Mini-Camp Report: Day Two

Pass protection was a major topic last season. It'll be a major emphasis this season. That's evident just watching the Redskins practice the past two days. And it's even more evident talking to the coaches.

``They start with protection first as opposed to a lot of coaches in the league worrying about how many receivers are out there,'' Gregg Williams said of the Redskins' offensive coaches. ``They're working hard to protect the quarterback and it's very challenging for our defense.''

Under Steve Spurrier, the Redskins wanted to send out lots of receivers, even on deep routes. That left fewer blockers, even against blitzes. And when they did keep guys in, they couldn't block.

But running back Clinton Portis does a nice job picking up blitzes. The scheme helps out tremendously, too. One scout told me recently that he felt Mark Brunell's health wouldn't be an issue in this offense because of how well Joe Gibbs protects his quarterbacks.

``The whole idea is to protect the quarterback,'' Redskins offensive coordinator Joe Bugel said. ``And when you don't keep everyone in to block, you have to throw the ball faster. That's the big difference there. When we go downfield with the ball, we're asking eight people to block. One thing we have here is quality skill people.

``We're not into spreading everyone out all over the field trying to be fancy. Let him stand back there for three and a half seconds and throw the ball down the field to your good players. It'll be quite a change for our team.''

. . . Regan Upshaw worked at right end, a position he thought he'd play last season. Instead, he played mostly on the left side.

. . . The defense seems to blitz every down. I just wonder if they have the secondary to handle all that blitzing.

. . . Here's a guy I hope gets another good shot to make the roster: Scott Cloman. He seems to have gotten a little bigger since the season ended (he was already strong) and he makes seemingly every catch on the field. He's also a good guy. He's a bit slower and that's why he didn't make the roster last season, but he's tough.

. . . Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin plays a little too high for my taste. When matched against Jon Jansen, he did nothing. But Griffin did show lots of strength against some of the lesser guards. Of course, they're only in shorts and it's March so how much can really be learned?

. . . I'm curious to see how Mike Sellers plays this season. I liked him when he was here last time. He's bigger than he was last time he was in Washington. And he uses his body well. On several plays, he shielded defensive backs and linebackers, preventing them from reaching around to poke away a pass. Instead, Sellers would catch the ball and turn upfield.

. . . Left guard Derrick Dockery (shoulder) is sitting out this weekend, at least in team drills.

. . . Linebacker Kevin Mitchell worked with coach Dale Lindsay after practice, focusing on backpedaling and drops. But they did something different: Mitchell would backpedal or run sideways uphill. It forced Mitchell to stay lower and balanced, as he'll need to do on the field.

I've always liked Mitchell, but I'm not sure he's the answer. He could be a good two-down linebacker, but I wonder about him in coverage. Gregg Williams said he wants fast linebackers who can play every down. Not sure Mitchell fits that description. One reason he's kept re-signing here is that there isn't much interest in him elsewhere. That said, if you just use him against the run, you're OK.

. . . Players run from one drill the next, showing an enthusiasm and eagerness rarely seen this early. What a refreshing change.

. . . Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington on the difference between this year and last: ``How do I say this without sounding too bad. You can tell by the way my shirt looks [it was drenched]. We've done more running the last two days than we did the first camp alone last year. It's the total atmosphere. The pace, we're almost at game speed right now and it's only the second day. Our walk-throug, I don't know why it's called a walk-through because that's full speed as well. It's a tone being set and it's being set early. It's going to be interesting.''

. . . Once again, the defense did 10 gassers before starting their drills. If nothing else, they'll be the most well-conditioned defense around.

``I haven't done those since Pop Warner,'' Arrington said.


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