On Tuesday morning, the Washington Redskins opened 2013 minicamp with a full-team practice open to the media as the final part of the team's offseason schedule.
It was the first day of sun at Redskins Park since the middle of last week, but the team was forced indoors because of the saturated playing surfaces in the back.
Relegated to the indoor practice facility, the team changed the format of practice from last week's OTAs, running primarily full-team drills in the middle of the field, with special teams working in one end zone and injured players working out in the other.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III (ACL) ran sprints with injured rookies Chris Thompson (ACL) and Jordan Reed (leg), building speed up to a comfortable sprint. He also threw passes to his injured teammates, using his time on the sideline to learn to of the youngest members of the offense.
Asked after practice if he thought the sprinting was "explosive," Robert Griffin III joked that he thought it felt pretty explosive. Questioned further if he thought this was his top speed, Griffin III responded: "Fast guys like to say we never go as fast as we can go."
In other recent injury news, third-year running back Roy Helu Jr. had an active day in the backfield, flashing some of the trademark speed and agility that led to his success during the 2011 season. He will be an name to keep an eye on as the 2013 season draws nearer.
Here is a short list of observations from today's portion of practice that was open to the media:
- The stage has been set for training camp battles, as head coach Mike Shanahan told the media that anyone who entered the offseason as a first stringer would lead the depth chart going into training camp. The Redskins retained 21 of 22 starters this offseason, but Shanahan has noted that this is perhaps the most competitive 90-man roster he has ever fielded during his time in Washington.
- The Redskins rookie defensive backs David Amerson, Phillip Thomas and Baccari Rambo were tested today, running several repetitions as a group against a primarily first team offense. While there were moments of miscommunication, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan seemed pleased with their performance overall this offseason, saying that they were getting an early handle on the playbook and making strides on defense. As he noted, minicamp is a time for learning and immersion in the playbook, so that the players are ready to compete in training camp.
- Rookie safety Phillip Thomas had a nice play on a sideline pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins to receiver Aldrick Robinson. Making the catch, Robinson dragged his toes in bounds before Thomas closed and knocked the ball out of his hands. Veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who was also in the vicinity during the play, congratulated the rookie, who stood up and trotted back to the huddle.
- Fans were at today's practice for the third time this offseason, filing in along the sidelines of the indoor practice facility and getting autographs on the outside. There was also a child in attendance who was having his Make A Wish Foundation dream realized in conjunction with the Redskins Charitable Foundation. Much more on this visit will be covered on Redskins.com in the lead up to the Make A Wish special on ESPN on August 18, 2013. .
A familiar face has a new number (14), as the Redskins announced today that they are trying out veteran receiver Donte Stallworth during this week's minicamp. Stallworth was involved in a bizarre hot air balloon accident this offseason that left him electrocuted and burned, but he told reporters after practice that he and his surgically repaired ankle and full healthy and he is just looking for an opportunity to compete and the roster in Washington. * First team quarterback Kirk Cousins had a number of highlight plays, including a wobbly pass that traveled more than 50 yards through the air to a wide open Leonard Hankerson. It wasn't quite as polished as the 54-yard touchdown pass to Hankerson that sparked the offense in Week 15 against the Cleveland Browns, but it got the job done as Hankerson beat double coverage for a huge gain. * Senior Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman was intercepted four times during practice, but his role on the team cannot be defined by his statistical output. First of all, not all of the intercepted passes were his fault; some came off of deflection or miscommunication with his receivers. Second of all, teammate Kirk Cousins has a lock on repetitions with the first team offense, but the personnel groupings have been largely mixed this offseason. Coaches want to see different combinations of players, which means that an undrafted receiver may be covered by the team's top cornerback and vice versa. These experience mismatches at this point in the offseason can create ugly results without any sort of perspective. Grossman's veteran savvy showed today when he got defenders to jump offsides on a hard count. After one such penalty on defensive lineman Chris Baker, Grossman entertained teammates by imitating Baker's signature pregame dance moves before returning to the huddle. That's a veteran move. * Fans were treated to live punts during special teams, as Sav Rocca boomed punts deep downfield for a punt return squad that included Santana Moss, DeAngelo Hall, Richard Crawford, Nick Williams and Skye Dawson. Rocca nailed a few of the kicks, traveling more than 65 yards in the weather-controlled conditions of the indoor practice facility, and nearly scraping the domed ceiling of the field. * Tight end Logan Paulsen had another solid practice, moving the chains for the offense during 11-on-11 drives at the end of practice. Paulsen developed significantly as the team's top tight end option last season and should not be forgotten with the return of Fred Davis and drafting of Jordan Reed.
Play Of The Day: Offense
It was a comptetive day for both sides of the Redskins roster, as momentum swung back and forth between offense and then defense.
There were plenty of big plays to choose from, but the most acrobatic catch of the day goes to undrafted rookie receiver Nick Williams late in practice during full-team drills.
Quarterback Pat White was under center and rolled out to his right, in the direction of Williams near the sideline. He flicked the pass to Williams, who was facing the quarterback and let the ball squirt over his right shoulder. Spinning to his left, Williams went 270 degrees in a flash, finding the football in the air and securing the catch.
There are certainly easier ways to make the catch, but Williams did the job and showed good vision to correct his mistake. His best chance of making the team is likely as a returner on special teams, but he will likely need to show competence on offense as well. However he is able to make the catch, he will need to catch as many as possible.
Play Of The Day: Defense
Redskins receiver Aldrick Robinson has been heavily targeted during offseason workouts, getting an opportunity to flash his speed and agility all over the field.
Sometimes, however, his physical gifts are dwarfed by a defender who puts himself in a better position to make the play. That happened one time in particular during full-team drills, when Rex Grossman targeted Robinson on a deep pass to the end zone.
Double-covered by a safety and cornerback E.J. Biggers, Robinson was jostled out of position and the deep pass fell into the outstretched arms of Biggers, who stepped out of the back of the end zone before practicing a return down the near sideline.
The Redskins move into day three and practice No. 2 of mandatory minicamp tomorrow, as the team will hopefully be able to practice on the outdoor surfaces at Redskins Park.
The next two practices are fully open to the media, meaning that there will be continuing coverage of the Redskins offseason practices for fans to enjoy.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett are expected to be available to the media for the first and only time this offseason tomorrow.
What will Shanahan say about the development of the third year receivers? What will Haslett say about the increased competition on the defensive line? Tune in to Redskins.com tomorrow to find out and follow along for live tweeting on @Redskins.