Washington Redskins OTAs: RGIII, Draftees and Latest Player News and Analysis
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
With the first of three weeks of organized team activities for the Washington Redskins complete, it is hard to determine whether we have more questions than we do answers. One thing we can take away from last week's OTAs is quarterback Robert Griffin III has changed his answer on how his knee feels from, "feels good" to "feels great."
The NFL designated OTAs as 10 offseason workouts which typically run in consecutive three days-a-week, three-week practice sessions. This time prior to both minicamp and training camp allows players to get back into the frame of mind for the upcoming season—limiting their workouts primarily to footwork, route running, strength and conditioning.
Consider it a pre-training camp or a mini-minicamp. New players get to know their teammates, their coaches and the team's style of play. Attendance is voluntary and almost all players attend.
Strict rules sanctioned by the NFL govern what is allowed to occur during OTAs: no pads or contact, no one-on-one coverage, only "dead ball" use is permitted while quarterbacks are permitted to throw. Only certain coaches are permitted on the grounds.
Teams are required by the NFL to film these sessions and face stiff penalties if found in violation.
Day 3 of the Redskins' OTAs was open to the media and, as you would expect, people turned out by the dozens. While much of the excitement and attention was on RG3, the OTAs began with all of their draft picks signed and under contract, just the fifth NFL team to complete their draft-class signings.
As the team enters Week 2 of OTAs Tuesday, the following slideshow will feature 10 Washington Redskins players, starting with the offense, and what we have learned about each of them during this initial practice session of 2013.
QB Robert Griffin III
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In the first week of OTAs, RG3 showed no signs of having reconstructive knee surgery four-and-a-half months ago. He was moving and passing in separate activities from the rest of the team where players recovering from injuries were gathered. He is among 14 players participating.
While not moving at full speed, he wore a black brace on his right knee and was able to gingerly drop back, plant and throw passes. He acknowledged he had experienced "no setbacks" during his rehabilitation.
During his 20-minute address to media gathered at Redskins Park, as seen on Redskins.com, the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year said he needed to work on his "explosive sprinting," which will start in a few weeks, and begin to work on his "cutting" a few weeks after that.
When asked about his timetable for his return, he did not hesitate to yield that decision to the team doctors. However, in his eternally optimistic view on his return he said, "I could start in Week 1 even if I missed the entire preseason."
RG3 certainly has his share of fans and supporters pulling for his speedy recovery. Among them, head coach Mike Shanahan who also addressed the media Thursday and continues to be surprised at his star QBs dedication and desire to return stronger.
"Our doctors and trainers are trying to take the proper protocol in his progression and he’s looking pretty good," Shanahan said. "His strength is there and he’s not overdoing it. So far I like what I see.”
If his return to the game was a "play-when-ready" progression, there should be cause for concern. Keep in mind this 23-year-old, former track star has the instinct to run and make big plays.
With his speed, agility, footwork and presence of mind while on the field, he will need to not only protect himself and err on the side of safety in the short term, but never forget his long-term future in the NFL depends upon it.
QB Kirk Cousins
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Last season's backup quarterback, Kirk Cousins, certainly made the best of the moments in the spotlight in 2012 under the harshest of circumstances. He enters OTAs as the first-team quarterback and is poised to get plenty of reps both in the practices leading up to and the preseason games that follow.
He has locked up the role at the No. 2 quarterback position with not much pressure from fellow QBs Rex Grossman or Pat White. Based on the progression of RG3 and his rehabilitation, Cousins could find himself starting the regular season. But I am getting ahead of myself.
RG3 needs to be "100 percent", according to coach Shanahan. Cousins, who is known for his discipline, leadership skills and intensive study of game film, has what it takes to fit into the Redskins' game plan for 2013.
Although the two QBs have very distinctive playing styles, the Redskins offense has respect for Cousins and trust in the way he handled himself when he stepped in last year.
When speaking to reporters at OTA practice last Thursday, Cousins expressed his gratitude for the opportunity and his role as a backup, as reported by Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times.
“Even if Robert comes backs tomorrow ready to go, the fact that I got reps with the No. 1 offense for the first three practices is a great benefit to me,” Cousins said. “I view this opportunity as a backup and the challenges it brings as the proving grounds for being a starter.”
Coach Shanahan has been a fan of Cousins since the 2012 NFL draft and admired his poise and growth entering his second NFL season.
“I think anytime a quarterback gets the reps that Kirk is getting right now, he develops. That’s what we’re looking forward to him doing, is developing during these OTAs," the coach said Thursday at the press conference.
Shanahan added, "With the extra added reps that he’s getting, you can see the progression in his game. He’s playing with a lot of confidence and we like what we see.”
While Cousins' role this season hinges upon the health of RG3, coaches, players and fans know they have a solid backup QB when and if he is called upon. He appears comfortable at the No. 2 spot on the depth chart at this time and is more than willing and able should he be needed.
TE Fred Davis
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Redskins tight end Fred Davis joined RG3 in the recovering players practice sessions during OTAs for Week 1 and will remain until he is cleared by team doctors. He was not medically cleared following an Achilles tear in late October against the New York Giants in Week 7.
Davis declared himself "90 percent" last week and plans to be ready for mandatory minicamp July 11, although coach Shanahan doesn't want to rush his return.
“You know, Fred to me looks very good," he told the media Thursday. "The trainer thinks he’s about 90 percent. The one thing with Achilles is you don’t want guys pushing off too quickly when they’re blocking, so we’re kind of holding him back a little bit."
Shanahan went on to say, "I don’t really want him to go until we get to training camp, give him that extra time to heal up. But right now I think there should be no setback and should go full speed ahead.”
Davis enters his sixth year in the NFL, all with the Redskins. He was limited in play last season due to injury, making 24 receptions for 325 yards and no touchdowns. As long as he is healthy, Davis will likely resume the role as a starting tight end when the regular season begins.
WR Pierre Garcon
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It was learned this week that wide receiver Pierre Garcon had offseason surgery at the conclusion of last season to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. The labrum is a type of thick cartilage or tissue that helps hold the arm in place to the shoulder, a ball-and-socket scenario.
It was not revealed which shoulder received surgery. He told ESPN.com, "It was a small surgery. It wasn't nothing major."
This follows a 2012 season where Garcon missed six games after he tore a ligament in his toe in the team's season opener. Despite missing nearly a third of the season, he led the team in receiving yards with 633 yards.
Garcon is yet another player participating with a group of Redskins recovering from injuries. He fielded light passes from RG3 on Thursday, and one of his biggest fans is coach Shanahan.
Speaking before reporters Thursday, Shanahan said, “I think Pierre, his rehab has been unbelievable. I mean anytime you get operated on like he did and you’re able to come back as quickly as he has… I was watching him this morning in the weight room and he’s lifting weights that he shouldn't be able to lift."
The head coach would then go on to speak optimistically about his return.
"He feels very comfortable. It’s been a slow process, but he’s in excellent shape, so I’ll be surprised if he’s not full speed ready to go once we go to training camp.”
Garcon has the wide receiver position locked up as a starter and performs better lining up as the right-side wide receiver. As long as he remains healthy, he has the potential of being the team's first 1,000-yard receiver since Santana Moss in 2010.
Random Factoid: In 1989, the Washington Redskins had three wide receivers with 1000-plus receiving yards—Gary Clark, Art Monk and Ricky Sanders.
TE Jordan Reed
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Tight end Jordan Reed was the last of the Redskins' draft picks to officially sign with the team, which did not occur until Friday, May 24—the final day of Week 1 OTAs.
Reed is yet another player to join fellow injured teammates during OTAs practice with what Shanahan described as a thigh injury. He spoke only briefly regarding the injury to Reed on Thursday.
“We don’t want to throw him in there too quick. It was a thigh.”
Nonetheless, throughout rookie minicamp and the three days of organized team activities, Reed has impressed coach Shanahan with his pass-catching and playmaking ability.
In taking a look back to look forward, one month ago coach Shanahan relayed his thoughts on drafting Reed and what he can bring to the team, according to Mike Jones of The Washington Post:
We took a look at Reed and he’s got a great ability to make people miss. When he’s got the ball in his hands, he can do things with the ball that is very athletic, something that a lot of tight ends can’t do. We weren’t necessarily looking for a tight end, but when he was there, we couldn’t pass him up.
He brings a lot of things to our football team that we didn’t have, that we don’t have, and now we get a chance to see what he can do.
Reed has the potential of making an immediate impact as a tight end with the possibility of starting ahead of Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul.
LB Brian Orakpo
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In one of the most anticipated returns to the Redskins defense is linebacker Brian Orakpo, who tore his pectoral muscle two weeks into the 2012 season. With his addition as a right, outside linebacker the defensive front presents an entirely different look.
In an interview with Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com on April 12, he shared his discomfort sitting on the sidelines last season nursing his injury.
"Sitting out was very uncommon for myself. But I have some huge goals for myself this year, some huge goals for this team. I’m ready to wreak havoc. I’m ready to get my crown back as far as putting hell to these quarterbacks in the NFC East and all over the NFL.”
Last week during OTAs, he described himself as "100 percent" and has been going through drills and full practices with the team.
Coach Shanahan has taken notice and likes what he sees:
“He’s had no setback at all. He’s been going full speed over the last four weeks. He looks as good as ever. Hopefully he can keep that up… Right now, you can tell it’s completely healed and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that there’s no setback.”
Orakpo couldn't be happier to be back, healthy and ready.
“I feel like I haven’t missed a beat at all," he told Jones of The Washington Post. "My footwork is there and getting better. Pass coverage, I’m getting better in that as well. So I feel good. I’ve worked extremely hard since September when I went down. I’m excited to be back out here.”
The return of Orakpo is very big, very exciting and his presence will be felt immediately.
CB David Amerson
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The Washington Redskins' first NFL draft pick in 2013, second-round selection cornerback David Amerson, set the tone and direction as to how the team was going to improve its defensive secondary that performed dismally last season.
During rookie minicamp and OTAs last week, he has shown signs of his strengths while at N.C. State—anticipation, good hands and stepping in front of passes. He has good instincts and an ability to stay with players whether he is in step or back-peddling.
His biggest asset is his interception potential as he led the NCAA in 2011 with 13 in a season, which is second most in a single season in college history.
During Week 1 of OTAs, Amerson spoke to CSNWashington.com and said he likes what he sees so far with the Redskins and the importance they place upon a strong secondary under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett:
"They definitely want the corners to make a lot of plays and definitely put you in a position to do so. I think that definitely fits me perfectly. I can get greedy at times and I like to make big plays and be a playmaker...I think we go hand and hand with each other."
Days after drafting Amerson, Coach Shanahan told the Associated Press he wasn't too concerned about the drop-off in interceptions the cornerback had last season, going from 11 to eight last season at N.C. State.
In an interview with the Associated Press shortly after the selection of Amerson, Shanahan suggested that DeAngelo Hall could be moved from cornerback to safety, leaving an open for Amerson to challenge for a starting job.
"He's going to fit in our system. We think he's got the athletic ability to make plays."
S Brandon Meriweather
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Another anticipated return to the Redskins secondary is safety Brandon Meriweather, who suffered multiple injuries to his left knee during the early part of last season. His injuries to his left knee healed properly, allowing him to return. His first game back in Week 11, he tore his right ACL.
In a May 1 interview with Jones of The Washington Post, Meriweather remained positive despite missing nearly all of last season.
“I’m trying to look at the big picture, and the big picture is [training camp],” Meriweather said. “I try to keep my expectations to day-by-day. That’s all I’m concerned with...I want to be back out there."
At last week's press conference, Coach Shanahan said he wants Meriweather back when the time is right.
“I think Brandon will be fine once we get to camp. The one thing you don’t want to do when somebody hurts his knee is get him going too quickly. Just let it heal and strengthen the muscles around the knee. Right now he looks pretty good.”
Meriweather participated in Week 1 OTAs with the squad of players recovering from injuries.
S Bacarri Rambo
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Safety Bacarri Rambo, another 2013 draftee selected and signed in the last month, has performed nicely in the defensive secondary during both rookie minicamp and OTAs.
At last Thursday's practice session, the only day media were allowed, Rambo made an interception after some miscommunication between QB Rex Grossman and his receivers. He had 16 interceptions while in college at Georgia and joins fellow rookies Amerson and Phillip Thomas as defensive "ball hawks."
Thomas led the NCAA last season with eight interceptions, while Amerson led in 2011 with 13.
Last week, when asked what is different at the professional level versus the collegiate level, Rambo explained to Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com the NFL is an error-free environment.
"Can't make no mistakes," he said without hesitation. "You've got to be good at your technique and just the small things what really count. You can't make no mistakes."
He would go on to explain the importance of knowing the plays on paper and on the field.
"You've got to know what everybody else is doing and just got to know your playbook, know your plays and just hustle to the ball."
When asked Thursday about the performance of his defensive draft picks, Coach Shanahan grouped them all together.
“Everybody looks good. You’d never admit somebody doesn’t look good anyhow [laughter]… But I like what we see. We’ve got some experience at the safety positions. We got a couple of safeties that have a lot of playing time."
DE Adam Carriker
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Lastly, the Redskins had only one player not participating at all during the first week of OTAs. Defensive end Adam Carriker, whose 2012 season ended early after he suffered a quad tendon tear in Week 2 requiring surgery. He then had an undisclosed setback to his recovery in mid-March.
Carriker spent part of Friday afternoon on his radio talk show, 4th and Pain, which airs on an all-sports FM radio station in Washington, DC. He described his prolonged and continued rehabilitation.
“I’m a little bit different on the aspect that I am inside rehabbing because that’s where I need to be for my rehab process. I need to be inside, I need to be working with a trainer one-on-one and just getting this thing stronger and ready to go for the season.”
Questions surrounding the level of readiness and ability to perform has not been discussed by Coach Shanahan. He only acknowledged Carriker's attendance at the voluntary practice sessions.
Carriker did provide his own assessment of Week 1 of organized team activities from a player's perspective.
“I believe things are going really well. They just finished up their first full week of practices, the team looks good. The schedule is a little bit different this year."
He finished by referencing RG3. "It’s nicer because you don’t have a rookie quarterback so you can tell the coaches have a little bit more trust in the players, they know what to expect a little more and the guys are looking good to me.”