The Redskins are about to play their second preseason game of 2018. Here’s three things we’ve learned from the joint training camp practices against the Jets to close out their time in Richmond, Va.
1. Both teams responded well after skirmishes on the first day
It was clear that after the storm on the field had finally settled, and once the other, real storm dropped rain over the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center, players weren’t too happy with the extracurricular activity that took place with the Jets on Sunday, the first day of joint practices. It cut into valuable practice time, and the big skirmish that broke out only seemed to have been building prior to New York even arriving at Richmond, Va.
This is the argument against joint practices, but Washington was determined to reap the rewards of working against another team. It finished the final two days with little drama, getting quality reps against new players, schemes and techniques.
“I think that the fight that happened was just an oddity, really,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “I think [Sunday] guys were professionals that practiced and understood what we were trying to get accomplished and realized that fighting does nobody any good. But, at the end of the day we got a lot of work done the last two days.”
The final two days did indeed change the complexion of New York’s visit. With any kind of antagonism on the field, the chance for an injury to occur – that almost happened to right tackle Morgan Moses, which started the kerfuffle – is heightened, the last thing any of these teams would like before the second preseason game. The Redskins and Jets avoided any further obstruction and came away satisfied.
“The goal is to come out here, practice fast, practice smart, take care of one another and get some good work in,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “That’s all you want to do. You want to get good work in to make sure everyone is handling their assignments and competing at the highest level possible because that’s the only way you’re going to get better. Come out here and compete at the highest level and transfer it over.”
2. The competitive nature of the sessions was valuable for both sides
By the end of training camp, it’s easy to become lethargic, to lose focus. That changes when another team is around and its third-string wide receiver, trying to dominate a new opponent, knows he has to make a big impression for coaches with only a couple weeks left before roster decisions must be made.
It increases the intensity, and that’s just what the Redskins got to close out training camp in Richmond. Instead of facing the same opponents for the 13th, 14th and 15th consecutive time, the final days of practice offered fresh faces and renewed energy.
“I thought it was invaluable for us, especially on the offensive side of the ball,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “We've been going against the defense so much that a lot of times you can kind of get ahead of yourself, start anticipating things since you know what's going to happen. I think it was great for all of us to get a look at something different. We've got to trust our fundamentals, trust our rules, go out there and execute. To get three days of work in, I know we had some drama the first day, but I thought both sides stepped up the past two days, keeping it professional and getting a lot of great work in.”
Cornerback Josh Norman praised the way Gruden and Jets head coach Todd Bowles laid a strong foundation for the three days of practice, and it provided further confirmation of who had stuck out camp.
The ball skills and sharp instincts that undrafted cornerbacks Danny Johnson and Ranthony Texada showed throughout the first two weeks weren’t confined to their familiar anticipation of quarterback Kevin Hogan. Now they were proving it on a new level, against hungry New York receivers catching passes from Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater.
“Just breaking on the football and us guys [in the secondary] making plays out there on the defensive side of the ball,” Norman said about what he believes the secondary accomplished. “Just hustling, seeing their [Jets offense] targets and keys and honing in and making smart decisions and not overplaying a situation. Or not taking a guy down to the ground when they actually can. Just being smart within the confines of what we’ll actually do within the defense and knowing our leverages.”
3. The sessions closed out three weeks of training camp on a high for many players
The drama that did make some headlines on Tuesday – safety D.J. Swearinger antagonizing wide receiver Terrelle Pryor after safety Montae Nicholson broke up a pass to him in the end zone – was one indication that the Washington defensive captain left camp on a high.
“He started talking on the DBs that he had and let him know that he didn’t get the respect to go against a corner in 1-on-1’s,” Swearinger said of Pryor. “He went against safeties three days in a row. I got him one day, Deshazor [Everett] got him one day and Montae got him one day. We didn’t give him the respect to go against a cornerback. We gave him safeties to go against and locked him up.”
Take a look back at the top images from the 2018 Washington Redskins Training Camp in Richmond, Va.
Swearinger used that as a springboard for the rest of practice, and the defense capped off three strong days facing a variety of looks they’ll see on Thursday, where they'll be making sure their execution is on full display.
“We dominated in Richmond,” Swearinger said. “It felt great to dominate a team at the end. I think we got to be a little better at the end on defense, but I think we got some good quality work in. I can’t wait Thursday to really get some live bullets.”
Playing against another team was also a solid litmus test for those Redskins recovering from injuries before Thursday night’s matchup. Running back Chris Thompson got some more looks, as did his lead blockers on the outside in Moses and Trent Williams. Tight end Jordan Reed has continued to look sturdy in his return to the field, making several big catches during the first day of practices. Even wide receiver Trey Quinn carved up the Jets defense all around the field on Tuesday, as he looks to make an impact in Thursday’s game.
Which is to say, the final three days provided a confidence boost – the determination that those slightly uncertain about their play or their health could find satisfaction in their accomplishments.
“I’m happy with the progress we’ve made offensively, you know, we’ve done it a couple different ways,” Gruden said. “I wish we could get everybody in the lineup at one time, it would be nice to see. But, for the most part I like the way the guys have progressed from Day 1 till now, and same with defensively, we’re still – we’re communicating, we’re working, we had some busts yesterday we have to get cleaned up. [The] guys are working hard and playing hard, that’s all I can ask for."