It was noticeably cooler and a bit less humid this morning at Redskins Park with a partly cloudy sky to keep the sun somewhat at bay as the Washington Redskins began their fourth of eight open practices of the 2006 training camp. A record crowd of over 4,000 screaming fans had come out this Friday morning to cheer on their team, joined by a rather large swarm of dragonflies that hovered incessantly above the heads of the mass of people. It was easily the largest crowd to attend a practice yet (aside from Fan Appreciation Days in previous seasons).
Around 9:30, the players began to trickle out of the practice complex, once again heading over to the far side field. The defensive players went to the furthest side, while the offense congregated in the opposite end zone. A difference from earlier practices, there are no kickers warming up, as they had before on the closest field to the fans. A boisterous crowd was left watching from two football fields away as the team stretched out.
After a minute or two, the two squads ran some drills, with the offense running some pass play formations on their side, and the defense working on coverage formations on theirs. With the distance from the action and the large crowd, it is hard to be precise about much more.
The sun peeked out of the clouds and gave everyone a little taste of Virginia summer, and the water bottles came out in full force. The team was still on the far field, with Al Saunders have an animated talk by the VIP tents. It would be interesting to have heard the conversation, as he seemed quite amused.
The kickers came out to the close field shortly thereafter, but no one kicked. A moment later, the rest of the team came running over from the far field, to the large applause of the rabid fans lined up alongside the close field. The Redskins promptly lined up and began a series of stretching exercises, with young fans screaming out the names of players in sheer joy.
After five minutes, the team broke up into its individual units, with the special teams units staying on the close field, the QB's ran to the field adjacent to the closest one, the OL ran to the far end zone of the closest field, and the rest of the team stayed in between the two closest fields. Clinton Portis went to the far field to work on pitch-outs with Ernest Byner, and Brandon Lloyd worked individually on the far field as well.
The OL ran a drill that I can best describe as the "mirror" drill, where two linemen line up across from each other, then move sideways, both moving in the same direction. While this was going on, Santana Moss, Randle-El, Taylor Jacobs, Ataveus Cash, Kenny Wright and Steven Harris worked on punt returns, catching balls punted by a machine on the close field.
The players were in shoulder pads, jerseys, and shorts, except for Carlos Rogers, who did not practice. Clinton Portis wore an overly large pair of gray sweatpants, he must be trying to lose more weight-an easy thing to do in the now fiercely shining sun.
The players continued to work on their unit drills until around 10:25, when the defense broke off and ran back to the far field, working on tip and fumble drills. Greg Williams loves the ups and downs, but I think the defensive players feel otherwise! Sweat is evident everywhere as the sun really begins to kick in, and the offensive linemen are drenched as they begin one on one drills directly in front of the crowd. The QBs and the WR's work on passing plays on the opposite side of the field, around the 20 yard line. The first play is a strike by a seemingly energized Mark Brunell to Chris Cooley, in the left corner of the end zone. The next play was a five step drop and pass to Antwaan Randle El.
Jason Campbell threw next, a nice tight spiral to Brandon Lloyd, again in the end zone. Casey Bramlet threw next, and his weak arm strength was evident in his passes. Todd Collins threw next; and he faired little better, his passes floating and slow in arriving to the receivers. When Brunell threw a quick strike to Moss next, the zip on the ball was noticeably stronger. Jason Campbell displayed good arm strength as well, throwing a tight ball to Brandon Lloyd down the sideline next.
The passing drills continued for several more minutes, with the same results: Brunell and Campbell threw quick, strong throws; Collins and Bramlet had slower, more floating passes. The DL had joined the OL to begin working on one on one match-ups. Casey Rabach and Anthony Montgomery began the drill, with Rabach holding his own against the rookie, standing his ground with each massive collision. Next, Joe Salave'a and Randy Thomas went head to head, with Thomas pushing Joe back a bit.
Derrick Dockery next went up against the rookie Kedric Golston, easily handling the youngster. Casey Rabach next went up against Cedric Killings, and once again showed a weakness, getting pushed back several feet by the former NFL Europe player. John Jansen and Jim Molinaro faired well in their match ups against Nic Clemons and Karon Riley, and Randy Thomas continues to impress as he slipped, yet still somehow maintained his leverage on Anthony Montgomery, and stood him straight up. I will say this about Montgomery, he has shown a good motor, and he keeps fighting.
The offense and defense once again split up, but remained on the field closest to the fans. The defense ran to the far end zone, and the offense stayed in front of the screaming fanatics. The units ran plays against each other, with the back up players portraying the opposing team. Interestingly, Sean Taylor played RB, and broke free several times.
The offense worked on running plays, with Ladell Betts, Clinton Portis, Rock Cartwright, Jesse Lumsden, Kerry Carter, and Nehemiah Broughton each running the ball, albeit at a slower speed than game conditions. Jason Campbell almost fumbled the ball on one snap, finally handing the ball off to a waiting Carter.
After a few minutes, the team came back together, and worked on 7 on 7 drills. The first play was a pass from Brunell to Randle-El, a nice crisp pass down the left sidelines. However, on the next play, Brunell threw a floater over the head of Lloyd, and then overthrew Cooley on his right. They ran the same play again, and Brunell was right on target, hitting Cooley between the 4 and the 7, 20 yards downfield.
Next up was Todd Collins, and he promptly had several overthrown passes, looking a little shaky, maybe from the heat. It was hard to judge from my vantage point, as the offense had moved down the field and the huge crowd had me temporarily immobilized.
Brunell and Campbell continued to look good on the offense's return to the close side of the field. Jason had a great pass where he looked off the rookie CB john Eubanks, then completed a strike to Steven Harris. Adam Archuleta caught up to him shortly afterwards, and would've laid him out if this had been a real game.
The team progressed to 9 on 9 drills, with more pressure being applied by the defensive line. Once again, first play was a frozen rope to Cooley from Brunell for a TD, followed next by Portis dropping a check down pass over the middle. They ran the same play again, and Portis caught it this time, but Marcus Washington was there at the same time, and jumped on his back, pro wrestling style, to the laughter of the fans.
Ladell Betts got into the action next, catching a check down pass underneath and running it to the end zone. Betts has run very strong this training camp, I expect him to have a good year. The next play was a pass to Ladell again, and Marcus Washington had once again sniffed it out, stopping him for no gain.
The next play was a pass, broken up by a seemingly omnipresent Washington in the corner of the end zone. Sean Taylor ran over and they both jumped and bumped chests in the air, eliciting cheers from the happy crowd. Todd Collins threw next, first to a monster of a TE Robert Johnson, and afterwards to a speedy Jesse Lumsden, who took the ball to the end zone.
Next came the final portion of the practice, the 11 on 11 drills. The first play was a pitch out to Clinton Portis that went for maybe 5 yards. The next play Santana Moss made a sweet move, getting behind the secondary down the right sideline, and Brunell hit him for what had to be a 60-yard TD. Moss was so wide open, he had to slow down and wait for the pass to arrive. A stronger arm and he never breaks stride.
Brunell next threw a short pass to the left sideline to Randle El, for 10 yards. Campbell took over next, throwing twice to Cartwright underneath. The first time Rock was stopped, but the second time, the bowling ball of an RB showed his speed and took off for a 50 yard score.
Collins threw next, and on a play where he had all sorts of time, he almost threw an interception, a good play by John Eubanks, rookie CB. Brunell threw next, hitting Cooley on the left for a good gain. The next play, Brunell threw the only INT of the day, to a waiting Lemar Marshall. Campbell stepped in, and on the next play was sacked by Chris Clemons.
Campbell next overthrew Steven Harris in the end zone, who made a circus like catch in bringing it in for a score. Brunell took over for a few throws, and then Todd Collins had one more chance but looked bad, throwing a floater to no one in particular on one play.
Practice ended shortly thereafter, and I made my escape from the mob of autograph seekers to find the comfort of my air-conditioned car. Today's practice was once again fast paced, energetic, and had a sense of real enthusiasm to it. I expect a good showing tomorrow at the scrimmage; the Ravens should be a good test as to how far along the team is. I will post a report on that later!