Redskins.com's Jake Kring-Schreifels and Kyle Stackpole break down the key plays and highlights from Day 8 of Washington Redskins 2019 OTAs, presented by Loudoun Economic Development.
--Because OTAs are voluntary, and because mandatory minicamp concluded last week, several key figures of the offense were missing on Tuesday, including running back Adrian Peterson and tight end Vernon Davis. That’s not to mention left tackle Trent Williams, who is absent for other reasons the Redskins hope will be resolved before training camp begins. Before departing for the summer, head coach Jay Gruden did state again that running back Derrius Guice and tackle Geron Christian Sr., among others, would be available by training camp.
"Health is first and foremost," Gruden said. "That is up to the trainers and doctors. They give us a gauge. Some guys we let them practice a little bit and do some individual work, no team stuff, brought them along slowly in that regard. [Brandon] Scherff is a great example. He didn’t do a lot of team stuff, but we let him do some individual. Morgan [Moses] was the same way, but with Christian we thought it was best suited for him to stay away and mainly do the work in the weight room and training room."
--That left the door open for some younger, recently signed players to make an impact during practice on Tuesday, which included newcomer tight end Donald Parham. While not particularly as big as other members in his group, he certainly has length at his advantage, standing at 6-foot-8 and grabbed a couple of touchdowns from quarterback Dwayne Haskins during 7-on-7 drills that showed off his advantaged limbs. That included one corner pass that he caught over cornerback Jimmy Moreland, who even at his peak couldn’t reach the apex of the throw. “Mouse in the house,” Gruden yelled at him laughing. On that same series Haskins found wide receiver Terry McLaurin on a slant route for a touchdown and then went back to Parham for another score on the opposing side of the end zone.
--Throughout red zone drills, which closed out the practice session, running back Samaje Perine continued to be featured. Gruden said after practice he’s been the most impressive player in the backfield, taking on the bulk of snaps with the absences of Peterson and Guice. It certainly seems as though, prior to training camp, Gruden envisions Perine making the team to carry the load behind Peterson and Guice should both end up as the starting backs. Gruden lamented the fact that Perine hasn’t been given the opportunities he’s deserved over the last couple of seasons, but doesn’t envision using him as a fullback to get him more playing time. That job has gone to Elijah Wellman and tight end J.P. Holtz over the last month, but could change depending on how the roster shakes out.
"Perine has continued to get stronger and stronger in the weight room," Gruden said. "He’s a powerful running back and he has not had the opportunities that he probably deserves or needs. But we just have to figure out a way to make the competition fair and play the best player, no matter whom they are or where they’re from."
--Quarterback Case Keenum knows that the competition with quarterback Dwayne Haskins will intensify over training camp, about six weeks away. But over the course of OTAs and minicamp, he’s felt good about his progression within another new offense and his comfort level with the coaching staff before departing for the summer this week.
“I feel good. I feel good with the work that I’ve put in and what I’ve been able to do,” Keenum said. “I’m also really hard on myself and I want to be great. I want to be really good. I love this system, I really do. I think Jay [Gruden] has done a great job putting it together, and I think [Kevin O’Connoll], [Matt Cavanaugh], Tim [Rattay], all those guys too. I think it’s really well presented and put together really good. I think I can thrive in it. So, I want to push it to the next level.”
-- The conclusion of veteran minicamp last week resulted in several no-shows for voluntary practice on Tuesday, especially in the secondary. Among those missing: Landon Collins, Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. But with these absences came increased playing time for the Redskins’ younger defensive backs. Among the notable performers were seventh-round cornerback Jimmy Moreland -- who gave up a touchdown during 7-on-7 drills but played tight coverage throughout the session -- and undrafted rookie Jeremy Reaves, who broke up two passes from the safety position. Fifth-year safety Deshazor Everett also stood out with a goal line interception, cutting in front of a pass from Case Keenum and taking off the other way. Head coach Jay Gruden unpromptedly mentioned both Reaves and Everett in his post-practice press conference and also praised second-year safety Troy Apke.
“Apke is doing well. It’s been good to see him get a lot of these reps and work. Obviously last year he didn’t get a whole lot with his hamstring, so he’s progressing nicely,” Gruden said. “Everett has also picked up the slack. He’s done a very good job. And Reaves, he made some big plays out there today. So those guys are taking advantage of their time.”
-- Gruden has been “really, really, really impressed” with the development of Fabian Moreau at both cornerback and nickelback. A third-round pick in 2017, Moraeu has already proven he’s capable of producing within the Redskins’ defense. He started 10 games last season and stuffed the stat sheet with 58 tackles (31 solo), five passes defended, three forced fumbles and an interception. Now it appears Moreau is ready to assume even greater responsibility within the secondary.
“[Linebacker] Shaun Dion Hamilton, along with Fabian [Moreau], are two of the most improved players out here,” Gruden said.
-- With this being his first season as the Redskins special teams coordinator, Nate Kaczor did not think it was fair to highlight any particular special teams standout during his press conference Tuesday. But he did single out one player for his overall performance: linebacker Jon Bostic. And while Kaczor isn’t sure how much special teams Bostic will play, he's admired Bostic’s professionalism and work ethic since signing with the Redskins on May 22.
“He’s someone who is new to all of you folks,” Kaczor told the media, “but he’s doing a nice job.”
-- The past month of OTAs and minicamp has given Gruden plenty of time to analyze what the Redskins’ defense might look like in 2019. He’s seen All-Pro safety Landon Collins patrol the secondary and linebacker Montez Sweat rush the quarterback. He’s witnessed the potential for the young and talented defensive front of Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis and Daron Payne. But as players begin their six-week break before minicamp, there’s one thing that has stood out to Gruden above all else.
“I know it’s early, but I like our defense’s mentality, No. 1,” Gruden said. “We have a tough edge to us, and I'm expecting that to carry over [into the season]."
-- Terry McLaurin was the Redskins' No. 1 special teams prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft, and the third-round wide receiver has lived up to the billing during the early stages of his NFL career. He's smart, tough and "very fast," -- three traits Kaczor said are essential to any special teams' role. Now it's a matter of managing McLaurin's workload to maximize his effectiveness in both facets.
"With a player like that, you just got to make sure they're not overdoing it because they're doing anything you ask," Kaczor said. "They're just special people, and he's certainly one of those."
-- When it comes to kicking and punting, Washington has little to worry about thanks to Dustin Hopkins and Tress Way. Hopkins has an 85.3 percent success rate in his four seasons with the Redskins. He was even better last year, hitting 26 of his 29 field goals and 14 of 17 from 40 yards or further. Way, meanwhile, has been a model of consistency over his five-year career in Washington with an average of 46.0 yards per punt.
This type of sustained success is a luxury for any special teams coordinator but even more so for a first-year coach in Kaczor, who already knows what he's getting from the team's most-important specialists.
"When you have specialists that are in place and talented like ours are, [there's] continuity. Everyone loves continuity with talent," Kaczor said. "The only time you wouldn't enjoy continuity is if you thought you needed to improve your talent level, but obviously those guys both are very, very talented."