By Mike Jones
The Washington Redskins held their final offseason practice of the offseason. Minicamp will conclude with a round of meetings and classroom sessions Thursday and then the players will receive six weeks off before reporting for training camp July 26.
Here are three things we learned at this final on-field session.
1. Experimentation for Cousins and Co.: Washington’s defense got the better of the offense for the most part, with Josh Norman and D.J. Swearinger both recording interceptions off of Kirk Cousins while several other defensive backs narrowly missed on other INTs. Norman’s interception came on an underthrown ball while in bracket coverage with Swearinger on Terrelle Pryor. Later, Swearinger intercepted another pass that Cousins said he forced, but it looked more like a miscommunication. Josh Doctson appeared to run a comeback route, and Cousins’s pass sailed further upfield and into the arms of Swearinger.
Cousins, who had several other close calls, said he went into Wednesday’s practice determined to use this last session to test out he and his receivers’ limitations. He wanted to figure out how much he can get away with while trying to fit the ball into tight windows to Pryor and others. Cousins said experimenting with things like this “when there are no consequences,” will help him know what he can do in games. “That’s what these offseason practices are for,” he said. Cousins likes where things are with his receivers. The timing still isn’t completely perfect, but he feels good about the progress thus far. Meanwhile, Pryor has flashed his athleticism and speed, but he’s still working on honing his technique. Despite recording 1,000 receiving yards last season, he’s still very raw, his coaches say, and so the learning and sharpening of skills remains a process.
2. Doctson’s pitch count: Doctson made it through the four weeks of offseason practices unscathed, and he says he feels totally fine, with no setbacks to his Achilles’ tendons. The 2016 first-round pick said, “I know I’m fine,” and that the hardest part now is patience.
His coaches are keeping him on a pitch count while he still gets back into football shape. Doctson may feel fine, but wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard said it’s a matter of conditioning. First Doctson had to get used to playing two snaps in a row instead of the usual one play on, one play off of most practice rep allocations. The snap counts have increased. Doctson’s body has to get used to being able to go full-speed playing six straight snaps.
It’s not the Achilles’ tendons, Hilliard said. It’s the other soft tissues where Doctson has experienced some soreness, and that’s natural. Hilliard said he has talked Doctson through the process every step of the way, and told him about his experiences of having to come back from surgery eight different times. Doctson fortunately hasn’t had to come back from surgery. But he’s still reconditioning. Doctson will take some time to rest and recover from the offseason practices and receive some maintenance (massages and such), and then will start training again. Hilliard is really looking forward to seeing Doctson hit the field fully healthy once training camp gets here in late July.
3. Hall restructures deal: Safety DeAngelo Hall revealed he recently agreed to restructure his contract. The longest-tenured member of the team (Hall signed with Washington in 2008), Hall is entering his 14th season and is still rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in Week 3 of last season. Hall was set to count $5 million against the salary cap while drawing a base salary of $4.25 million. He now is set to earn a base salary of $2.3 million.
Hall and team officials had some talks earlier this offseason about the possibility of restructuring and Hall felt like the restructuring had to make sense for both parties. He considered some offers for media related jobs, which would have paid him well, he said. But then, “Somebody reminded me, ‘When you’re done, you’re done. You’re not Michael Jordan where you can come back after a couple years on hiatus.’
“It’s about the passion and love I have for the game. I can always go back and do TV and some other things eventually. But for me, I want to play. I want to play as long as I can. I still love it. I love the guys in the locker room. I love competing. There’s nothing like that emotional high you get out there on the field. So, I want to take full advantage of every opportunity, and let the future take care of itself.”
Hall eventually would like to find a place within the Redskins as a member of the front office. Bruce Allen always jokingly calls him the “assistant general manager,” and Hall said tongue-in-cheek that he found it interesting that despite promoting Doug Williams to lead the front office, the Redskins didn’t give the general manager title to anyone. He has his eyes on that, eventually, but knows he’ll have to work his way up. But for now, he’s just focused on working his way back to the field.
Odds and ends
• The Redskins worked on some red zone packages and for a second straight day, they did so without throwing a single fade route. Cousins did take advantage of the size Pryor boasts, but he hit the 6-foot-4, 228-pounder on a slant route for a five-yard touchdown pass.
• An under-the-radar guy to keep an eye on during training camp: nose tackle Joey Mbu. The 6-3, 323-pounder spent the entire four weeks of offseason practices as the starting nose tackle. Big, strong and light on his feet, it’ll be interesting to see if he can carve out a significant role after spending last season on the practice squad.
• Matt Ioannidis and Ziggy Hood got the start at the end positions on Wednesday. It seems likely that Stacy McGee, Terrell McClain or Jonathan Allen will wind up as the starters there come training camp. But Ioannidis, Hood and Anthony Lanier seem like they have a shot to earn key rotational roles.
• It wasn’t just the defensive backs that had a good day. Inside linebacker Will Compton was flying around and felt so good after blowing up one run play he yelled, “I’m Superman out here! They can’t block me! They can’t block me!” At one point in practice, Compton was a little overzealous for tight end Niles Paul’s taste, and the two had to be separated. But after things calmed down quickly, Compton went back to Paul, made up and shook his hand.
• Running back Rob Kelley has worked on his hands this offseason, and it showed as he recorded a couple of catches on swing passes out of the backfield during 11-on-11 action.
• So far, there’s no competition at left guard. After Shawn Lauvao had an up-and-down 2016 campaign, it seemed like Arie Kouandjio and/or Isaiah Williams might challenge him this offseason. But so far, Lauvao has taken every first-team rep at that position. We’ll see if things remain the same during training camp.
• Doug Williams has always been a well-respected member of the franchise, both by the fans and current players. Now elevated to vice president of player personnel, Williams already is interacting with players more during practices. In each of the last two days, he has sidled up to running back Matt Jones on the sideline while special teams drills took place. Williams spent a good bit of time talking to Jones, who has fallen down the ranks but says he wants to fight to get his starting job back.