Washington Redskins Rookie Training Camp Progress Reports
Amidst the build-up of the NFL draft, it's become practice for incoming draft picks to be overhyped. Blinded by highlights of their exploits in college, fans are quick to anoint these players as saviors or starters.
Then training camp starts, and the players realize that they're not in college anymore. For the Washington Redskins' eight-player 2014 draft class, this is a reality that's hit home.
Despite the team's 3-13 record a season ago, there aren't ample opportunities to garner playing time for these rookies. And even in the event there was, few have proven ready for it.
With a new playbook, the speed of the NFL game and the competition just to make the team, how are the Redskins' rookies handling these pressures?
Let's find out. Here are the training camp progress reports for Washington's rookies.
LB Trent Murphy
Washington's second-round pick, Trent Murphy, will have the benefit of being eased into the team's rotation at linebacker. With the presence of Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, unlike most team's first picks, there isn't an inordinate amount of pressure on Murphy to produce.
Even with that said, thus far in training camp, Murphy has prepared as if his number will be called often come game day.
In a quick synopsis that Liz Clarke of The Washington Post gathered from Murphy's coaches and teammates, this much was made clear.
"He reports to practice early. He has the playbook nearly committed to memory. He’s quick for a big man, and a quick study on matters of technique," Clarke said.
The NCAA's sack leader in 2013, with 15, Clarke's last tidbit is crucial for Murphy as he transitions from college to the NFL.
No longer a man among boys, Murphy's physical ability alone isn't going to get him to his ultimate destination, the quarterback. Discipline and technique will have to be hallmarks of his game if he's to succeed.
On a touchdown pass Murphy played a part in surrendering during practice, this was evident. In comments he made to Lake Lewis Jr. of SportsJourney.com, head coach Jay Gruden highlighted his mistake.
"But you know, he lost contain on one play today which cost us a 70-yard touchdown scramble throw. So there’s some things that has [sic] to improve on himself," he said.
With Orakpo's injury history and pending free agency, it's an improvement the Redskins hope to see sooner rather than later.
OT Morgan Moses
The latest prized offensive tackle prospect to leave the University of Virginia, Morgan Moses was eyed as a steal when he slipped to Washington in the third round of the draft. ESPN's Todd McShay viewed him as a first-round talent who merely slipped through the cracks, (via ESPN's John Keim).
So it came as no surprise when many, such as Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz, envisioned Moses as Tyler Polumbus' replacement at right tackle.
Judging from his performance thus far in camp, Moses will have to make significant strides to accomplish this feat.
Outlining what he's seen from Moses during camp, Jason Reid of The Washington Post didn't give the rookie glowing reviews:
One thing was clear on the first day of training camp: It figures to be a long time before rookie right tackle Morgan Moses will be ready to contribute. Redskins officials hope the third-round pick from Virginia eventually will replace starting right tackle Tyler Polumbus, but Moses has no idea what he’s doing out there.
During Thursday’s first session, Moses, instead of getting to his spot and finishing his blocks, was too indecisive on running plays. He often seemed equally uncertain in pass protection.
While lumping in some praise in his critique of Moses, per NBC29's Wolfe Gohlke, Gruden, too, alluded that the rookie has a ways to go in his development.
"He's done a good job. I think he still has a long way to go with his aiming points and some of the protections, but we love his length," Gruden said.
With Moses needing to refine his game, the onus will again fall on Polumbus to protect Griffin.
Although he, and every offensive lineman not named Trent Williams, struggled to do this last season, a more agile Griffin should be able to mask his deficiencies.
A free agent after the season, Polumbus' departure should pave the way for Moses to start in 2015.
G Spencer Long
The team's second third-round pick, Spencer Long, like Moses, has had his troubles adjusting to the NFL game.
Long has had stints where he's been overpowered by defenders during camp. This was a sentiment that Mike Jones of The Washington Post touched on:
It continues to look as if rookie guard Spencer Long’s biggest problem is matching the strength of his more established counterparts.
The Nebraska product proved no match for Kedric Golston in one-on-one drills as Golston, a ninth-year pro, fired off the ball, smacked Long upside the head, knocking him backward, and then barreled on by to get into the backfield.
In comments he made to ESPN.com's John Keim, Long discussed differences between the college and pro game that he's picked up:
They put a lot more responsibilities on you as a lineman to figure it out on the run. In college it was more definitive. You have to learn what to look at and what to key. If this guy comes, you have him but if he doesn’t you have [someone else]. It’s a different game, and it takes more experience and a lot more vision than it did in college.
Blocked by veteran Chris Chester at guard, Long actually has a easier hurdle to jump than Moses to enter the starting lineup.
While he's been praised for his technique by Keim, Long also has the added benefit of going against a player in Chester that the team has financial incentive to move on from.
Due to make $3 million this season, according to Spotrac, Chester's ouster would net the team $2.7 million in cap space.
A small amount of money in the big picture, Chester's salary still could tip the scales in Long's favor if he were engaged in a close battle for the starting gig.
With the first preseason game on the horizon, if Long can limit his miscues and play close to Chester's level, he very well could open the season as Washington's starting right guard.
CB Bashaud Breeland
While the Redskins' poor pass defense last season would lead you to believe otherwise, the top of the team's depth chart at cornerback is all but set.
David Amerson and DeAngelo Hall are expected to start, with new acquisition Tracy Porter slated to be the team's nickelback.
So where and when does fourth-round pick Bashaud Breeland enter the picture, you ask?
Well, special teams is a start. One of the NFL's worst special teams units last season, part of the allure of drafting Breeland for Washington, aside from his potential, was his ability to play special teams.
In comments he made to ESPN.com's John Keim, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett expressed this. "In the meantime he'll be a great special teams player when needed," he said.
On the defensive front, Breeland's physical nature makes him an ideal candidate to cover the slot, albeit as the No. 4 corner. While Breeland has the tools to contribute more, he'll have to further eradicate his tendency to hold receivers, as Keim notes:
In the spring Breeland was way too grabby, not just incidental contact but rather he was always grabbing receivers on routes. But he's not doing that anymore. He did get called for one holding penalty Thursday, but that's different than holding or grabbing every play.
Additionally, as Haslett relayed to Keim, Breeland will have to garner a better understanding of different coverages.
In an interview with Stephen Czarda of Redskins.com, Breeland discussed this learning experience.
“They help me a lot, because you have to come in and compete and they can expose you. They also teach you while competing against you at the same time," he said.
In light of Porter's standing as a career NFL journeyman and Hall's age, the opportunity should arrive in the near future for Breeland to take on a more integral role in Washington's secondary.
WR Ryan Grant
While signing Jackson and Andre Roberts alleviated the team's need for a receiver, fifth-round pick Ryan Grant has thus far justified the draft pick the Redskins spent on him.
Not the fastest or most physically imposing receiver you'll see, the 6'0" Grant has still managed to impress his teammates and coaches with his play in camp.
In comments relayed to Brandon Parker of The Washington Post, Gruden touched on the impression Grant's left him with.
“Every rookie handles [their first training camp] differently. Some rookies are basket cases, some are cool, calm and collected. Ryan Grant looks like he’s been here for ten years. He’s handled it perfectly," he said.
Aldrick Robinson, a wideout competing with Grant for a roster spot, echoed a similar sentiment to Stephen Czarda of Redskins.com.
"You've got Ryan Grant, he's looking like he a four-year like I have you know," he said.
Even amidst all this praise, though, Grant has his faults. As ESPN.com's John Keim notes, Grant's lack of size and strength hinders his ability to beat press coverage.
Looking at the depth Washington has at receiver, with the likes of Moss, Grant, Robinson, Leonard Hankerson and Nick Williams all vying for a spot, the reality is that a talented wideout won't make the team.
For that receiver not to be Grant, he'll have to parlay the success he's had in practice to actual games.
RB Lache Seastrunk
Targeted as a potential third-down back and return man, Lache Seastrunk is in unchartered territory. A productive runner during his collegiate career, Seastrunk is short on experience when it comes to returning kicks and catching passes.
Seastrunk only caught nine passes and returned one kick at Baylor. Be that as it may, Seastrunk's place on the Redskins hinges on his ability to excel at either skill.
With the Redskins' unofficial depth chart (via HogHunter of SB Nation's Hogs Haven) not listing Seastrunk as a returner and not featuring him as one of the team's top four running backs, he's not off to a good start.
Speaking to Stephen Czarda of Redskins.com, Seastrunk acknowledged that he has work to do as a receiver.
"...Just catch passes – it’s nothing new. I feel like I have great hands, but I still have a lot to work on, and I still have a lot to learn,” he said.
In his write-up of one training camp practice, Jones illuminated a play that captures Seastrunk's struggles:
Today served as a reminder, as Cousins swung the ball out to his left – but still behind the line – to Seastrunk. The back couldn’t hold onto the ball and slapped his helmet with both hands and got ready to run back to the huddle before Gruden yelled, “Get on the ball!”
Because it wasn’t a forward pass, it was a live ball. Two defenders dived at the ball, as did Seastrunk, but it squirted out of bounds before linebacker Adrian Robinson scooped it up.
Diagnosing the team's third-down back battle, Keim cited inconsistent pass protection and dropped passes in his report on Seastrunk.
At this juncture, it's going to take some stellar performances in games just for him to make the team.
TE Ted Bolser
Being that he's a seventh-round pick, Ted Bolser was already facing an uphill climb just to make the Redskins.
Behind the likes of Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen and Jordan Reed on Washington's unofficial depth chart, via SB Nation's Hogs Haven, Bolser will have a tough go at distinguishing himself on offense, as well. This leaves special teams as his golden ticket.
As luck would have it, his play on this unit has already stood out to Gruden.
"Ted is a good special team player as well as a tight end. (What) really kind of sticks out (is) he runs down on kickoff like a war daddy. He is a fun guy to watch running down on kicks,” he said, per Stephen Czarda of Redskins.com.
Still, with Paul's prowess on special teams, barring the team keeping four tight ends, it may not be enough for Bolser to garner a roster spot.
With Paul set to be a free agent in 2015, look for Washington to stash Bolser on its practice squad and groom him as Paul's replacement.
K Zach Hocker
It's not often that you can point to a player's selection in the seventh round and claim it bolsters his chances of making any NFL team.
But in regard to kicker Zach Hocker, that is the case.
With Justin Tucker and Adam Vinatieri as living proof, a glance at the top kickers from last season illustrates that teams in need of kickers don't have to draft them.
Sought out because of his leg strength, Hocker has outperformed Kai Forbath on multiple occasions during camp. In his observation of one practice, ESPN.com's John Keim documented the battle between the two:
Not a good day for Forbath, who hit each upright when attempting field goals later in the day, from 34 and 40 yards. Meanwhile, rookie Zach Hocker hit from 35, 41 and 54 yards – all down the middle. Forbath’s 53-yarder was a low liner; Hocker’s was a deep drive.
While preseason games will be the true barometer, Hocker has positioned himself to win the job if he maintains his steady play.