With all of the buzz and attention on Robert Griffin III and for good reason, the Washington Redskins defense and for that matter -- just about every other player -- have flown under the radar for the most part this off-season.
The defense in the front - seven is largely intact. The secondary? Well -- that's very, very different.
Leading the charge is the very enthusiastic, loud and proud new secondary coach, Raheem Morris. Bob Slowik, the defensive backs coach for the first two years of the Mike Shanahan era, is now the linebackers coach, replacing the demonstrative Lou Spanos, who left for the UCLA defensive coordinator position.
Morris is the most noticeable and audible change, but an infusion of new weapons and pieces of the puzzle is also intriguing.
DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, Kevin Barnes, Brandyn Thompson, Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes are the holdovers. Gone are LaRon Landry, Oshiomogho Atogwe and Byron Westbrook.
Along with Morris, the Redskins brought Brandon Meriweather, Madieu Williams, Cedric Griffin, Tanard Jackson, Leigh Torrence and rookie corner Chase Minnifield into the fold.
Meriweather got arrested the night before the draft for DUI. Williams, the former Terp was somewhat of an afterthought, but has impressed in the limited opportunities the media has had to watch practice. Griffin was involved in a few highlight plays (one for, one against) during Tuesday's workout. Jackson is recovering from shoulder surgery, and only practiced for the first time last week. Torrence was released last week. Which brings us to Minnifield.
He went undrafted, after enduring micro fracture knee surgery. The Virginia product was thought to be in the 2nd or 3rd round value range (Jim Haslett confirmed the Redskins thought he was a 3rd rounder) but was knocked back because of the difficult recovery.
His interception of Rex Grossman, just was a matter of timing, recognition and jumping the route. Later in the practice session, in a nickel defense look, Minnifield and Cedric Griffin blanketed and swallowed up Santana Moss in the front corner of the end zone, for an incompletion by Robert Griffin III.
Cedric Griffin and Madieu Williams also stood out to some degree, today as well. We mentioned Griffin's good combined coverage with Minnifield on Moss, but he also ran toe to toe, step for step with Pierre Garcon on a go route in front of us, on an overthrow by Robert Griffin III.
Garcon did beat Griffin for a touchdown on a great fade throw and extension from RG III. Williams had another pass defense (near interception) early in practice. He has been the most notable and consistent defensive performer to the non-coaching eye.
Brandyn Thompson also had a big knock down and near interception late in practice against Robert Griffin III on a quick out-route.
I wasn't overly impressed with the consistency of any of the quarterbacks during Tuesday's practice....I said on ESPN 980 right after practice and media availability, that I thought Robert Griffin III was probably the worst out of the three QB's. Again, that was a initial reaction, that means absolutely nothing because we have no idea what happened on the individual plays to determine who did the right thing and who didn't do it well enough.
Griffin made several nice throws, the aforementioned Garcon TD pass over Cedric Griffin was the stand-out moment, but that's going to happen in just about every practice. I was impressed by his nose for escaping trouble ( at times) and also being decisive in some of his runs, like a 3rd-and-3, first down scamper off the right side.
However, there were several overthrows, and bad decisions from my viewpoint that Griffin III got away with in a practice. Will that ring true in a game? Who knows? I mentioned some above, but to add to the mix, two running plays in particular had me a little concerned.
On a scamper to his left, Griffin III tried to turn the corner around TE Fred Davis, but the defense had sealed the edge and Reed Doughty appeared to get leverage on Davis' block. Either way, Griffin banged into Davis, and went down. Doughty, got up and started playfully pointing (I think) at Davis, whose back was turned to Doughty, as the guy who was the cause of the franchise taking a dump and hit.
Another play, Rob Jackson appeared to either read perfectly or simply blow up Trent Williams on a kick-out block and almost immediately met Griffin III in the hole on a designed read (it appeared). Griffin III would have been absolutely CRUSHED. I don't k now if it was his fault or not, but clearly, Williams and Griffin III could have done many things differently.
Rex Grossman had several nice throws (one to Logan Paulsen on a one-handed snare, one to Terrence Austin who on a somewhat tough catch, had a touchdown go thru his hands), but Rex also had the near interception to Minnifield and on the final throw of practice, Ryan Kerrigan returned to sender a pass that had no chance. He also had a couple of shaky looking passes.
Kirk Cousins had the play of the day, hooking up with Aldrick Robinson on a deep post route that covered more than half of the field. Cousins also hooked up late with Niles Paul in a red zone drill. Cousins had some shaky reads and throws as well, but again - nobody is going to be perfect.
The bottom line is this. Nobody should have any reason for concern, but the notion that Robert Griffin III is going to waltz into the NFL and make it look easy is simply preposterous. There will be many moments, and there will be many bumps in the road.