Despite the first game of the preseason standing just three days away, Monday's practice was another learning and refining experience for the Washington Redskins.
The first preseason game is certainly not without importance, as any player on the bubble needs to perform well in all opportunities in order to make the team.
But from a holistic standpoint, the preseason games are a gauge of overall preparation and the team is not going through the process of game planning or strategizing for this game.
The eyes are still on the prize: Week 1 on Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles.
With that being said, practice was a competitive affair, with players showing the first signs of caginess this preseason. No altercations broke out, but the players are clearly getting tired of hitting their teammates. A trip to Tennessee should be a nice change of pace.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III reiterated his adherence to the team's plan for his return, but still expressed hope that he would be able to participate in 11-on-11 drills at some point next week.
He will be a participant in walkthrough for each of the next two days and practice on Tuesday, but the team is not scheduled to practice again until Saturday. Griffin III has not been given a day off yet because he hasn't needed one, but the time off around the game should be helpful nevertheless.
That aside, Griffin III passed 13-for-16 in 7-on-7 drills, itting Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, Roy Helu Jr., Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss, Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen, Dezmon Briscoe and Donte' Stallworth.
One of the incomplete passes was intercepted on a bobble by Moss. Griffin III also tucked the ball and ran on one play, sliding into a sit right in front of safety Brandon Meriweather, who patted his quarterback on the chest while the fans in attendance cheered.
Here are some other observations from today's portion of practice that was open to the media:
- Cornerback DeAngelo Hall (ankle) and running back Chris Thompson (previous injury) were back in practice today. This is a positive development, as Hall is currently listed at the top of the depth chart on defense, with Thompson factoring into the offensive and special teams discussions.
- The team skipped the 1-on-1 portion of practice today, getting right into 11-on-11 drills as the team worked on a lot of situational offense today. In the first round of full-team drills, quarterback Kirk Cousins hit Leonard Hankerson over the middle, but Hankerson could not corral the pass. Cornerback Josh Wilson was on hand to intercept the pass.
- Rookie wide receiver Nick Williams has shown most of his athleticism during training camp in a lateral capacity. Monday, he had the opportunity to show it in a vertical sense, accepting his teammates' challenge to dunk a touchdown over the crossbar of the field goal post. It is one thing for Dezmon Briscoe (6-2) and Joshua Morgan (6-1) to dunk on the goal post. It's quite another thing for Williams (5-7) to do so.
- Williams was also part of the punt return crew, joining Richard Crawford, Santana Moss and Skye Dawson back deep receiving live punts from Sav Rocca. The focus of special teams practice was the battle at the line of scrimmage, with Rocca airing out both deep and directional punts. In an unusual circumstance, outside linebacker Ricky Elmore tried his hand at long snapping while Nick Sundberg handled the primary dutues. Fourth-year defensive assistant Bobby Slowik has also taken an increased role in special teams this year.
- The kicking competition put on another show today, as incumbent Kai Forbath booted five-of-six through the uprights, hitting from 30, 36, 42, 44 and 47 yards. He had the distance on a 58-yarder to finish the set, but pushed it just to the right of the right upright. Josh Potter followed up with a three-for-four sequence, hitting from 28, 42 and 47, but missing from 32. Potter certainly has the leg to get the job done, but accuracy could be an issue for him to unseat Forbath.
- The offense struggled early last season with converting on third downs, but showed good success in an 11-on-11 drill in 3rd-and-short situations. Kirk Cousins converted first, with a pass to fullback Darrel Young out the backfield. Rex Grossman and Pat White followed suit with conversions to tight end Niles Paul and receiver Dezmon Briscoe, respectively. In the second round, Cousins hit Logan Paulsen, White hit running back Keiland Williams and Grossman threw a touchdown pass to tight end Niles Paul.
- Nose tackle Chris Neild appears to be rounding back into form after an ACL tear that robbed him of his 2012 season. A fearsome run-stuffer, Neild is again showing the ability to shed his blocks and bear-hug ball-carriers. With Chris Baker sliding to defensive end, Neild plays a key role for the defense moving forward.
- The other enticing 11-on-11 drill was the work the team did in the red zone, with the ball down close to the goal line. Both Grossman and Cousins converted their drills for touchdowns, with Cousins hitting Logan Paulsen and Grossman hitting Niles Paul.
- Offensive guard Josh LeRibeus had a scary moment during the team's final drives, as he stayed down after a running play while the medical staff attended to his knee. After several minutes, LeRibeus popped up and walked off the field, saying later that he simply hyperextended it, and it would be fine.
Play(s) Of The Day: Offense
Different receivers have had the hot hand during different days of training camp, and it was Niles Paul's turn on Monday.
Paul got in sync with Rex Grossman, but also had success with Kirk Cousins. At one point in a series of drills, Paul caught three different touchdown passes in 10 minutes. Only one of those was in a red zone situation.
Last year, Shanahan converted Paul to tight end from receiver and predicted that he could have success similar to Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe. That may still be a long-term projection, but the physical tools are there.
Play(s) Of The Day: Defense
The defense slammed the door shut during the final drives, which started at the 50-yard line with 1:00 on the clock and no timeouts, needing a a field goal.
Two plays into the Kirk Cousins-led drive, cornerback Josh Wilson jumped a short pass over the middle for the interception.
After one first down conversion, the Rex Grossman-led drive stalled on fourth down, outside of reasonable field goal range.
Pat White led the final drive and managed to get the ball down to the 35-yard line, but was unable to stop the clock. The field goal team rushed onto the field and Kai Forbath came up just short on his 52-yard attempt.
Three drives, three stops.
The Redskins have two practices scheduled for Tuesday, the last day of open practice before the team boards the flight for Nashville.
The Redskins have this first preseason action against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday evening and will not be back at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center until Saturday.
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