6 Biggest Takeaways from the Washington Redskins' OTAs
Organized team activities (OTAs) are the first look at the makings of the rosters for the season to come. The Washington Redskins wrapped up their first round of OTAs, making a smooth transition from the previous coaching regime to the current one.
Even though much of what we see during these weeks has little bearing on the final product, it is exciting to see a little bit of football action during the offseason.
New names and faces such as DeSean Jackson and Trent Murphy have yet to make an impact on the field, while Robert Griffin III has yet to show just how healthy he is. With so much that can and will happen over the next few months, there is a lot that needs to be taken with a grain of salt at this point in time.
Nevertheless, here are some of the biggest takeaways from the Redskins' OTAs thus far.
Robert Griffin III Is Healthy
It may seem like such a simple thing, but consider that Griffin hasn't been healthy since December 2012, when he first injured his knee. Offseason surgery, a rushed return and lingering discomfort with the bulky brace led to a poor showing in 2013.
Now, over one year removed from his second knee surgery, Griffin can focus on football rather than recovery.
Griffin spent time this offseason, as ESPN.com's John Keim reports, working on his mechanics, refining his throwing motion to get the ball out quicker.
It has been an ongoing process, and it is only in practices, but Griffin has been more consistent with his mechanics thus far. The arm strength will always be there, but once the finer points and subtle changes to his motions become second nature, he'll be much closer to the 2012 RGIII than the 2013 version.
Injuries Have Not and Will Not Stop Keenan Robinson
After seeing his first two NFL seasons end due to pectoral tears, inside linebacker Keenan Robinson is finally getting his chance to prove he's the perfect successor to future Hall of Famer London Fletcher, who retired at the end of the 2013 season.
During OTAs, Robinson was lining up next to Perry Riley as part of the starting defense, which shows he's ahead of offseason additions Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan.
Despite not seeing the field much during his first two seasons, Robinson is familiar with the terminology and calls on defense. CSNWashington.com's Tarik Al-Bashir reports that Robinson is "used to it. It’s the same defense, same calls.”
What Robinson brings that may have been lacking during Fletcher's tenure is size, which translates to being able to cover tight ends. An area Fletcher did not excel in.
Versatility May Actually Matter This Season
In seasons past, coaches have stressed versatility for their players, particularly on defense. That versatility included knowing multiple positions, being able to fill in if necessary or be a part of specific packages.
Under Mike Shanahan, versatility was just a word thrown around, possibly to mask the overwhelming lack of reliable players. Under Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, players who can move around the field will be utilized.
The front seven is where this is most apparent, where you have three excellent pass-rushing outside linebackers in Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy. The trio played with their hands in the dirt in college and may see a little action back in the trenches this season.
Along the line, Jarvis Jenkins, Jason Hatcher, Chris Baker, Chris Neild and eventually Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen, once healthy, will provide excellent depth and the potential for an intriguing rotation.
Tanard Jackson and Phillip Thomas Are Factors at Safety
Tanard Jackson has one last chance to make an impact as a member of the Washington Redskins, and by all accounts he is physically and mentally prepared to do so. That said, he hasn't been taking any snaps with the starters and isn't likely to do much more than back up Ryan Clark until the 'Skins can trust him.
At the very least, he provides talented and experienced relief for Clark should his age finally catch up to him.
Phillip Thomas, who missed his rookie season after suffering a Lisfranc tear, is back up to speed and is showing a bit of what made the Redskins draft him in 2013.
Brandon Meriweather is the projected starter and is returning to his natural position at strong safety. That said, he was only signed for one season, which means Washington expects Thomas to either overtake Meriweather at some point in the season or prove he is a long-term solution in their secondary.
DeSean Jackson's Hamstring Was the Biggest Story
Considering the turmoil that took place beginning at the end of the 2012 season and extending through the end of the 2013 season, a pulled hamstring almost feels like good news from OTAs.
Granted, it is DeSean Jackson, and the hope is that it is just a minor pull with no lingering side effects, but a minor injury beats backbiting and a player/coach disconnect any day.
Last week, during the first session of OTAs, Jackson suffered a pulled hamstring that he described as "just a little tight," according to The Washington Post's Jason Reid.
Since then, he hasn't been limited in terms of participation. He's been working in drills and continuing to build chemistry with teammates, RGIII in particular.
If this is the worst that it gets, this offseason should be a breath of fresh air for players, fans and coaches.
Knock on wood.
The Offense Looks Scary
As much as it pains me to say it, because harping on the "on paper" appearance of a team during OTAs is absurd, the offense has the look of an elite unit from a personnel standpoint.
RGIII is healthy, he's got an explosive pair of receivers in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, a bright young tight end in Jordan Reed, a 1,000-yard back in Alfred Morris and a head coach who likes to spread the field.
While the offensive line is still a work in progress, if the offensive scheme compensates for the shortcomings, there is no reason why the 2014 offense shouldn't rival or outperform the surprising 2012 offense that was one of the highest-scoring offenses in the NFL that year.