Practice Notes: 2019 #SkinsCamp, Day 1

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Offense:

-- At his press conference to kick off training camp Wednesday afternoon, head coach Jay Gruden announced the three quarterbacks competing for the starting job -- Case Keenum, Colt McCoy and Dwayne Haskins -- will initially split practice reps. 

Ahead of the team’s first practice Thursday morning, Gruden explained how that might work within the confines of each workout.

“We just have to be aware of making sure people get challenged in critical situations, as well as first, second down, throwing a bootleg -- got to make sure we push the pocket a little bit, get them some drops and some throws against us in pass rush and some different looks,” Gruden said. “So, it'll be a good challenge for us. I think, obviously, that's the No. 1 challenge we have as a staff going into this season is to make sure we get those guys the reps and give them ample opportunity to succeed and show that they're the starter."

Just as Gruden stated, each of the three signal-callers received similar chances with the first team during Day 1 of training camp. Keenum began practice with the first team, followed by McCoy and then Haskins, but the rotation changed during 7-on-7 drills and into the team portions of the roughly two-hour workout.

“Today was a really good day for all of them, and I caught passes from all of them,” wide receiver Paul Richardson said. “I think it’s going to be a healthy competition, and I’m interested to see how those guys work with each other and push each other.”

-- Thursday morning marked the first time running back Derrius Guice was in full uniform since suffering a season-ending torn ACL last preseason. The 2018 second-round pick participated in individual drills, and on his first carry he deeked All-Pro safety Landon Collins and burst downfield, drawing widespread applause from those in attendance. 

Gruden admitted Thursday morning that Guice does need practice reps to improve his footwork, pass protections and other fundamentals, but Gruden also mentioned the importance of maintenance when it comes to the second-year rusher. 

That was apparent during the first practice, as Guice took on a lesser workload than those who were healthy during offseason workouts.

-- The Redskins pass-catching options are plentiful, and their array of skillsets were on display Thursday morning.

OTA standout Cam Sims, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury, kicked off 1-on-1 drills by catching a 40-yard touchdown from Keenum with cornerback Quinton Dunbar in tight coverage.

Other highlights during the session included tight end Jordan Reed, who forced Collins to slip on a slant, and rookie Terry McLaurin, who turned around safety Troy Apke on a corner route for a big gain.

Reed stood out throughout the session. After sitting out veteran minicamp for precautionary reasons, he looked crisp in his route running and quick in and out of his breaks. On one occasion, Reed burst off the line and beat safety Montae Nicholson to the inside for a reception. On another play, he hauled in a one-handed grab before cutting upfield.

A year ago at this time, Reed had just started running following offseason toe surgery, so having him available to start training camp will further benefit the offense’s development.

-- Gruden said continuity along the offensive line will be a major point of emphasis to start training camp, but only three-fifths of the projected starting unit took first-team reps Thursday.

Tony Bergstrom stepped in at center for Chase Roullier, who was in street clothes. (He reportedly suffered a hamstring injury and is day-to-day.) Meanwhile, offseason signee Ereck Flowers is at left tackle in Trent Williams’ absence, joining rookie Wes Martin, Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses as the starting front.

“I’ve always believed in pro sports about getting after the quarterback, protecting your quarterback, being able to establish the line of scrimmage and creating a new line of scrimmage if you’re on defense,” Gruden said. “So, I think [the] offensive line is what we’re really looking at right now. We’re looking at everybody, but we need the offensive line to step up and find the right guys."

Take a look at the photos from the first day of 2019 training camp in Richmond, Va.

Defense:

-- Josh Norman highlighted the day with two interceptions. One came early in the session on a deep ball down the right sideline where Norman turned at the last second to shield the receiver and secure the football. The other came on a deep ball by Colt McCoy, who was rolling to his throwing side on a bootleg. The throw forced intended receiver Kelvin Harmon to come back to the ball, where Norman awaited.

-- With the recent release of Mason Foster, the session offered a glimpse at the new potential starting unit at inside linebacker. Offseason signee Jon Bostic and second-year man Shaun Dion-Hamilton worked with the first team Thursday. Rookie Cole Holcomb, who Gruden has praised throughout the offseason, also rotated in with the first team.

-- During the first reps of 7-on-7 work, Manusky had Marcus Smith at outside linebacker opposite Ryan Kerrigan. Smith stayed right on tight end Jordan Reed's hip in coverage, earning praise from defensive backs coach Ray Horton. In passing situations during 11-on-11 drills, Smith blew by offensive lineman off the edge on multiple occasions.

-- Landon Collins was seemingly in the backfield on every run play. His ability to identify holes and pursue the ball carrier at the safety position is precisely what head coach Jay Gruden envisioned when signing the prized free agent this offseason.

-- Safety Troy Apke showed off his elite speed throughout practice. Serving as a gunner on special teams, Apke was often the first one downfield in coverage.

And despite getting beat on a few occasions during team drills, Apke's ability to cover ground and run side-by-side with receivers did not give opposing quarterbacks much room to throw.

-- Cornerback Quinton Dunbar and defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis were also impressive during Day 1 of training camp. Dunbar, coming off a shortened 2018 season, was a full participant Thursday and looked fluid in coverage throughout the morning. Ioannidis made his mark early in the 1-on-1 session against rookie Wes Martin, slamming his foot in the ground and spinning right around the Redskins 2019 fourth-round selection with ease.

-- Cassanova McKinzy and Tim Settle spent most of their first day of camp in the Redskins backfield, much to the dislike of offensive line coach Bill Callahan. With Jordan Brailford on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), McKinzy took advantage of his reps by setting the edge on rush plays while using a dip move on opposing tackles to get in the backfield.

-- Defensive lineman Caleb Brantley and JoJo Wicker frequently rotated in along the starting defensive line. The depth along the Redskins front could prove to be a significant factor in the team's overall defensive success.

-- Edge defender Montez Sweat displayed his much heralded 4.4 speed by staying with running back Derrius Guice on a wheel route during the latter half of the session, generating applause from nearby fans. In Gruden's morning press conference, he described the first-round pick's potential as "through the roof."

Special Teams:

-- Rookies Jimmy Moreland and Steven Sims Jr., along with Greg Stroman and Trey Quinn, were used at punt returners. Stroman served as the primary return man in 2018.

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