I take so many notes and tweet so many items and observations while at Redskins practices, that it almost feels anti-climactic to write a blog summarizing what we have seen over the first three days of Training Camp 2012, but I can also go a little more in detail here.
Let's get Robert Griffin III out of the way as quick as possible. He says all the right things, he does all the right things. He's far from perfect and nobody would expect him to be. At times, I have wondered about the hype machine spinning out of control, but I think he and certainly the Redskins and Mike Shanahan will control it pretty well.
He gets it. You can tell by the way he greets the fans, how he interacts with the media. He actually pauses when speaking as planes roar over Redskins Park, which is much appreciated. He had an interaction with a small group of the core reporters on Saturday, that let me know - he understands that you can be serious -- but also have some fun. It's not important to detail what happen, but it was a breaking the ice moment in my eyes.
On the field, the results have been up and down. We have seen rocket throws to Pierre Garcon (several on Friday) and we have seen tremendous bursts of speed to make a play, when something may not be there. We have also seen him use his mobility to buy extra time, and fire a strike to a target while on the move. We've seen the pistol formation, we have seen the option, zone read run plays, traditional drops and a little bit of everything.
In fairness, we've also seen some relative ugliness, and that is to be expected. He hasn't thrown any interceptions that I remember, unless my brain has been completely fried by the searing heat at Redskins Park. He has taken plenty of practice sacks and in real game conditions, he would have taken a number of big hits so far.
Lorenzo Alexander, Perry Riley, Brian Orakpo and others have all had their opportunities. The Redskins coaches have either dialed up more blitz pressure than we are normally used to seeing, or the offensive line has a lot of rust and work to do. It remains a concern of mine, and I know many others, about the amount of hits that Griffin III will take, as he evolves in his rookie season and beyond.
I realize that Redskins coaches are practicing plays that they will rarely use in the regular season, to give the defense a good look and also to expand the scope of what teams will have to prepare for. I am concerned, and always will be, about the pounding he will take. However, i wouldn't say I am worried. I think there is a difference.
Griffin III, still struggles underneath with some of his ball placement, from my perspective. I know that every pass is not going to be perfect, but some of what I saw at Baylor, is what I have seen consistently during OTA's, mini-camp and the first three days of practice. I have to believe (we'll get a better feel on Monday, when we're allowed to question Robert) that the Redskins will not use as many play-action boot rolls to Griffin's left as we have seen in camp. I've mentioned this several times, but it hasn't looked very natural in many instances, and I have seen quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur work with Robert on his hips and other fundamentals from the waste down, after these kind of plays. On Saturday, (by memory) Griffin III executed the situation perfectly, on the run, to his left and looking very smooth, throwing a dart to Leonard Hankerson with perfect location and it was a thing of beauty.
Other players that I have been impressed with at times over the first three days of Redskins Camp 2012.
RB Roy Helu has a tough, feisty and almost nasty competitive streak to him that shows up with almost every run. He looks like his burst is back, and hopefully his body will able to withstand the punishment a bit better this year, than it was able too, towards the end of last year.
RB Alfred Morris might not make the roster, but there is something about the kid I like. Mike Shanahan praised his running style on Saturday, while also saying his hands had improved. He lowered his shoulder on one run Saturday and delivered a blow to a defender, drawing the appreciation of the crowd and a high five from Papa Shanny.
Fellow 2012 rookies Richard Crawford and Keenan Robinson both had good days on Saturday, after being largely un-noticeable the first two days. Each had interceptions, but Crawford also ran stride-for-stride on a deep ball incomplete along the far sidelines with Santana Moss, and also had a nice pass defense as well.
Friday was a day for Kevin Barnes to make an impact. Despite dropping a potential interception (at least it was a pass break-up), Barnes kept trying to use his reach and length to contest passes. He broke up another pass, that was batted up in the air for a Dejon Gomes interception. This is a huge camp for Barnes, who did not have a very good year last year. He told me on Friday, that coaches only want him to concentrate on corner this year, despite his ability to help at safety. One part of his game that needs improvement, is getting a good jam off the line of scrimmage.
It's a dead even battle very early on between new PK Neil Rackers and incumbent and great guy, PK Graham Gano. If I had my way, and you could carry both, I would. If I have to choose one, I am going with Gano. I know Redskins fans hate that, and I will admit, that I consider Gano a friend, and we have a very good relationship but he's also a very talented kicker.
Yes he's missed a few kicks that would have won games over the last two years (Houston-'10, Dallas - '11) come to mind, but he has also won a number of games with his leg (Jacksonville, Green Bay, Nashville) and while that is not good enough, I keep focusing on his talent and tremendous leg strength. Remember the 59-yarder he hit against San Francisco last year? He's RARELY short, and his misses are not by much. RELAX, Redskins Nation. I guarantee you if Gano is released, he WILL come back to haunt you for years.
WR/KR Brandon Banks has flat-out shined in the first three days of practices as a receiver. He made a spectacular sprawling catch early on Saturday in 1-on-1 drills over a defensive back (Travon Bellamy?) that was a circus highlight reel catch. He made several other tough grabs, before eventually dropping one on a crossing route that was very catchable. Banks also looked sharp Thursday and Friday. The Redskins have not done much in terms of the return game, so Banks would have too clearly be in the clubhouse lead for the presumed 6th WR/KR spot.