Synaptic Shotgun: Washington Redskins Camp Impressions, Aug. 10, 2010
Caught practice today with my son. It doesn't get much better.
For a recap of the day's drills and other action, check out Gary Fitzgerald's practice recap on Redskins.com. Man does a great job of tracking the who's who and what's what, particularly when it comes to the 11-on-11 stuff you really want to hear about.
Some broader, more subjective thoughts and observations for your consideration:
It's not the military-style atmosphere you might expect given all the hard-ass characterizations we've heard all year about Mike Shanahan.
Don't misunderstand, it's professional—the players jog from drill to drill, there's no horsing around, things move along with deliberate precision—but you don't walk away thinking you have stumbled on a Marty Schottenheimer camp. Or even a Joe Gibbs camp for that matter. Camp Shanahan is surprisingly low-key.
I like the idea of coaches treating players like pros. I like the idea of the team not beating itself all the hell up before they even get on the preseason field against someone in another color uniform. If I do have one (slightly nagging) question, it's whether or not they will be the kind of team that can flip the proverbial switch and go from three-quarters camp speed to game speed at the whistle.
We won't know that for a while, of course. We may get a little taste Friday night in the preseason opener, but we won't really begin to find out if this is that kind of team until the live bullets start flying Sunday night on Sept. 12 against the Dallas Cowboys.
If you have watched the Redskins closely for any length of time, you know that for about the last generation their defensive modus operandi has not exactly been of the look-out, hair-on-fire variety. Well, no more.
With the brief exception of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' first year here in 2004, what you see brewing on the field at Redskins Park this fall is the most free-flowing, loose, and aggressive defense since Richie Petitbon and crew blew the minds of the poor Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.
Jim Haslett's defense is nasty. Guys line up everywhere. They smokescreen constantly, dancing and moving before the snap. And they come on every play. In preseason. At training camp. Against their own people. This is going to be very, very different.
There will be mistakes, of course—there are too many new assignments, substitution packages, and post-snap adjustments to expect otherwise. But there's also going to be havoc in the plus column.
Guys are going to spring clean to the quarterback, something Redskins fans have seen so little of over the past several years that most have forgotten what it looks like. There will be running backs blown up behind the line—LaRon Landry started today's 11-on-11 drill with such a hit two yards deep, shooting a gap and laying the lumber on a startled Ryan Torain, who had just received Donovan McNabb's handoff.
And there will be quarterbacks laid out.
The big question early on—and this is something I will be mentioning again as we proceed through preseason and the Redskins get ready to face Dallas—as the new defense gels and guys get used to the rhythms and adjustments will be whether or not the havoc they create against the other guys is enough to offset the mistakes that this kind of high-risk, high-reward approach necessarily brings.
Regardless, one thing is clear. It's a new Redskins defensive day.
He may be the perfect backup quarterback for this team. The man seems perfectly comfortable in the offense, throws an accurate and timely ball, and oh yeah, happened to quarterback a 13-3 conference champion.
Yes, he's thrown some meathead interceptions in his career. It's why he's now a quiet backup on a team coming off 4-12. But the man also has the physical chops to be a legitimate NFL quarterback. What he needs is fine-tuning between the ears. Intriguingly, these Redskins happen to be stocked with Coach Shanahans.
Quarterbacks tend to play pretty well for Shanahans. Don't sleep on Rex.
As much as anything, what stands out at this camp is something that doesn't. For the past several seasons Portis has been the focal point of this team, both on the field, where he was their best offensive player, and off the field, where he was their biggest mouth best quote and most likely to call attention to himself. Not so in Camp Shanahan 2010.
Portis was on the field today, as he has been all camp. He took part in all the drills, looked fit and focused, and didn't seem any less the wear for the concussion that effectively ended his 2009 season. Sometimes the non-story is the story.
Larry Johnson looks big, fast, and ready to play. Clinton Portis looks ready to remind everyone that before he became a media vortex, he was one damn fine running back.
No way to avoid it. The man represents something the Redskins have not had in a generation—a Pro Bowl-level quarterback still at or near the top of his game.
Some will tell you that at 33 his best football is behind him. Maybe so.
But watching him run the offense today—directing traffic, confident, on time, in charge—if the vibe I caught was any indication, Redskins fans are about a month away from seeing the difference that putting a legitimate big-time NFL quarterback on the field makes.
Until then, it's all just words.
WASHINGTON vs. BUFFALO: Friday, August 13, 2010, 7:30 pm
Less than 72 hours.
Just wanted to see it in print.
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