Through two weeks of Redskins OTAs, coaches have stressed fundamentals and technique with players as they learn the installations of the playbook.
It might be more fun to think that offseason practices are about competition and position battles, but their real purpose is much more boring, at least for the fans and those members of the media watching.
During OTAs, the focus, especially for new players still getting adjusted to their teammates and the facility, is about setting a foundation for the coming season. That requires learning the playbook and the schematics of the offense and defense. But more important, something Redskins coaches have placed special emphasis on this offseason, is technique.
That includes the basics – proper footwork, route-running, tackling, coverage awareness, throwing and catching. With nearly the whole team together, and with new coaches finding a rhythm with their players, it's the perfect time to work on things that often get forgotten in the coming months.
"I think this time of year is the time to get that done," head coach Jay Gruden said. " A lot of times once you hit the season and you start talking about all the coverages and fronts and blitzes you're going to play and situational work, sometimes technique gets pushed to the backburner. This is a time where we really emphasize technique. We've done that since I've been here. Adding obviously Coach [Jim] Tomsula and [Defensive Coordinator] Greg [Manusky], those two guys are technically sound guys, but this is the time to do it."
Even for the team's veterans such as Will Blackmon, OTAs are a time to rededicate oneself to mastering fundamentals and learning how position groups mesh. Blackmon admitted last season was challenging for him during his switch to safety because he was asked to move there without much preparation.
"I'm actually learning football this year," he said.
That's mostly been from new defensive backs coach Torrian Gray, who, as multiple players in the secondary can attest, is scrupulous in his coaching style.
"His deal is technique," Blackmon said. "Everything, from being in press to off progression as a corner, to having your run reads and run fills as a safety. Communicating, reading the quarterback, reading schemes, formations, that's football. The difference between college and the pros is situational football and that's his thing—situation and technique."
"He's a phenomenal technician and he's giving us keys to be successful in off coverages, learning things, learning quarterback draws, that allows you to have the confidence to want to play off coverage and make more plays off the ball," added cornerback Quinton Dunbar.
Check out images from the Washington Redskins' defense and special teams during their fifth day of OTAs at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
That mindset has applied to defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, who has already made an impression with younger players with his vocal style and attention to detail, repeatedly working players in drills until they get them correct.
With a new defensive coordinator in Greg Manusky and a variety of other coaching changes – most notably losing offensive coordinator Sean McVay – head coach Jay Gruden has also been using OTAs to get a feel with how new faces on his staff operate.
Gruden has also taken over offensive play-calling duties this season, and so the last couple of weeks have been an opportunity for him to get back into the groove of feeding calls to quarterback Trent Williams and working on a rhythm that will be efficient for both of them.
"It's just something that I need to work on more than Kirk," Gruden said. "Kirk gets the plays and executes them, it's just about me spitting them out quick enough because some of the terminology has changed over the years from when I called plays in Cincinnati and a little bit in my first year here. So it's just a matter of me getting back in the flow. It's been smooth so far. We've got a long way to go."