In the Redskins' last practice practice before their first preseason game, the focus was fundamentals and the operative style word was "vanilla."
For the second day in a row, the Redskins went with just shoulder shells, helmets and shorts for gear. They also skipped 1-on-1 drills, allowing players to focus more on operating within the flow of the offense.
The drills centered around 11-on-11 situations, with Robert Griffin III largely relegated to the sideline.
He has already been ruled out of Thursday's contest and the coaching staff took advantage of today's practice to put the other three quarterbacks in good situations to succeed.
Griffin III will almost certainly have his opportunities to continue progressing when the team returns to the field at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center on Saturday afternoon.
Here are some other observations from today's portion of practice that was open to the media:
- Head coach Mike Shanahan did not attend practice today, as he was out of town for the funeral of a very close personal friend. Assistant head coach Bobby Turner oversaw practice in his stead and implemented a practice pre-written by Shanahan.
- Two areas of specific focus today were red zone drills and third-and-short situations. The offensive snaps were generally divided between Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman, with Pat White getting opportunities intermixed throughout.
- Rookie defensive backs had a confidence boost during 11-on-11 drills in the middle of the field, with cornerback David Amerson picking off a Rex Grossman pass and safety Bacarri Rambo losing handle on his own interception just two plays later.
- One element to watch in the game on Thursday night is the discipline of the offensive and defensive lines, which have had a false start or offsides penalty enforced in each practice during training camp. Aggression and timing the snap are certainly important attributes of successful units, but being overly-hyped can lead to a rash of game-changing penalties. Look for both sides to find focus in the heat of the battle.
- Eric Kettani has been limited at times during training camp, leaving starter Darrel Young as the only healthy fullback on the roster. While the team could technically choose to insert Evan Royster or tight end Logan Paulsen in case of emergency, they got help from two unlikely sources this afternoon in linebackers Ricky Elmore and Marvin Burdette. It's not inconceivable that they could transition to offense, considering undrafted linebacker free agent Darrel Young made his mark on offense after switching to fullback. No indication on whether either of these players will be used in the game on Thursday.
- One battle worth watching throughout the preseason is the fate of kick and punt returner heading into the 2013 season. Undrafted rookies Nick Williams and Skye Dawson have looked good in practice, but fight an uphill battle for a roster spot at a very competitive receiver position. They must also unseat incumbents Richard Crawford (punt) and Niles Paul (kick), who did serviceable jobs for the last few games of the 2012 season. Don't sleep on Santana Moss either, who still possesses the vision and explosiveness necessary to be a game changer on special teams.
Play(s) Of The Day: Offense
If it was Leonard Hankerson on Saturday and Niles Paul on Monday, the golden receiver's touch on Tuesday belonged to veteran Joshua Morgan.
Already, Morgan looks leagues ahead of where he did last offseason, showing all that a healthy No. 15 brings to the Redskins' offense.
As Morgan battles for the second receiver job, he must continue having days like today when he caught nearly everything that was thrown in his direction. The only notable disconnect happened on an 11-on-11 play in which Ryan Kerrigan flushed Kirk Cousins out of the pocket, forcing him to take off toward the sideline.
Looking downfield, Cousins saw Morgan in double coverage, but put it in a place where only Morgan could get it: high. Making the catch 25 yards downfield, Morgan brought the ball in, only to have it punched out of his grip by cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
Even though it was a difficult failed conversion, Morgan clapped his hands knowing that he should have had it. With that kind of intensity, Morgan should be fun to watch in 2013.
Play(s) Of The Day: Defense
The defensive front-seven appears to be back to their ball-hawking ways this year, with the unit producing three batted balls in practice today.
Nose tackle Barry Cofield, who leads all NFL interior linemen in passes defensed over the last two seasons, got his hands on the first, punching a Rex Grossman pass to the ground.
Outside linebacker Rob Jackson led the team with five interceptions last year and deflected a pass that was ultimately juggled and caught by Santana Moss. The play may seem like a negative, but Moss would be unlikely to make that catch in traffic during a game, giving Jackson a quality deflection.
The final pass defensed goes to defensive end Stephen Bowen, who punched a Kirk Cousins pass at the line of scrimmage so far into the backfield that it nearly hit his onlooking teammates not participating in the drill.
Passes defensed at the line of scrimmage are just one key to improving a pass defense that struggled for much of 2012.
The Redskins will have a morning walkthrough tomorrow morning that is closed to the public and the media before boarding a plane to Nashville for the first preseason game.
The Redskins will not appear in front of a friendly crowd again until they arrive back at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center on Saturday, 1 p.m.
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