It was a balmy 95 degrees with 85% humidity and a heavy haze
hanging in the air as the third open to the public practice began last night.
Even with the extreme heat, there was still a large, boisterous crowd on hand
to watch the Skins practice. At around 6:30, the players began trickling out of
the Redskins Park complex, once again trotting out to the furthest field from
the crowd to do warm-up exercises. The players were dressed in their uniform
shells, with light pads underneath.
While the rest of the team went to the far field, the special teams units (kickers, returners, coverage teams) came over and practiced on the field closest to the crowd. Taylor Jacobs promptly dropped the first punt to catcalls from the peanut gallery. John Hall and Tyler Jones practiced field goals, from the 20 and 30-yard lines, with Hall's kicks having more velocity, but with more of a line-drive trajectory, while Jones's kicks seemed to have a higher arc to them.
After a few minutes, the entire team ran over to the near field to do some more warm-up exercises, and then the team broke into its individual units. The WR's went back to the far field to work on agility drills, the QBs went to the field on the other side of Redskins Park to do drills, with the defensive secondary players on the other side of the same field. The OL stayed closest to the crowd, working on formations.
Joe Salave'a was at practice, but only dressed in his Jersey in shorts, and he was limited in what drills he did. Still, it was good to see him back, condolences to him for his Mother, RIP.
The defensive linemen went over to the far field next to the WR's to work on cone drills. The players react to the cones like a live ball, and it's a fight to the cones. Then the DL got to do the dreaded drop drills, where they throw themselves to the ground, roll over and bounce back up. Grueling stuff, but it will make these guys tougher than nails! Salave'a participated in the fumble cone drills.
Shortly after that, the QB's came back to the close field, and began working with the WR's on passing drills. Todd Collins continues to float some balls, but Brunell seems to be getting crisper, throwing the ball with a nice zip. Campbell still has the strongest arm in camp, but Brunell does have the experience to check down to his RB's, not forcing throws downfield. Casey Bramlet continues to be not impressive, showing that he is nothing more than camp fodder with his weak arm and bad accuracy.
The OL stayed directly in front of the crowd on the close field, and the DL joined them for some one on one drills. Once again, the DL seemed to be a step ahead, but Jansen looked good today, handling Phillip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn easily, earning a shout of praise from Joe Bugel. Samuels and Thomas looked good, as well, but Casey Rabach again demonstrated that he is the weak link on our O-line, getting pushed back by the Rookie Anthony Montgomery and Vaka Manupuna as well (who!?!) in successive drills. Andre Carter absolutely embarrassed Jim Molinaro, and Nic Clemons and Kili Lefotu got into a heated pushing match after their drill, requiring Cornelius Griffin to jump in and break it up.
After a few more minutes, the offense and defense began 9 on 9 drills, with the QB's alternating plays. First play, Portis took the ball to the right side and broke a long run to the joy of the crowd on hand. Next play, Betts took a hand off and broke it to the left side for a long run. Both backs were running hard and seem to be in mid-season form, as Betts broke the next play for a TD. Rock Cartwright got into the action, too, as he took a hand off, broke into the secondary, and juked Sean Taylor for a long TD run. Our RB's are looking good, as even Jesse Lumsden, Kerrie Carter, and Nemo (our new bowling ball) ran well!
Taylor Jacobs dropped an easy 3-step drop sideline pass; once again drawing boos and catcalls from the crowd. He isn't doing himself too many favors, considering the large group of WR's we have on the roster. In fact, only Steven Harris, #12 has looked worse at WR. Brandon Lloyd had another circus-like catch along the sidelines, easily high jumping to make a one-handed catch, to the astonishment of the large group of Skins fans alongside the field. Chris Cooley is picking upon where he left off last year, with an easy catch made in stride for a TD from Brunell.
Our back up OL's are looking pretty good, with Molinaro playing well, despite Carter embarrassing him on one play. Water Tyson looked good, pancaking #63 Kedric Golston on one play, but the DL is still ahead of the OL for the most part, with Nic Clemons making a good move to get into the backfield for what would've been a sack on Brunell, Griffin got in as well on another play, and Cedric Killings made a good play, too, showing some surprising speed on an inside move.
Todd Collins just overthrew an open Taylor Jacobs, who got behind the secondary and was streaking down the sidelines towards the end zone. Collins continues to float his balls, but Brunell has tightened up some, throwing stiff passes to Moss and a good-looking quick strike in the middle to Robert Johnson. Andre Carter is fast around the edge, causing some pressure on Campbell, who looked a little shaky with his accuracy, throwing the only INT of the drills, which by now had progressed to a full 11 on 11 drill.
By this time, it had gotten darker, but even with the field lights and the shining headlight of Dan Snyder's golf cart, the heavy haze in the air cut down on visibility, as if there was a fog rolling in from some far away ocean bay. It was also around this time that the old wooden picnic table by which I was standing collapsed, with about 10 people standing on it, causing a bit of commotion and consternation in the crowd lining the fence alongside the field. Luckily, the table collapsed straight down, giving the startled fans standing on it the sensation of being in an elevator, so no one was hurt.
Portis lined up several times split out as a WR, and in the backfield with another FB/RB. One time, with Betts and Portis in the backfield, Betts went in motion to the right, Portis took the hand off and ran to the right as Betts went down the field. Portis threw the ball before crossing the line of scrimmage to Betts for a TD, and ran over to the crowd, eliciting easily the largest cheer of the practice from the rowdy fans in attendance. I love CP!!!
The defense overall still looked to be a step ahead of the offense at this stage, however, as rookie CB John Eubanks made a great play breaking up a pass to Moss, Sean Taylor absolutely destroyed Jesse Lumsden on a running play, and the DL is getting good pressure and disrupting quite a few plays in the backfield. Todd Collins continues to show a weak arm, but did make a good throw to #11 WR Mike Espy for a TD, splitting the safeties down the middle of the field. Brunell is showing a propensity to tuck it in and run, which may or may not be a good thing. Rock Cartwright is running the ball hard, once again our running attack seems to be at mid-season form.
Practice ended soon after, and as the fans clamored for autographs from the tired players leaving the field, I made my way to the dusty parking lot and my car, thankful for the invention of air conditioning and for the opportunity to see the Redskins practice. There is a tangible optimism emanating from the players, they are enthusiastic and energized, even in the stifling August heat. The team is looking good, hitting hard and showing a strong camaraderie, like Griffin sticking up for his fellow defensive tackle during a drill against the offensive line. Even the coaches are running around, Al Saunders looks like a drill sergeant on the field, barking orders out to the sweaty players, and Buges is his old self, running around and instructing the offensive line. The only part of the team that is of concern to me right now is the center position. Casey Rabach continues to be the weak link of the offensive line; hopefully he has time to elevate his level of play.