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Thursday Training Camp Practice Notes

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On Thursday morning, the Washington Redskins held the first training camp session of the 2013 season, and the first ever at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.

For players, this was a chance to get reacquainted after five weeks away after mandatory minicamp.

For coaches, this was the first opportunity to assess the depth chart battles at a number of positions and determine who will make the final 53-man roster.

For fans, this was the first opportunity to watch the Redskins practice in person since training camp 2012, and the first time to see quarterback Robert Griffin III take the field with his teammates in 200 days, since the Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks.

It was also the first chance that Redskins fans have ever had to watch both the morning and afternoon portions of training camp, one of which was traditionally closed for walk through.

The team conducted walk through in front of more than 4,000 fans, returning to the practice field in the afternoon for the practice in front of more than 6,100 fans.

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was the focal point of fan reaction, showing flashes of mobility in the pocket and confidence in planting to throw. He was active in position drills and 7-on-7 full-team work, but did not participate in 11-on-11 drills yet.

As noted by head coach Mike Shanahan following practice, this was part of the plan to bring him along slowly, and he will participate when coaches are confident that it is ready for the next step.

Here are some other observations from today's portion of practice that was open to the media:

  • In addition to the ballyhooed return of Robert Griffin III, the team also got tight ends Jordan Reed and Fred Davis back in the mix, as well as rookie running back Chris Thompson. This is everyone's first look at Reed and Thompson in Redskins uniforms since being drafted in April.
  • Griffin III threw his first completion of training camp in 7-on-7 drills to receiver Pierre Garcon. As the team's top receiver, Garcon flashed his trademark top speed, looking comfortable running on the foot that nagged him through his tenure with the Redskins. Griffin III went on to complete his first four passes, hitting Garcon, Joshua Morgan, Davis and Evan Royster.
  • The atmosphere of training camp was unlike anything the Redskins have seen in years, with a record first day crowd packing the sidelines at the new facilities. The crowd was a mix of old training camp veterans and lots of new faces that have never witnessed the Redskins practice in person. Neophyte or grizzled vet, the fans created a buzz around the first practice that had the players playing with an extra pep in their step.
  • The team practices in shorts, shells and helmets, and is unlikely to wear full pads until coaches are content they are ready.
  • The first interception of training camp went to rookie safety Bacarri Rambo, who elevated to grab an errant pass from Kirk Cousins under duress. Rambo needed to out-position the receiver on the play, and flashed an impressive catching radius for any defender.
  • Safety Dejon Gomes and cornerback E.J. Biggers were involved in a number of pass breakups, with Biggers deflecting Cousins to Aldrick Robinson deep down the sideline twice during 7-on-7 drills. This is the first extended look at E.J. Biggers, as he joined the team from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason.
  • Fellow cornerback Josh Wilson was placed on the PUP to start the day as precaution to his offseason shoulder procedure. But after coaches had him lift in the weight room, he was cleared for afternoon practice and participated in position drills.
  • With a new year comes new practices, as the team has fully embraced the idea of broadcasting music at practice to keep the players up-tempo. There were also noticable changes to the special teams drills, as a coach is now positioned near the punt returners to watch their mechanics while fielding the ball. Following the punt return drill work, new special teams coordinator Keith Burns also gives the coverage team an opportunity to sprint downfield to corral the returner. Niles Paul and Santana Moss played a game of cat and mouse during the coverage drill that had both players and the fans fired up.
  • Punt returner Sav Rocca returns for his third season this year, and looked to have midseason leg strength, with a little help from the breeze. Unofficially, his hangtime ranged from 4.5-4.8 seconds, with punts traveling upward of 65-70 yards. Returner candidates included: Richard Crawford, Santana Moss, DeAngelo Hall, Nick Williams and Skye Dawson, who fielded punts from Rocca and the JUGS machine as well.
  • The ball was spread around today, with passes also being thrown to Leonard Hankerson, Logan Paulsen, Alfred Morris, Eric Kettani and others. Rookie tight end Jordan Reed caught his first practice pass from quarterback Pat White, who hit Reed over the middle during 11-on-11 drills.
  • The defense is unable to lay hits on offensive players, but were still disruptive in coverage and forcing the quarterbacks out of the pocket. But after frustrating the offense through much of the 11-on-11 drills, veteran quarterback Rex Grossman got the upper hand with a hard count that drew three defenders offsides.

Play Of The Day: Offense

One of the keys to the Redskins' offense this year is the development of third-year speed demon Aldrick Robinson.

Robinson took time to learn the pro style offense after running the Run-N-Shoot at SMU, but showed tremendous value as a deep threat last season. The concern for many going into 2013 is if he could develop his intermediate route running to take advantage of opportunities closer to the line or scrimmage.

The play of the day yesterday came on one of the final plays of 11-on-11 drills to close practice, with quarterback Rex Grossman under center. Dropping back, he found Robinson deep downfield, blanketed by Rambo and Hall.

Robinson likely would have been flagged for a pushoff of Hall, but stayed with the play and made an impressive reception in coverage. Despite the flag, it's good to see Robinson bringing physicality to his downfield game and battling to get the ball in traffic.

Play(s) Of The Day: Defense

Aside from Rambo's first interception of practice, the defense tallied two others from unexpected recipients.

Outside linebacker Ricky Elmore is battling for a roster spot at one of the team's deepest positions, but did himself a favor with an interception of Pat White during 11-on-11 drills. Drifting out in the flats, he jumped a pass and secured the catch before rumbling back for the return.

Inside linebacker Bryan Kehl showed that he still has a nose for the ball, intercepting Cousins in 11-on-11 drills to close out practice. On the play, Kehl was covering an out pattern in the flats and jumped the pass, securing the interception.

On his return, Kehl ultimately lost the football, allowing Robert Griffin III to run in from the sideline, scoop up the ball and run it back, to the delight of the crowd.

What's Next?

Redskins training camp enters Day 2 this morning, as the team will have two more open practices at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Fans are encouraged to print out an official training camp pass and show up early for the best seating on site.

Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, head coach Mike Shanahan and owner Daniel M. Snyder are expected to hold press conferences today, streamed live on Redskins.com

As always, for your official source of training camp news, follow along @Redskins.

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