NFC East: Washington Redskins

ASHBURN, Va. -- The indecision led to mistakes, which led to criticism and a questionable future. Washington Redskins safety Bacarri Rambo missed too many tackles, starting in the preseason and continuing into the season. He went from a good story -- sixth-round draft pick starting -- to a negative one.

It’s too early to say he’s completely turned his game around. Two preseason games do not reveal that much -- and no one knows this better than the coaches, who urge caution. But Rambo does look like a different player, one who appears worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster. That is not how he looked at the end of last season.

[+] EnlargeBacarri Rambo
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsRedskins safety Bacarri Rambo has taken some positive steps forward from his rocky rookie season.
“He’s gotten a hell of a lot better all around,” Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said. “He’s been probably the best player on our team over the first two preseason games. He graded out great. He made plays we’ve asked him to make. He’s come up and tackled. He’s night and day from last year.”

Again, a word of caution: There’s a ways to go. Rambo’s on-field communication skills are not where they need to be (more on that in a moment). But there’s no doubt he’s playing more physical, more confident and more decisive.

In the preseason opener, he fought off a blocker to make a play, taking on a tight end, shedding him and then getting to the ball. Against Cleveland, he sprinted up to the ball carrier, drilled him low and the ball popped free. Rambo said that play was the result of tips he’s picked up from fellow safeties Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather, as well as secondary coach Raheem Morris.

“It allowed me to make a good tackle and force a fumble,” Rambo said.

Rambo’s angle was solid: Had he missed the tackle, the ball carrier would have been forced back inside to other defenders. That’s what the Redskins want. If you miss a tackle, at least force the runner back inside where there should be help.

“He’s starting to understand angles, leverage,” Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “Sometimes [in the past] he’d get too much space between him and the ball carrier. He just has a lot more confidence.”

Rambo agrees.

“It’s knowing the scheme, knowing the coverages,” he said, “knowing where my help is at, knowing the depth I’m supposed to be at. I’m still learning, but it’s only going to get better."

Rambo was not ready to be a starter last season, but the Redskins had injuries at safety and not much depth. So a sixth-round rookie opened camp as the starter. Rambo now admits, “I was kind of nervous. Now I’m not. I’m ready to go.

“I was thinking too much,” Rambo said of 2013. “I have to just get out there and play and have fun and make everything simple and comfortable for me to play full speed. I was too worried about tackling and taking angles. Now I just find an angle and go. I don’t hesitate.

“I just have to go out and have fun and don’t worry about it. I start to talking and run around and laughing and enjoying the game. That’s what I wasn’t bringing to the game last year.”

The separator between Rambo and a player such as Clark is communication. Not to mention Clark has played with a certain toughness for a long time. Rambo must prove he can play a certain way against top quarterbacks -- Tom Brady picked on him a little bit in their dual practices.

But in practices there’s a difference with Clark on the field. He’s constantly telling the secondary what to look for, what’s coming and where the help is on the field. It’s a lot quieter when Rambo is deep.

“That’s the part he has to keep working at,” Haslett said. “He has to understand the free safety runs the back end. He’s getting better at it, but he’s not there yet. He’s concentrating on the other issues now. If he gets better at that other stuff, then this will come. It comes with confidence. The ball skills? He has those. He has good range and understands the scheme. It’s just having confidence and going out and doing it.”

Redskins uncertain on Bowen's return

August, 21, 2014
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins still remain uncertain about whether or not defensive end Stephen Bowen will return for the season opener. With a little more than two weeks before that game, Bowen is on the physically unable to perform list.

Bowen continues to work his way back after having microfracture surgery on his right knee in early December. Bowen still says he’ll be ready for the opener at Houston, but he’s running out of time to make sure those words hold true.

Bowen
The coaching staff isn’t quite as certain.

“That’s hard to say,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Nothing would surprise me with him.”

The decision, Gruden said, will be up to Bowen and trainer Larry Hess. But if Bowen wants to have a realistic shot at being ready for the opener, Gruden said he would like him to practice as soon as possible after the fourth preseason game to see if he’s ready.

“Watching him out there today, he looked better,” Gruden said. “He looks better than what I’ve seen him, but how he feels after the workout, with the soreness, does it swell up, how he’s doing with the more workload he gets, how he can handle contact -- that’s to be determined. ... We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Bowen had his contract reduced last week, taking his cap hit from $7.02 million to $4.69 million this season. He gets a roster bonus of $46,875 for every game he’s active (up to $750,000).

Redskins injury report: Cofield sits

August, 20, 2014
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Here's a look at the Washington Redskins' injury list, including two new ones: nose tackle Barry Cofield and cornerback Tracy Porter. The latter was easing back into playing after after having shoulder surgery in the offseason, though he did play against Cleveland. Porter's durability has been an issue throughout his career.
  • Cofield (groin) sat out practice Wednesday. Gruden said Cofield could have practiced, but they opted to hold him out.
  • Running back Chris Thompson (ankle) was limited, as expected. Gruden said he still “has a ways to go.” Thompson hurt his ankle in the Aug. 7 preseason game vs. New England. He was in a good position to win a roster spot before his injury. Here's a story on Thompson from earlier Wednesday.
  • Porter (hamstring) sat out practice and Gruden called him questionable-to-doubtful for Saturday’s game at Baltimore.
  • Linebacker Darryl Sharpton (high ankle sprain) remains sidelined and is doubtful for Saturday.
ASHBURN, Va. -- Alfred Morris looked strong a year ago, coming off a record-setting rookie season with the Washington Redskins. He was a little quicker, shiftier and understood defenses better. Morris always was a player who could set up defenders and read them. Now he could still do that -- and he was improved.

[+] EnlargeAlfred Morris
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsAlfred Morris will get plenty of opportunity to run the ball in Jay Gruden's offense this season.
Then in his first game he fumbled. Then he lost a pitch. And, while Morris still had a good season, it wasn't the same as his rookie year. Nor was it the sort of season Washington needed. It clearly wasn't all on Morris: The passing game struggled, the team fell behind a lot and needed to throw more than desired.

That's a long-winded way of saying: If the Redskins are going to make noise this season, it will be because of Morris. And Morris did not take a step back as a runner in 2013 as much as the offense around him did.

Morris remains an excellent runner and the Redskins have kept the pieces in place to sustain whatever success he's already had. Redskins coach Jay Gruden has made it clear Morris will be the center of their attack. Gruden did not have a back such as Morris in Cincinnati -- nor does he now have a third-down back like Giovani Bernard. Therefore, Morris will have to handle the bulk of the run duties.

The Redskins' passing game is in transition. They have the pieces to be dangerous, but quarterback Robert Griffin III is still adjusting to life as a (mostly) pocket passer. It's hard to imagine they don't incorporate his legs some, but it won't be as much as in the past. Which means that the run game belongs mostly to Morris.

Morris, in a supposed off year, still averaged 4.6 yards per rush. He's still the Redskins' best offensive weapon -- or at least most consistent. His problem is the fumbles that stem from focus (dropping a pitch in the opener vs. Philadelphia last season and again in the second preseason game this month).

But Morris is still a good fit for this offense. He runs with power; Morris broke a tackle attempt vs. Cleveland when a linebacker tried to grab him up high from behind and gained 6 yards. That's routine for him. Morris is not one of the top three or four backs in the NFL, but he is a good one in a good run system. If teams are too concerned about the Redskins' weapons in the pass game, then Morris could face more seven-man boxes -- or even six -- and that's always good for a back. He understands how to press the hole and con defenders into overpursuing, leading to cutbacks and arm tackle attempts.

"For a while, we didn't have the pieces in place to run it [like this]," tight end Logan Paulsen said. "Now everything is here and we're established, and that's something we've taken a lot of pride in.

"As we get in the season the [passing game] will become a bigger part. We have outstanding playmakers. But it will be nice if this carries us forward."

The Redskins say they know their identity; it's the run game. That means Morris.
Examining the Washington Redskins' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. Plus they like McCoy. So nothing has changed since the original posting. If something happened to Griffin, they would still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two, then McCoy gets left off.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Chris Thompson needs to return soon or he'll be gone. But Seastrunk has a lot -- a lot -- to prove in the pass game, from catching the ball to protection. Silas Redd could make it more interesting with a solid game against Cleveland. And if they want the guy more ready to play now they'll take Evan Royster. Problem is, he lacks the sort of speed and dynamic ability they want out of this role. This remains fluid and the next three games will determine a lot.

RECEIVERS (6)

Nothing has changed. Leonard Hankerson still doesn't seem close to returning. Hard to imagine he'd not only be cleared in the next two weeks but then also ready for the start of the season. The group of six I have listed have been clearly ahead of the rest.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

All three have appeared to have strong summers while rookie Ted Bolser has had ups-and-downs. They don't need him this year so they can afford to keep him on the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

I wish this could be done Tuesday after a second preseason game so this could look a little different next week (with two games to judge players in that span). So, for now, I'll stick with last week's selections. I'm leaning toward putting tackle Tom Compton back on the list -- coaches felt he was the best of the second unit last week. Josh LeRibeus did not have the sort of night to match the storyline of his big redemption tour. Another up-and-down night against the Browns and I'll take him off -- I'll do it, I tell ya. But will they really keep four tackles? Still, LeRibeus did not play well enough and is now doing so for a new head coach who did not draft him. Pick it up, son.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

Bowen is confident he'll be ready for the start of the season; we'll see. The coaches don't know if that's the case yet so he could end up on the physically unable to perform list. If he doesn't return this week, that's where I'll have him next week with Clifton Geathers taking his place. The big fella doesn't move well but can eat up space.

LINEBACKERS (9)

Nothing has changed here. Sharpton's high ankle sprain makes him interesting, and he must do a better job in what he's asked to do. But he's on the roster for now. If he somehow has to be out a while then Akeem Jordan will get the nod here. But, for now, this group stays the same.

CORNERBACKS (5)

Another easy position considering I think they'll only keep five players here with Chase Minnifield still eligible for the practice squad. I've always been a fan of Richard Crawford, whom I consider a future coach. But he's still working his way back from last year's knee injury. Breeland didn't have a good week off the field -- be smart young man -- but continues to impress on the field and excites them about his future.

SAFETIES (5)

Still not sold they'll keep five here. Robinson flies around and plays to contact; tough to leave a guy like that off the roster. But can he help you from scrimmage or is he just a special teamer? He might be tough to keep. Rambo was more aggressive last week, so if that continues against Cleveland he'll strengthen his case. With questions about Clark and Meriweather lasting all 16 games they really need stronger backups.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Considering they've done nothing, there's no reason to change here. The games will dictate the winner.
ASHBURN, Va. -- The progress, or more accurate the results, change by the day. One day Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and the offense look sharp. The next day it could look different. That’s partly what happens when learning a new offense.

But that doesn’t mean Griffin ever feels overwhelmed learning Jay Gruden’s passing system. That’s a hard thing to admit anyway, but more than that, Griffin likes having more responsibility. And this gives him more.

Griffin
“I don’t think anything they’re asking us to do is too much or too heavy for us,” Griffin said. “I like to think I can hold a lot of weight on my shoulders, as a quarterback, as a leader of the team. That’s the way it goes. That’s what the greats do and I want to be the greatest.”

Quite a lofty goal, but it’s not exactly the first time Griffin has uttered that line. And there’s a long way to go before fulfilling that sort of desire.

But the added responsibility shows up, too, in his communication at the line. Griffin has the power to audible in Gruden’s system, something he didn’t have the past two years.

“It’s a quarterback’s dream you want to have control at the line,” Griffin said, “to get out of things and to protect yourself in protection. I enjoy it. It’s fun.”

Griffin had a strong start to his day Friday in the full-team work, first hitting receiver DeSean Jackson in stride -- after he beat corner DeAngelo Hall -- and then having another good pass dropped by Jackson down the left seam.

After needing time in the pocket later, Griffin connected with tight end Jordan Reed down the left side. I couldn't tell if Griffin would have been sacked on the play or not. But it was a good throw.

Another time quick pressure by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was negated by a quicker decision by Griffin to throw a quick out to receiver Pierre Garcon.
Griffin missed Jackson once after he had extended the play by sliding to the left. The coverage was outstanding on this red zone play, but Griffin still was able to throw back to the right side, leading Jackson to the sidelines and allowing him to run. But Jackson mistimed the jump and the pass was incomplete.

There were times Griffin held the ball a long time -- again, it’s always tough to know why, whether it’s the coverage or the decision-making. Another time in the pocket Griffin did not get his feet around well enough and threw behind Jackson on a crossing route. Jackson got a hand on the ball, it popped up and Hall intercepted. Earlier in a red zone drill Griffin did get his feet around in the pocket, but a pass to a covered Reed was deflected, hit off safety Ryan Clark and into Hall’s hands.

I did like how Griffin connected with Reed on one out route, throwing it before he cut and leading to a completion.

Griffin showed excellent speed racing around the end on two different occasions (once when the linebacker to the right vacated the backside and created an opening).
The past two summers, Washington Redskins receiver Aldrick Robinson teased with a big play here or there, showing his speed and what the coaches hoped was his potential. Then the season came, Robinson largely went away and questions remained about his consistency.

Robinson is doing it again. This time, he says it’s different. This time, his coaches say it’s different.

Robinson
The season will determine if they’re right. But for now, they point to subtle changes in his game that give them more reason to believe Robinson is capable of a better season.

“He’s caught the ball well, and that’s something he didn’t do in 2012,” said receivers coach Ike Hilliard, who coached Robinson two years ago before spending last season in Buffalo. “He’s always been a smart kid. Everyone knows his biggest asset is his speed. He’s playing more under control.”

“He’s becoming a more complete receiver,” offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. “He’s showing more route versatility.”

“I feel different,” Robinson said.

He had a decent finish to 2013, with 12 catches in the final four games -- not exactly Pro Bowl material, but he had caught just six passes in the first 12 games. But he still needed to be better running certain routes. Sometimes he was too quick to reach his destination, arriving before the quarterback was ready to throw. Or he’d be open because he ran to the wrong depth -- maybe 5 yards instead of 7. Again, if the quarterback isn’t ready, then even if he’s open it doesn’t matter.

It leads to distrust from the quarterbacks. It’s why they like newcomer Andre Roberts -- they know where he’ll be and when he’ll arrive.

The coaches have always liked Robinson’s speed. They consider him a smart player, one who knows all three receiver positions.

“Every detail is important to him now,” Hilliard said. “It’s around that time. It’s a progression for a young player. He’s turning the corner in a positive direction and he’s putting a lot of pressure on the guys in the room.”

Robinson pointed to one play in particular from the New England game, in which he caught three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t the slant route for a touchdown or the drift route that got the Redskins out of trouble from deep in their own territory. On a third-and-11 from the Redskins’ 45-yard line, Robinson faced press coverage. But he ran a perfect route -- Colt McCoy threw it a yard or two before he cut, so when Robinson turned around, the ball was there for a 12-yard gain. If he had run it at the wrong depth, it would have been incomplete.

“Timing and depth,” Robinson said. “It’s all about the time of the route. I understand that now. The important part of timing is getting the right depth on a route.”

Last year coaches talked about Robinson being able to run more routes, and they’re saying the same thing this summer. They don’t want him to just be known as a deep receiver. But it helps, too, that he can be paired with other fast receivers so, in theory, defenses shouldn’t know which one will go long. It could open up areas underneath to give one of the speedy wideouts a chance to run after the catch.

“The safety can’t just look at me anymore and just lock in and say he’s going deep,” Robinson said. “If I’m on the field, there’s another fast guy and they’ll have to look at both of us. It changes the dynamic.”

And that leads to more confidence.

“I feel I can do this consistently now,” he said. “I can play good, week in and week out.”

The question is: Will he? Otherwise, he might not be around another summer to answer the same questions.
RICHMOND, Va. -- Their talent teases the Washington Redskins coaches, which is why they're anxious for them to return. The problem is, it seems like they're always waiting for a return. Running back Chris Thompson and strong safety Phillip Thomas, in their second training camp, have stood out because, well, they're always sitting out it seems.

[+] EnlargeChris Thompson
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsRunning back Chris Thompson, entering his second pro season in Washington, sprained his ankle in the Redskins' preseason opener.
Thompson has missed every practice since spraining his ankle in the preseason opener against New England, at the end of a five-yard reception. And he might miss the rest of the week.

Thomas has been nursing a strained hamstring since July 31.

Last year, Thomas suffered a Lisfranc injury early in the preseason opener, needed surgery and missed the season. Thompson, who missed time in college for back and knee injuries, tore his labrum in 2013 and played only four games. The word durability is as much a part of his scouting report as quickness.

"I try to keep my mind focused and stay positive about everything," said Thompson, a fifth-round pick a year ago. "I know what I can do. The coaches know what I can do. It's a matter of keeping my body right and going out and doing it. Everything will be a lot easier without the injuries."

The problem for Thompson is that he's locked in a battle at running back with veteran Evan Royster and rookies Lache Seastrunk and Silas Redd. Thompson had an edge early in camp with coach Jay Gruden talking about plans for him in the pass game. Gruden liked him before the 2013 draft as well. But Thompson, listed at 5-foot-8, 193 pounds, needs to prove he can stay healthy above all else. It's not a death sentence for his Redskins' career just yet. But when there are questions about durability ... and a player gets hurt ... it's tough.

"It's unfortunate for him because he was progressing very well and he needs the reps to do what we're going to ask him to do on game day," Gruden said, "and if he's not available to get these reps, it's going to hurt his progress. Injuries happen, unfortunately to him it seems like more often than not. He's got to figure out a way to stay healthy. ...He's got to get back on the field, there's no question about it."

Thompson understands the situation.

"It's frustrating for me because I know what the coaches expect from me and I know what I expect from myself," he said. "It's pretty frustrating not to be out there at this moment."

The Redskins liked Thomas' progress as a rookie, then he got hurt. They were anxious to get a good look at him this summer. Then he had his hamstring injury. So instead of working with the No. 2 defense, behind starting strong safety Brandon Meriweather, he's typically on a side field working with trainers.

Thomas said he's close to returning and said he's confident he'll play against Cleveland on Monday night. That, of course, would please defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.

"He needs to get on the field," Haslett said. "I know he's disappointed and the coaching staff is disappointed he's not out there. He's a guy we drafted and wanted to play at some point. Who knows what happens now. We have to get him back on the field and up to speed and hopefully he can contribute to the team."

Thomas engages in mental wrestling matches about his situation.

"I'm pressing myself," he said. "I want to get out there and show everybody what I can do. I have the talent to play. It's in my head, 'Phillip, you need to get out there. You need to perform. You need to get in those preseason games and do work.' But I don't want to get out there too soon and get hurt."

The coaches don't want him returning too fast, either, knowing that hamstring injuries can be tricky if not taken care of properly. They have patience -- to a point. The coaches only have so much time to evaluate players.

"They have promise and we're excited about what they can do, but we've got to see it. We can't see it if they're hurt all the time," Gruden said.

Thomas, a fourth-round pick, has good size at 6-feet, 223 pounds and needs to show he can be a viable backup -- especially with Meriweather one bad hit away from a multi-game suspension.

"I know they're eager to see what I can do," Thomas said. "I am, too."

Redskins Camp Report: Day 18

August, 10, 2014
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RICHMOND, Va. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Washington Redskins training camp:
  • Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he’s the one who picked the three captains for the preseason: tackle Trent Williams, special teamer Adam Hawyard and defensive back DeAngelo Hall. Not that I disagree with any of them, but some could wonder why Robert Griffin III wasn’t one of them. However, Williams has been an offensive leader for the past two seasons. He’s a good choice. It doesn’t have to be a knock against anyone else. “Those are the most seasoned guys with the best performances,” Gruden said. “The body of work, I think, has been proven on the field and they’re natural leaders.”
  • I know Patriots beat writer and colleague Mike Reiss had an item in his notebook Sunday morning that some Patriots’ players thought Kirk Cousins looked better in practice last week than Griffin. Cousins hasn’t had a tremendous camp necessarily. He’s decisive at times and forces passes other times. It’s what he does. A stronger finish last season would have helped him. This is more about Griffin and where he’s at in his development as a pocket passer. It’s never been about his ability to read defenses as much as going through his progressions at a better pace. Griffin is the one who can change people’s opinions. It will take time -- and we need to see his legs more involved, as they will be during the regular season. How patient is Gruden willing to be? We’re not at that point -- Gruden was hired in part to get a lot out of Griffin and his ceiling is much higher. But if other teams have a certain opinion then at some point it bears asking.
  • One thing you don’t really see during the two-minute situations with Griffin is the ability to extend plays. The coaches want the ball out quick of course. But Griffin helped the offense in the two-minute situations as a rookie with his ability to make big plays with his legs, whether it was extending one against the Giants or taking off on runs downfield in other times. During the two-minute drills Sunday, Griffin stayed in the pocket.
  • I’ll have more on this Monday, but Gruden is right when he says that running back Chris Thompson needs to find a way to stay on the field. Though Gruden did not draft Thompson, he apparently liked him before the 2013 draft. But the knock on Thompson is durability and if he continues to miss time, then he will be in trouble. Running backs Lache Seastrunk and Silas Redd both have a lot to prove in the pass game, especially in protection. Seastrunk has had some rough moments in this area. But Thompson’s lack of durability opens the door for others.
  • The Redskins practice Monday at 8:30 a.m. ET and again at 4:10 p.m. ET (a walk-through). It’s the last day training camp will be open to the public. Washington ends camp with a walk-through closed to the public Tuesday morning.
RICHMOND, Va. -- The deep ball leads to flashy plays -- they hope -- but it’s the little ones that might make the Washington Redskins more dangerous. Or, rather, the short ones.

Considering the speed Washington has at receiver, the underneath routes can hurt defenses more consistently. It’s been evident this summer that the shallow crosses and clear-outs will be a big part of the Redskins' attack.

Griffin
“If you can dink and dunk, it opens everything over the top,” Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “Some defenses will allow you to get the cheap yardage and move your way slowly downfield and see if you can score in the red zone. Some defenses get upset when you get cheap yardage.

“You’re trying to find ways to attack everything. It’s not always about going deep and throwing the home run ball. You have to get those small throw completions to move down the field.”

If teams blitz, those short throws could result in long runs, as we’ve seen in practice a couple times. It’s also true that some of those short throws can take some time.

For example, if the Redskins have a receiver from the left side run a shallow cross to the other side of the field, the wideout on that side must clear out his man. DeSean Jackson's presence can mean taking out the corner and the safety with, say, a deep post. But that also takes time to develop. So a key to some of these short passes will be Griffin having enough time to throw.

Griffin made some of those throws in the two-minute drill Sunday morning -- though the session could have gone better overall. It did start with a decisive throw on an out route to receiver Santana Moss. Griffin took a five-step drop, planted and threw, enabling Moss to get out of bounds to stop the clock. The next play, Griffin threw a quick out to receiver Andre Roberts on the right side, again leading him to the sidelines and out of bounds.

But Griffin wasn’t happy on the next play when he held the ball longer -- not sure why -- and coach Jay Gruden yelled out that he would have been sacked. So a pass Griffin felt he delivered before that would have been the case was nullified. For what it’s worth, I like that Gruden called for the sack; he needs to remind the young quarterback to be aware of the internal clock and to get rid of the ball quicker. Not blaming him, because I have no idea who was at fault on this one. But the quarterback is the one with the most control.

Griffin also dumped the ball off to running back Alfred Morris after a three-step drop. Griffin got it off on his third step.

But the pass Griffin had to wish he had back came on third-and-7 from the 37 with less than 40 seconds left and no timeouts. Roberts was running a shallow cross and pulling away from linebacker Keenan Robinson, but Griffin’s pass was behind Roberts and incomplete. Had Roberts caught the ball, he likely would have reached the 25-yard line. It’s tough for those to be missed even in practice; a good play was available.

Gruden said the Redskins will continue working on the two-minute drill every practice before the season opener. They just started running it a week ago. Gruden said there have been little breakdowns to hurt the offense here, from a good pass rush to protection to a poor route or a poor read by the quarterback.

“The tempo has been fine, the communication has been fine,” Gruden said, “but the execution hasn’t been that great.”
RICHMOND, Va. -- Washington Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall suffered a bruised back and shouldn’t be out a long time, coach Jay Gruden said.

Hall was carted from the practice field to the facility after injuring his back during a one-on-one drill with the receivers. He leapt to break up a pass, hit the ground hard and wound up doing a somersault. As he stood on the sidelines his back bothered him more.

“They carted him off for a dramatic exit,” Gruden said. “He could have walked off and made it a lot easier on me today.”

However, linebacker Darryl Sharpton suffered a high-ankle sprain and could be out a while Gruden said. Sharpton is in a battle for a backup inside linebacker’s position.

Receiver DeSean Jackson sat out practice with his ankle sprain. Gruden said he expected Jackson back “very soon”. Jackson has yet to run full speed since suffering a minor twist of his left ankle against the Patriots in practice Wednesday.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo (quad) did not practice Sunday, but could return Monday. Running back Chris Thompson could miss another five or six days with his ankle sprain. And safety Phillip Thomas remained sidelined with a hamstring issue.

“It’s disappointing,” Gruden said of Thompson’s absence. “He was progressing very well. He needs the reps to do what we’re asking him to do on game day. If he’s not available to get these reps it will hurt his progress. Injuries happen, unfortunately to him more often than not. He has to figure out how to stay healthy. He has to get back on the field, no doubt about it.”

Redskins' DeAngelo Hall hurts back

August, 10, 2014
Aug 10
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RICHMOND, Va. -- Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall injured his back during this morning's practice and was carted from the sidelines to the facility. Hall fell hard to the ground after defending a pass play, and as he stood on the sidelines, his back bothered him more.

Hall
 A Redskins spokesman later said Hall had been examined and suffered a bruise and was receiving treatment. Coach Jay Gruden will update Hall’s situation in his regularly-scheduled press conference at 3:50 p.m.

Tracy Porter replaced Hall during the rest of the full-team work. Hall, who is having a solid camp, is the Redskins’ No. 1 corner and is coming off a strong season. The Redskins need him to stay healthy with Porter coming off offseason shoulder surgery and still not ready to hit full-time. The Redskins are high on rookie corner Bashaud Breeland, but the fourth-round pick is still learning the position in the NFL.
RICHMOND, Va. -- The reason they kept offensive line coach Chris Foerster around and the reason they haven’t altered their running game stems from a simple truth: The Washington Redskins want to run the ball a certain way this season.

One preseason game does not start a trend, but through training camp, it’s evident that Washington’s offensive identity must start with the running game.

They have the offensive weapons to be explosive and exciting in the passing game. But they also have a young quarterback, Robert Griffin III, who is still learning the passing system -- not to mention everyone else is learning it as well.

But they don’t need to learn the running game. They need to use it to shape their mentality. They ran for 177 yards against the New England Patriots on 44 carries. Again, preseason is not always a predictor. In this case, it needs to be.

“We felt we could pound the ball down their throats,” Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen said of the Patriots. “We wanted to assert ourselves in a physical way, and I think we did. As we go, hopefully it will gain some momentum and keep it rolling throughout the year.”

There’s no way to know that of course. When the passing game starts to click, will they lean that way? No way to know right now; a knock on Jay Gruden in Cincinnati was that he abandoned the running game too fast. Then again, he did not have a running game as strong as what he inherited in Washington.

The Redskins’ left side did a terrific job (guard Shawn Lauvao does not play with as much strength as you’d like when he reaches the second level, but he can obstruct). Fullback Darrel Young is off to a good start and Paulsen is an excellent blocking tight end.

When you’re starting a new program and want to instill a mindset, it’s good to start with the physical aspect of the game on both sides of the ball. That’s why it’s good that Ryan Clark, if he can stay healthy, is at safety. And it’s good that they drafted tough-minded players such as corner Bashaud Breeland and linebacker Trent Murphy (and guard Spencer Long for that matter).

“There’s an element of physicality you bring,” Paulsen said. “You know the defense will try to stop you and you want to assert yourself in a way that says we know and you know, but we’re still gonna do it. It’s always something special when you get that done.”

Having a certain mindset carries you through tough times. You don’t get that just because you can run the ball, but it does help.

“You want to find the right guys who are very competitive and can handle it,” Gruden said. “You have to be mentally tough because there are so many ups and downs through the course of a season. Only time will tell when adversity strikes how they react.”

I always enjoyed watching Marty Schottenheimer’s teams because they adopted a certain mindset of tough, hard-nosed ball. It helped them recover from an 0-5 start way back when. I have no idea if Gruden can shape his team in that manner; there’s a ways to go. But he and the organization at least understood that they needed to be more physical on offense and defense. It’s not as if they’re killing each other in practice, but it has been more physical. The Redskins under Mike Shanahan also wanted to run the ball.

“With Mike, we knew we wanted to run the ball, but it got a little convoluted how we would run the ball,” Paulsen said. “For a while, we didn’t have the pieces in place to run it. Now everything is here and we’re established, and that’s something we’ve taken a lot of pride in.

“As we get in the season the [passing game] will become a bigger part. We have outstanding playmakers. But it will be nice if this carries us forward.”

Redskins Camp Report: Day 17

August, 9, 2014
Aug 9
7:45
PM ET
RICHMOND, Va. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Washington Redskins training camp:
  • Quarterback Robert Griffin III surprised two cancer survivors by asking them to autograph his cleats. Griffin met the two boys, Evan Washo and Vincent Silver Jr., after practice and when he took off his cleats, he said they thought he was going to give the shoes to them. Instead, he asked for their signatures – and told them he’d send each a pair of cleats in their favorite colors.
  • The emergence of receiver Aldrick Robinson continues to be a big topic, thanks to making some big plays last week in practice against New England and then again in the preseason game Thursday. He hauled in another deep ball from Griffin on Saturday, getting past corner DeAngelo Hall. “He practiced extremely hard all through OTAs and training camp,” Griffin said. “He’s a guy that pops off the screen.” In other words, he shows up a lot on the tape making plays. Robinson has made big plays in past summers, but with the added speed offensively, the Redskins can pair him with other fast wideouts. They can no longer just assume he’ll be the wideout going deep. Consistency, though, has always been his nemesis.
  • The defense might not have faced New England’s best players, notably quarterback Tom Brady. But they still played the way Jay Gruden and the coaches want them to, especially when it came to running to the ball. The Redskins missed few tackles and when they did, there usually was a group of Redskins around the ball to prevent more yards. “It was good pursuit and good all-around football,” Gruden said.
  • The Redskins signed Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith because they aren’t sure how long Ryan Clark will be sidelined with his hamstring injury. Gruden called Clark day-to-day, but by bringing in another safety, they can limit his reps when he does return. Considering Clark is 34, the Redskins would be wise to make sure he gets to the regular season healthy. Hamstring injuries can linger if you’re not careful.
  • Griffin said using mobile tablets for the first time to review pictures of plays during the game was no big deal. Instead of the old snapshots in black and white, they were in color. That, he said, was about it. But Gruden said the tough part for him was that they had to scroll through the pictures going right to left. “It was a little weird,” he said.
  • Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett missed practice to attend a funeral Saturday. The Redskins have two practices Sunday: a full workout at 8:30 a.m. and a walk-through at 4:10 p.m. They have four more scheduled practices open to the public.
RICHMOND, Va. – Washington Redskins defensive end Jason Hatcher debated whether or not to have surgery. At first, he wasn’t so sure: He was a new guy who had signed a big contract. Now he’s glad he did.

Hatcher was activated from the physically unable to perform list Saturday and went through his first practice of the summer, limited to individual drills. Hatcher underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in mid-June.

Hatcher could have opted against surgery, but then it would have required him to rehab it after every game.

Hatcher
Hatcher
“The bad outweighed the good,” Hatcher said. “And I’m very happy the way it’s responding, so I’ve got a little way to go. I’m very happy where I’m at right now.”

The Redskins are happy that he’s back on the field. They signed Hatcher to a four-year contract in free agency, hoping he provides the interior push that Washington has lacked the past two seasons. They want him to diversify their rush, complementing outside rushers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo.

“He’s a dominant player,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Hatcher. “He’ll be an added impact.”

Hatcher made progress during camp while rehabbing on a side field. But he said he’s still not 100 percent back with his game.

“My explosion is kind of there, but it’s one of those things that I’ve got to work through,” Hatcher said.

The plan is to work him back in slowly, getting him ready to play in the third preseason game against Baltimore. Then he hopes to reward Washington with the sort of season he had in 2013, when he recorded 11 sacks.

“Just my wisdom as a vet and getting after the quarterback,” Hatcher said. “Just making the quarterback uncomfortable. That’s one of the reasons why they brought me here, so I just have to continue to get after the quarterback.”

If that happens, and if his knee is not an issue, then all will be well. But Hatcher remembers what he was thinking when surgery was first being discussed.

“You’re kind of like, ‘I’m just getting here, you know?’" Hatcher said. “What are my teammates going to think? What are the GM and owner going to think? It was a hard decision, but I’m very happy I did it.”

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