Neil's NFL Daily: August 7, 2013
Tuesday, August 6 – Redskins Camp (Richmond)
We’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather on this trip so far, and you could still argue that’s the case. While we had some significant precipitation today, it didn’t rain during the actual practice but still left its mark on the camp. The surrounding fields were very muddy, with wellington boots the order of the day for both the Redskins’ staff and fans sensible enough to dress appropriately. Us – not so much.
It’s an odd camp because, more than most, the team looks almost identical to last year’s version. Washington’s cap woes have kept free agents to a minimum and those they have picked up (such as Tony Pashos and Nick Barnett) seem destined for a second-string role at best. There will be at least one new starter in the base defense (I’ll come to that later) but he is a rookie and the Redskins’ biggest change from 2012 will be the return of one of their very best players — Brian Orakpo.
I know fans love their teams, and particularly the starting quarterback, but it seemed the faithful arriving in Richmond were here more to be in the presence of Robert Griffin III than watch the rest of their players practice. The noise when Griffin completed his first pass — a simple, uncontested 10-yard corner — was deafening but short-lived when it became apparent that may be the highlight of the day. Thereafter, barring a couple of the more vociferous types, the kind who wish to chide the third-string wide receiver for loafing on a block (in their opinion), the crowd didn’t become animated again until the autograph sessions began.
The practice was a relatively low-key affair (in shells) with Griffin doing little more than throwing a few more of those very gentle passes during the initial drills. He is clearly a long way from his normal self, not moving freely, and the brace on his leg is obvious. Limping would be far too strong a word, but he certainly didn’t display his usual athletic gait. However, it could easily be the support device itself that makes it appear that way, and the mood in the team is that, brace or no brace, he’ll start Week 1.
Instead of Griffin running the show, we were treated to Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman, and Pat White with the latter two looking like, well, Rex Grossman and Pat White.
Cousins was relatively anonymous, but Grossman pulled out a remarkably accurate vignette of his career to date. He started well and made some excellent throws before degenerating into a 0-for-4 span of overthrown balls and interceptions that bordered on the comical. White, the man the Dolphins ignominiously drafted in the second round, ostensibly to run their Wildcat offense, ran well and made some passes but the lowlight was an Aaron Rodgers trademark jump pass that traveled only 10 yards and still bounced a few feet in front of the receiver.
Everything in Washington revolves around Griffin, but I worry he will come back too early despite having a perfectly serviceable player in Cousins available. It’s unlikely, but in the playoffs last year Washington showed exactly how short-sighted they can be if the mood takes them.
Secondary Coming Together
Of all the players in the Redskins’ secondary last year with more than 50 snaps, we graded only one player positively — cornerback Josh Wilson. That said, although the PFF secondary “page” is indeed a sea of red, closer inspection shows that no one was a complete disaster. Not a single one of the 13 players used rated less than a -4.2 (Madieu Williams) and the group just about held the line.
The best news here is that there appears to be immediate rewards from the 2013 draft. Baccari Rambo has distanced himself from the chasing pack at free safety and second-rounder David Amerson looks set to play the outside in nickel, with DeAngelo Hall moving to the slot. Obviously they still need to perform under fire, but already having two-fifths of their most used package manned by fresh faces is a good sign.
More troubling is the continued absence of Brandon Merriweather. I know to regular PFF readers that sounds like something of an oxymoron, but he did play well in limited snaps last year and provides some experience at the position. The man now in possession is Phillip Thomas, another rookie, and while I like the idea of fresh blood, three rookies may be a step too far.
— Josh Morgan appears set as the other starting wide receiver opposite Pierre Garcon, who himself looked fluid, strong, and healthy.
— Washington showed a lot of 12-personnel with, as expected, Fred Davis and Logan Paulson the first men up.
— Mike Shanahan was not with the team today as he was attending the funeral of a close family friend.
NB: I’ve amended the Redskins depth chart accordingly, added in the position battles in purple and the update is below:
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