 2017
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