Mini-camp observations: Redskins defense gets the win

Thoughts on the Redskins two-day mini-camp.

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins' 2016 mini-camp is over. No more official practices until the team reconvenes in Richmond for the start of training camp on July 28. That means we'll have plenty of time for big picture thoughts, position battles and player profiles. For now, some quick thoughts about the two days just completed.

* Let's not overlook the obvious; Based on what we know, the Redskins will enter training camp in good health. No player -- again, as far as we know -- suffered a serious injury over the last four weeks of work. First round pick Josh Doctson remains sidelined with tendinitis in his Achilles, an injury suffered over three weeks ago during the initial OTA. Junior Galette only worked on the side, but the edge rusher believes he could play in a game now if needed. Running backs Chris Thompson (shoulder) and Keith Marshall (hamstring) only watched during mini-camp. Inside linebacker Perry Riley (foot), guard Shawn Lauvao (ankle) and tight end Derek Carrier are probably the most concerning injury situations heading into training camp. No offense to those three, but the Redskins have other options if needed. Tight end Jordan Reed (ankle) and defensive end Stephen Paea (personal) also did not participate.

* The chirpy defense got the best of the offense at mini-camp, though the Kirk Cousins-led passing attack had plenty of success. Led by linebacker Preston Smith, the pass rush put quality pressure on Cousins and the other quarterbacks. No doubt the improved pass coverage helped. It was noticeable several times over the two days and throughout the offseason that Cousins couldn't simply fire to his first receiver of choice. The cornerback combination of Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland played a large role, but others did as well.

Cousins targeted Pierre Garcon on consecutive throws over the middle Wednesday. The first one fell incomplete perhaps because, even with the non-contact situation, Garcon sensed safety DeAngelo Hall ready to strike. On the next pass, Garcon ran a shorter route -- and inside linebacker Will Compton jumped it for the interception. 

"[Today’s practice] was more of a great job by the defense, you know they played well," coach Jay Gruden said. "They got after the quarterback a little bit and he had to pull off and the defensive backs made some plays. Will Compton made an excellent interception today and it was great to see in a key situation. So it was good to see them make plays."

* The next time Cousins was under center, he threw Garcon's way again and delivered a strike. That started a stretch of strong throws by Cousins, including a perfectly thrown bomb to a streaking Jamison Crowder. The ability to shake off mistakes is crucial. Cousins demonstrated that as last season progressed and again on Tuesday.

* Matt Jones has the overall skill set to start at running back, Thompson is a proven third down option and undrafted rookie Robert Kelly had some moments this off-season, but it seems impossible that the Redskins would enter training camp with the group in hand. Until we saw Marshall play, we have no idea whether the seventh rounder can play on the NFL level. If Jones misses time, as he did often last year, there isn't a clear bell cow replacement.

* As for Gruden's take on what the team accomplished...

“I was excited. You know, I think they did what we wanted them to do. They got bigger and stronger in the weight room. Conditioning was tested and I think they are in better condition. We got away without any serious injuries, which is excellent. We are in good spirits, we are in good health and we are excited to get back to Richmond when it’s time. So I think we accomplished a lot.”

Ben Standig is the Publisher of Breaking Burgundy and the Huddle Report's 2012 NFL Mock Draft champion. You can find him on Twitter @benstandig and on Google+.

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