The team - dressed in shoulder and thigh pads – was forced indoors after heavy rainfall blanketed the Charles McClendon Practice Facility shortly before 10 am. The media was allowed to observe for three, five-minute sessions.
The players dressed in green were Kelvin Sheppard, RJ Jackson and John Williams.
The only news to take away from the morning is the injury toll at linebacker – which grows by the day. Jacob Cutrera was absent once more. Sheppard was dressed in green, while Perry Riley was back in action after battling a shoulder injury.
Harry Coleman continues to provide a healthy body at the spot, but defensive coordinator John Chavis surely is not too comfortable with three of his top four linebackers missing time and dressed in non-contact jerseys during the weeks leading up to the opener.
Ryan Baker, Kevin Minter, Kyle Prater and Stefoin Francois are a few names that have helped fill the gaps left due to injury.
The cornerbacks worked apart from the safeties for a good portion of the session. Coach Ron Cooper had his safeties work on back-pedaling and turning up field in pursuit of the ball on deep passing patterns. Chad Jones led the group off, followed by Danny McCray, Brandon Taylor and Karnell Hatcher. Derrick Bryant and Ryan St. Julien also ran through the drill.
Jones is the best of the bunch, with Taylor looking to have made serious progress during his time at the spot. However, McCray and Hatcher were rather disappointing. McCray bobbled the ball during his runs, while Hatcher could not catch anything – and all of the passes were put right into his hands. The drill was worked close to the sideline, so getting your feet down in bounds while catching the ball was stressed. Hatcher had a very hard time with this.
At cornerback, Patrick Peterson lined up as the front man on the right side, with Jai Eugene the number one guy on the left side. Morris Claiborne continues to pack up Peterson, and Brooks – now back at cornerback after his move to strong safety – is in the third spot. Chris Hawkins continues to battle Eugene for the start on the left side, with St. Julien the third man in line.
The defensive line was missing a few names. Akiem Hicks, Pep Levingston and Lavar Edwards were all absent, with Hicks having missed multiple days due to a leg injury that occurred this past week. With lack of depth on the outside, Sam Montgomery and Mike Brockers are getting reps with the two-deep. Montgomery’s explosiveness continues to impress, while I have fallen in love with Brockers size (285). I am not sure which one I would give the edge to at this point, but I do think that the battle is between the pair of freshmen. I really liked Chancey Aghayere’s chances headed into the fall, but he is the player who is corrected most by coaches Brick Haley and Joe Robinson.
On offense, Larry Porter worked his running back unit on catching balls out of the backfield. Everyone showed good hands on the morning, with very few – if any – balls hitting the ground. Richard Murphy is the most fluid with his catch and turn, but Charles Scott and Keiland Williams are not far off. When you contemplate how Murphy will fit into the offense, you have to think his number will be called on plays just like this.
The receivers were all accounted for – plus the addition of Russell Shepard. Shepard started the morning with the quarterbacks, but was called over about midway through the warm up by coach DJ McCarthy to run through passing drills. The drill was set up with four cones, and the players ran diagonal routes to each cone before turning after the fourth cone and catching the ball. With the pass coming before they turn to see the throw, you could really tell who the hands of the group were. As expected, Brandon LaFell, Terrance Toliver and Rueben Randle all looked fluid with their motions and showed great hands. None of them dropped a pass.
When Shepard joined the group, his athleticism stood out immediately. His cuts and running motion is much smoother than the rest of the bunch, and his hands are like a glove. With more reps coming each day at wide receiver and running back, expect Shepard to be worked into the Washington game plan anyway possible.
The quarterbacks – Jordan Jefferson, Jarrett Lee, Chris Garrett and Shepard – were all in attendance and throwing well. The offensive line and tight ends worked out on the far end of the indoor facility, so I did not get to observe their run through. I believe Clay Spencer, Carneal Ainsworth and Tyler Edwards were the lone missing Tigers from the group.