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Redskins minicamp notebook, Day 2: Gruden sets exit plan; WIlliams 'very close'
BY BEN STANDIG | JUNE 13, 2018
REDSKINS PARK — The regular season is three months away and the Washington Redskins already made cuts.
Jay Gruden trimmed the three-day mandatory minicamp to two. The head coach pulls this routine most years. Perhaps this is the NFL equivalent of a parent telling their child they can go see “Incredibles 2” in the theater if they clean their bedroom knowing the tickets were already purchased. It remains a treat for the adult players who begin their final break before training camp earlier than scheduled. Maybe the early exit remained because the players polished off their work as hoped.
“I think it went great,” Gruden said Wednesday of the offseason workouts, which included a rookie minicamp and three weeks worth of Organized Team Activities (OTA). “Like I said the other day, the most important thing in my mind was to get these guys in great physical shape. … And then I wanted them to learn the system, try to get as much as we could installed. We did a great job of that I think so that when they come to training camp they are ready to roll. And then of course just getting to know each other so they can learn to play together and work together as a team. I think we accomplished what I set out to accomplish.”
Gruden, the players and the coaching staff will reconvene in Richmond for training camp, which kicks off July 26 at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins training center. The location is familiar. The times, they are a changin’.
Most of the morning sessions are slated to start at 9:45 with the afternoon version primarily set for 4:40. That’s earlier early and later late than previous years. Gruden did some homework on the matter following an injury-riddled 2017 campaign.
“Morning, I want to give them a full day to recover,” Gruden said Tuesday. “I kind of have been doing a little research here and I think we practice in the morning, we are off the field around noon and they get a nice lunch. We will meet and do some install and come back and have our walkthrough, then go back and meet and watch practice and the walkthrough. So, I think to give that full time for recovery, so they can drink a lot of fluids and take care of their bodies is important.”
Additional schedule tweaks come deeper in camp when the New York Jets visit for three days of joint practices. By then the Redskins will be well on their way to prepping for the regular season. Before the team broke for their break, Gruden implored his players to be ready the second camp opens.
“Progress. Progress, progress, progress. We can’t ‘de-gress,” Gruden said. “I think they’ve put themselves in a great situation to hit training camp in great shape. What we don’t want to have happen is these guys to go to the beach and drink a bunch of iced teas, whatever they do, and Cokes, and eat popcorn, and doughnuts and gain 20 pounds. Then we have to start all over, strip them back down and start all over. I don’t think that’ll happen. Everybody understands.”
That understanding is about professionalism and roster options.
“I think the beauty of this is everybody understands we have more depth here. We’re not going to really have time for you to get in shape. You better come in shape and compete for your job and compete to make this roster. Otherwise, we have a lot of guys here that can play, and I think they see that,” Gruden said.
The idea of playing shape for Trent Williams differs from his able-bodied teammates. The Pro Bowl left tackle did not participate in any of the spring sessions. He remains in recovery mode following offseason knee surgery. Williams revealed Wednesday the recovery is on track.
“I’m close. I’m very close,” he told reporters. “I got the go ahead to kind of do whatever I can without obviously being too aggressive on it. I’m extremely blessed. I’ll be ready before camp.”
The Redskins are down four tackles including the other starter, Morgan Moses, and key reserve Ty Nsekhe. The hope is all will be on the field at the start in Richmond. Simply being back with the team in Ashburn even as a glorified and massive-sized cheerleader helped Williams post-surgery.
“It’s cool. Obviously being around the team is uplifting because you’ve got a lot of guys, a lot of personalities. Never a dull moment,” he said. “Obviously the last five months I’ve been in a cave, just rehabbing, trying to get as close to the normal as possible. It’s my first time ever rehabbing from the surgery so I took it extremely seriously. Being back with these guys, it’s definitely uplifting.”
Part of why the first two sections in this notebook centered on essentially off-the-field matters is because Wednesday’s action wasn’t terribly compelling. Defensive linemen Anthony Lanier and Ondre Pipkins tussled at length at one point, making for an odd moment considering both play on the same side of the ball. Third-stringers, including quarterback Kevin Hogan received more work than usual as Washington moved practice indoors.
Training camp reps will exist for Hogan, but become more limited as the regular season nears.
“Yeah, we were back inside on the turf and I kind of haven’t given the threes a lot of reps, especially with Kevin Hogan. I wanted to give him a big lion’s share of the reps today and see what those guys can do so they felt confident coming into training camp with the knowledge that they have and be ready to perform,” Gruden said.
Hogan connected on a quality sideline throw to undrafted free agent receiver Cam Sims. Practice concluded with a touchdown pass to another roster hopeful, tight end Matt Flanagan.
“He’s done good. I like Kevin. He’s a smart kid and he’s got some deceiving escape ability to him. He can run a little bit. We saw one today, he popped out of there for about a 20-yard gain. I like where he’s at. It’s hard for those No. 3 guys to get the reps and for them to show what they really can do on a limited basis, but as far as being attentive and being a good quarterback in the meetings rooms and all that stuff, he’s been very, very good.”
Gruden singled out Sims and cornerback Danny Johnson as two long shots who have impressed in practices.
“Cam has stood out at wide receiver. I think Johnson stood out at corner. They have done some really good things,” Gruden said of the UDFA pair unprompted. “We have got a number of other guys that are trying to take advantage of a little bit of the reps the way they have.”
Before rookie minicamp in early May, a source told The Sports Capitol that Johnson, a slot corner option with 4.4 speed, could become a true roster candidate for the Redskins.
Ben Standig is a host, writer and co-founder of The Sports Capitol. This D.C. area native grew up rooting for all the local squads and dabbled in the professional media world after college before making a full shift to sports writing in 2005. Since, Ben has covered every team and big event in town for several outlets including the Associated Press, NBCWashington.com and Scout.com.