Redskins.com's Stephen Czarda and Jake Kring-Schreifels break down the key plays and highlights from Day 9 of Washington Redskins 2018 OTAs, presented by Loudoun Economic Development.
--The red zone, a place where the Redskins have struggled in recent years, was the primary area of focus on Wednesday for the offense, starting with individual drills and extending to full team and 7-on-7 drills. A lot of that work consisted of run plays, which effectively constituted a walkthrough first half of practice, and many of them were run with fullback Elijah Wellman (Gruden says there’s a chance they will keep a fullback on the team this year, much how they used tight end Niles Paul in 2017).
--Eventually, switching ends of the field, the quarterbacks got some work with their receiving targets. Alex Smith, after a couple early incompletions, connected with wide receiver Jamison Crowder on back to back touchdown passes thrown into tight windows. The pair connected again a few series later over the middle, finishing off a strong day for the first team. It seems like their rapport, in particular, is getting better and better.
--Colt McCoy had success as well in the late half of practice, taking advantage of some young defensive backs with touchdown passes to Maurice Harris (who made a nice toe-touch grab in the corner) and Trey Quinn from around the 10-yard line. He also hit tight end Garrett Hudson for a score. Hudson, still learning the offense in his first days as a pro after signing with the team last week, adds some needed depth right now, as Manasseh Garner sat out practice on Wednesday and Jordan Reed continues to rehab.
--During last week’s media practice, wide receiver Robert Davis turned heads with several catches in traffic. To finish up practice on Wednesday, he showed off his speed this time, utilizing the only non-red zone sequence to collect what would have turned into a 60-yard play-action deep pass from McCoy. Gruden said afterward that Davis has a real chance to “explode onto the scene,” which would give the Redskins a lot of solid options out of their wide receiver corps.
--Running back Derrius Guice got a little more work early on with the first team offense, particularly to practice his pass-catching skills. He looked very fluid catching some out-routes and turning up field. On one play, he grabbed a pass in the flat near the sideline, planted hard, juked and shook linebacker Jerod Fernandez to squeeze by him for more yardage. It was another example of his quick feet and gave a glimpse of his ability to make defenders miss in open space.
--The starting offensive line remained the same as the first couple weeks, with left tackle Geron Christian and right tackle John Kling bookending left guard Shaun Lauvao, center Chase Roullier and right guard Brandon Scherff. Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe and T.J. Clemmings remain sidelined, along with running back Chris Thompson, as they rehab their injuries.
--Now entering his fourth season with the Redskins after originally joining Washington as a wide receiver, converted cornerback Quinton Dunbar on Wednesday displayed the traits that merited his multi-year extension earlier this year. Dunbar was a problem for the offense in the red zone throughout the afternoon on Thursday. When the team broke into 7-on-7 drills midway through practice, the University of Florida product prevented potential touchdown receptions on back-to-back plays. On the first attempt, Dunbar disrupted a pass intended for Vernon Davis at the side of the end zone. Then on the next play, Dunbar prevented a completion to Paul Richardson Jr. Later in 11-on-11 work, Dunbar had a diving pass defensed on a target inside the end zone for Jeremy Sprinkle.
--Another young defensive player that’s getting significant playing time with the first-team defense right now is second-year linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons, who has been working alongside Mason Foster when Zach Brown is not present for these voluntary sessions. Harvey-Clemons, 24, was selected in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft after playing safety at Louisville. Harvey-Clemons played in 10 games during his rookie season, recording 16 tackles with one pass defensed. Gruden said his time on the field last year has been beneficial in his growth as he looks to expand his role this season. "He got some quality reps last year in some critical situations in games which is good, mainly in dime situations and now he’s getting more in base, first and second down so it’s good to see him in that role," Gruden said. "He can be free to roam sideline to sideline. Josh is taking advantage of those reps and will have to continue to do so come training camp."
--With Daron Payne selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and Jonathan Allen back on the field following a season-ending injury suffered last fall, Matt Ioannidis has somewhat gone under the radar so far this offseason. But the third-year defensive lineman was able to plug some running lanes during unit work on Wednesday and showing the same playmaking ability he flashed last year. Ioannidis, of course, had a breakout season in 2017, tallying 27 tackles with 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble. His continued progression on the field will only benefit a remade defensive line under Jim Tomsula.
--While the Redskins may not carry a fullback on the 53-man roster in the fall (they haven’t since 2015), having one on the roster during the offseason helps the defensive unit prepare for power backs and looks that other teams could provide during the season. It’s good for our defense also to see some reps with teams with a fullback, so we are giving them a good look at lead plays and power plays and all that stuff so they can prepare for it," Gruden said. "It was also a chance for Elijah to make the team whether we need a fullback or not.”
--Practice ended with Dustin Hopkins attempting five field goals within 40 yards. Re-signed this offseason, Hopkins heads into this season as the only kicker on the roster.