1) Theabsent-minded head coach: It's all good now according to Mike Shanahan, but last Monday's accidentalcollision at practice with cornerback Brandyn Thompson that knocked the head coach to the ground also knocked him loopy for a time.Those guys didnt think I could take a hit at 59. I proved I can take a hit," Shanahan said during his Thursday post-practice press conference. "I did talk to the team afterward, which was about 10 minutes after I got hit. I do not remember the conversation I had with the team. I really dont. It took me probably about 20 minutes, 25 minutes, to recover because I hit my head pretty good on the turf. I was fine, really, about 20 minutes afterward. I was fine.Shanahan addedthat during his38 yearsroaming practice fields he's been pushedor brushed against a time or two, he's "never taken a shot like that.2) Participation report: I wrote about this here, but those who did not practice on Thursday included Leonard Hankerson (hip), Brian Orakpo (pectoral), Adam Carriker (foot blisters), Steven Bowen (knee), Jonathan Goff (knee) and running back Tim Hightower (knee surgery). Kory Lichtensteiger (knee) participated in individual and unit drills only. Barry Cofield and Tanard Jackson were both absent, but Shanahan said both were excused. During the two weeks of OTAs, Shanahan said, "Weve got 100 attendance. If a guy has missed, its been an excused absence.3) Random RG3 things: The latest sign the kid gets it came when he described his plan for rewarding his offensive lineman during the season. "My familys from New Orleans, Louisiana. I know how to cook beignets. For every no-sack victory, theyll get beignets and I think theyll love those. As for how the rookie is handling the second week of OTAs, I wrote about that over here.4) Safety dance: While there was plenty of mixing and matching with the first and second unit, Reed Doughty continues to primarily work with the reserves. As for the absent but excused Jackson, Shanahan said the original planwas forhim to return today. until it wasn't. "He was going to practice for the first day today, but over the last couple weeks with his shoulder and his legs, he wasnt ready to go. But hes approved to practice and he should be ready for tomorrow or Monday.5) Tight end watch, part one: Regarding Chris Cooley, Shanahan said, Hes been doing fine. No setback with his knee. I think he strained his groin a little bit two days ago, and hes fine today. Theres no swelling on the knee, no setback there. Thats a good sign because hes been working for the last few weeks pretty hard. Thats a positive sign.6) Tight end watch, part two: I'm always fascinated when someone wants to make declarations about player X having a breakout practice, especially this early in the process when nobody is wearing pads. My goal is toneverbe that guy.With that said, one player who did turn some heads was Niles Paulafter flashing his deep threat on multiple plays down field, including a scoring pass from Rex Grossman.In the modern NFL, having tight ends that are built and run like wide receivers isbecoming the norm so any indication that the second-year player can be that type of option is interesting. Seeing how he handles the blocking side of things when the pads do come out is another andarguably more important matter.7) Don't blame the pancake social: Orakpo did some individual and unitwork, but waskept off thefield during 11-on-11 drill because ofhis left pectoral muscle, which he originally injured late last season. "He kind of had it get pushed back a little bit," Shanahan said. "We did an MRI on it, and it was no problem. It was just a little bit sore, probably some scar tissue in there from the surgery. We just kept him out of team drills, but he did all individual drills so he should be fine.8) Offensive line: Another practice, another day talking about Jammal Brown's yoga habits. Fine, the media were the one's asking the questions about it, but they came up after he practiced with the first unit at right tackle. Both the player and head coach continue to believe yoga is indeed helping the flexibility in his surgically repaired let hip. Let's see where we are with this in training camp, which is when Lichtensteiger believes he will be active practice participant. With Lichtensteiger sitting out during team drills, Tyler Polumbuslinedup at left guard with the first unit.9) Brian Banks: Shanahan said he called and spoke with Banks, aformer USC linebacker recruit who had his football career cut short in 2002when he plead no contest to a schoolmate's false accusation of rape at the age of 17. Banks spent his next five years in a jail cell and is now seeking an opportunity in the NFL. One is expected to come next week when he visits Redskins Park for a workout. "I think when somebody goes through the situation that he went through, he deserves an opportunity to try out for somebody," Shanahan said. "This kid deserves a chance."
The Redskins do not have what anyone would call a dominant defense. They are last in the league in rushing defense, allowing 5.0 yards per carry. Despite recent improvement they still are 30th in the league in opposition third-down conversions. But, somehow, they have managed to keep the opposing team out of the end zone in the second half of each of their last four games and have allowed only one touchdown in their last 10 quarters.
One of the things that they are doing right is not allowing many big plays. They have given up only four plays that gained 30 yards or more. Only the Vikings, who have one of the top defenses in the league, have allowed fewer such plays.
To compare, there have been 277 plays of 30+ yards this year, so the average team has given up 8.6 long plays this year. Last year through six games the Redskins had given up 13 long plays.
Last Sunday in the fourth quarter the Eagles’ Carson Wentz threw to Jordan Matthews for 54 yards. That was first play to gain more than 50 yards against the Redskins all year. The Patriots are now the only team that has not given up a 50+ yard play.
Taking away the long play forces offenses to steadily drive down the field. Each snap in a drive increases the possibility of a drive-killing mistake like a penalty, a dropped pass, or a turnover.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry had a simple explanation for the team’s ability to take away what he calls explosive play.
“When we have gotten hurt it's because of missed tackles, we've talked about that especially in the run game,” he said. “We preach, let's not beat ourselves. Let's not give them anything, make them earn everything.”
Another factor has been an improved secondary, the last line of defense.
“We've been very consistent not only have good young players but also veteran guys that understand football,” said Barry. “Even though Will Blackmon is playing a new position, he's played a lot of football. Same thing with Donte [Whitner] coming in here, brand new to the system, he's still hearing things on a daily basis that are still new to him but he's a football player. He's played a ton of football, so that helps in that regard.”
In addition to the field position gained, big plays are often momentum swingers. If the Redskins can keep preventing other teams from getting explosive plays they can go a long way towards becoming a solid unit.
After joining the team for practice on Wednesday, star tight end Jordan Reed did not hit the field for the Redskins on Thursday. More puzzling, neither did DeSean Jackson.
Dealing with a concussion sustained two weeks ago while playing the Ravens, few expect Reed to play this Sunday against the Lions, though head coach Jay Gruden did not rule out the possibility. Reed has sustained a number of concussions, at least six, dating back to his college days at the University of Florida and Gruden said the earliest he could be cleared for action would be Friday by an independent doctor.
Jackson missed practice on Wednesday, which was not a surprise, with a shoulder injury. At various times this season Jackson has gotten days off for various ailments. That happens in the NFL, often labeled a veteran's day off.
Missing a second day of practice carries a different level of significance, even if both Gruden and Jackson do not seem worried about the shoulder.
"I think he’s sore," Gruden said Wednesday of Jackson. "I think he’ll be okay, I hope."
Jackson told reporters on Wednesday, "I'll be ready to go on Sunday."
The Redskins proved capable of moving the ball without Reed - piling up nearly 500 yards of total offense against the Eagles last week. But not having Jackson and Reed would be a serious hurdle for the offense, and while it's unlikely to be the case for the Lions, that scenario unfolded Thursday.
Check back later for updates after Gruden addresses the media.
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