In honor of Washington Redskins 2013 Fan Appreciation Day, the players put on a show that the 25,000-plus fans in attendance will not soon forget.
Players suited up in full gameday gear, wearing the customary helmet and shoulder pads, but adding in lower body pads for the first time this year.
For fans, it was an exciting opportunity to see some of the first live hitting of the season, as players were permitted to stick hits and be physical--almost anything besides outright tackling the ball carrier.
For players, it was the first taste of an NFL rule change that requires players to wear thigh and knee pads on the field of play.
Head coach Mike Shanahan reminded reporters after practice that he typically holds one or two fully padded practices during each training camp, but this one stood out because of the rule change.
For the fourth and final day of training camp, NFL officials were on hand today to provide instruction and practice making calls ahead of the preseason, which begins this upcoming week.
Here are some other observations from today's portion of practice that was open to the media:
- Fans and players alike enjoyed the 1-on-1 battles to start practice, with one of the highlights coming for undrafted rookie Nick Williams. Covered by Josh Wilson, Williams beat the jam and showed great agility with a double move that stopped Wilson in his tracks. The deep ball looked a touch underthrown, but Williams had two steps on Wilson and made the adjustment before taking it all the way for the score.
- Quarterback Robert Griffin III went 12-for-16 in 7-on-7 drills, throwing passes to Jordan Reed, Leonard Hankerson, Eric Kettani, Evan Royster, Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss and Logan Paulsen. If any rust needed to be knocked off after missing full-team workouts with teammates this offseason, Griffin III has done that and more. Already, a strong rapport can be seen with his top receivers from a season ago, as well as Aldrick Robinson and rookie Reed.
- Leonard Hankerson had a great practice on Saturday, at one point catching five passes in a row, several of them in acrobatic fashion. Although it was not his longest play of the day, one of Hankerson's best receptions was one he had to elevate for near the sideline. Coming down, Hankerson was jarred by the defender, but held on to the ball and rolled to get a shoulder down in-bounds.
- One camp observation to be made so far is the accuracy of the Redskins' deep ball. The deep and intermediate accuracy was a hallmark of the offense last year, as Robert Griffin III averaged 7.05 yards per attempt, good for fourth in the NFL. He also threw interceptions on only 1.3 percent of his passes, which led the NFL. Good to see that Griffin III and fellow sophomore Kirk Cousins are carrying over that accuracy into the 2013 campaign.
- The punt return battle will be interesting to watch in the preseason, as incumbent Richard Crawford, veteran Santana Moss and rookies Skye Dawson and Nick Williams battle it out for the top spot. For Crawford, it will be a matter of retaining the job that he held for the final four games of the 2012 season and the playoffs. For Moss, it will be a way of augmenting what could be a reduced role on offense, given the development of the younger receivers behind him. He's done it before and he still has the physical tools necessary to do the job. Then for Nick Williams and Skye Dawson, it will be fighting the uphill battle for a roster spot at one of the team's deepest positions.
- One of the most exciting elements of practice was a first live look at the kicking competition between Kai Forbath and John Potter. Forbath has drawn consistent praise from head coach Mike Shanahan, who has struggled to find a long-term solution at placekicker since his arrival in Washington. Potter was a kickoff specialist for the Buffalo Bills last season and looks to gain a foothold with a similar position in Washington. The problem with carrying two kickers on this roster is the depth at other positions and the fact that Forbath has missed only two kicks in practice so far this training camp: one from an NFL record 64 yards and the one today from 59. He finished the session six-for-seven, and his kick from 59 was true but bounced off the crossbar and out. Potter followed, going six-for-seven, missing from 47 yards (and possibly from 36) before knocking one through from 63 yards. While it doesn't count in practice, to do so in a game would tie the NFL record.
- Veteran punter Sav Rocca has looked impressive in every training camp since arriving in Washington, and looks to be fully recovered from the lingering knee issue that bothered him for much of 2012. Showing great leg strength, Rocca is capable of putting the ball deep downfield and place the ball directionally. Punters are rarely thought of as a weapon, but with the battle for field position always a concern, the Redskins have a good one in Rocca.
Play(s) Of The Day: Offense
The Redskins have only run a handful of drills simulating 11-on-11 drives since camp opened, but quarterback Kirk Cousins has already developed a rhythm, throwing for touchdowns in each of the last few practices.
He continued that trend on Saturday, driving the offense down into the red zone before finding tight end Logan Paulsen for the score.
Even with Robert Griffin III unlikely to see preseason action this year, the Redskins' offense should still be exciting to watch develop behind No. 12.
Play(s) Of The Day: Defense
Also during the drive simulations, veteran quarterback Rex Grossman had an opportunity to lead the offense downfield.
Working into the red zone, Grossman took the snap from under center and was under almost immediate pressure from outside linebacker Brian Orakpo.
Looking for a quick outlet pass to the near flats, Grossman fired the ball in the direction of his running back, who had drifted out to the sideline. Reading the play, cornerback Josh Wilson jumped the route and intercepted the pass to end the drive.
With Fan Appreciation Day in the rear-view mirror and the first preseason game dead ahead, the Redskins have two more days of practice before leaving for Nashville on Wednesday.
Come on out to practice on Monday and Tuesday, as the team will conduct a morning walkthrough and afternoon practice open to the public for some of the last times this preseason.
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