Before the Redskins offseason program gets too far in the rear view mirror, lets take a look back at what we saw, which was three OTAs and two minicamp practices, and see what we learned.Keep in mind the usual caveats here, that the workouts are held with no contact in helmets and shorts while the actual games are played in full pads with a lot of contact. And, because there are no pads and more contact you can tell a lot more about defensive backs and offensive skill positions than you can about other players, soHere are some takeaways, in no particular order.The competition for backup cornerback spots will be fierce. I thought this going in but it became more apparent every day that there is some talent vying for jobs there. One day Richard Crawford was flying around knocking down passes, the next week it was Chase Minnifield. And it was apparent that Kevin Barnes isnt going to give up his job without a fight. It looks like those players plus Brandyn Thompson and Morgan Trent will be battling it out for two, maybe three roster spots behind DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, and Cedric Griffin.The depth at running back is shaky. That is not so much in terms of talent but in terms of health. By the end of camp sixth-round pick Alfred Morris had to take a majority of the snaps as Tim Hightower, Roy Helu Jr., and Evan Royster all were spectators due to injuries. Perhaps this is one of those situations where they would have been in there if it was the regular season but there still is some concern. Availability will be the watchword at this position in 2012.Robert Griffin III has a long way to go. He has come a long way but that is just a start. It takes time, reps and more reps until the mind believes and can break down what the eyes see. Until what takes place in the classroom meshes with what he sees on the field, RG3 will have good and bad plays and good and bad days. He had his share of both in May and June.Pierre Garon will make your jaw drop several times this season. The Redskins really havent had a receiver who can make one-handed stabs of the ball on a regular basis in quite some time. Garon is one of those guys who can do that. His one-handed grab in the end zone during minicamp was the highlight play of the spring. Certainly, it is much more important for Garon to be productive from play to play than it is for him to make circus catches. Still, fans should get some thrills along the way in any case.Dont be surprised if Aldrick Robinson is a surprise player. Or something like that. With no offseason program to prepare last year, Robinson looked overwhelmed in training camp. He was so unsure of himself that his speed never was on display. That changed this year and Robinson has a good shot at making the roster and contributing.Neil Rackers and Graham Gano will battle for the kicker spot until the final cuts. It looks like Rackers is better from short distance and gets good height on his kicks. Gano can hit from a longer distant but he is inconsistent from short range and his low kicks are prone to being blocked. The early prediction here is that Gano hangs on but I wouldnt bet a dime on it.
Last fall, Vernon Davis scored a touchdown in a Redskins win over the Eagles. Immediately following, he used the football in place of a basketball and made a jump shot over the cross bar. It was a cool, spontaneous celebration for his second TD of the season.
Seconds later, a penalty flag hit the ground. Davis was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for using the ball as a prop. In a league with a tremendous amount of awful penalties, it ranked as one of the worst of the season.
The good news? In 2017, Davis' celebration will no longer draw a flag.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell penned a letter explaining the changes:
We are relaxing our rules on celebrations to allow players more room to have fun after they make big plays. We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown. And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements.
In a league committed to Thursday Night Football - which both players and fans dislike - as well as archaic policies on social media and substance abuse, this is a rare, positive development.
It's okay to let players have a little fun, show some personality. Goodell made clear that lewd celebrations would still be flagged, and that's reasonable. Using the ball as a prop, however, shouldn't be. Now, it won't.
Did Davis break the NFL? Probably not, though his penalty is often the first thing people point to when discussing the absurdity of the ball as a prop rule.
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Jay Gruden is going into his fourth season as the Redskins’ head coach. If there is one thing he has learned, it is the nature of his team’s fan base.
He was asked if he would need to be patient, getting the team’s defense, which will have as many as six new starters and several other key contributors who are new to the organization, to play well as a unit.
“I don’t think patience is in the dictionary here in D.C.,” Gruden said. “We have to be good now. We were 9-7 two years ago, 8-7-1 last year. I think the expectations are high and they’re always going to be high in this area and we have to perform.”
I’m not sure that most fans expect a Super Bowl win this year. But they do expect progress towards one and a slow start that results in the team being irrelevant after Thanksgiving will not be acceptable.
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Gruden does have a tall task to get the defense to be effective quickly.
“We have a new defensive coordinator, new defensive line coach, new secondary coach,” he said. “We have some new players on defense, some free agent acquisitions, some draft picks. They’re going to have to learn on the fly and learn to play together, which is going to be the biggest challenge for us.”
Greg Manusky replaced Joe Barry as the defensive coordinator. They brought in Jim Tomsula to coach the defensive line and put Torrian Gray in charge of the secondary. Among the players expected to start or contribute heavily are free agents DL Stacy McGee, DL Terrell McClain, ILB Zach Brown and S D.J. Swearinger and draft picks DL Jonathan Allen and OLB Ryan Anderson.
The Redskins have added multiple free agents to their defense in the past with mixed, mostly negative results. But things don’t have to take long to gel. The Giants had one of the league’s worst defenses in 2015 but with a few free agency additions and with the help of 2015 draft pick Landon Collins suddenly blossoming into one of the best safeties in the game they were one of the best last year.
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The main thing that the Redskins defense has to avoid this year is taking a step back. The team has gone 17-14-1 over the last two years with a defensive unit that ranked from mediocre to bad in most key categories. If they can start off performing like a team in the lower middle of the pack defensively and improve as the year goes on the team should be able to be in the mix in December. Despite also dealing with some changes, the offense should be able to carry the team until the defense can get its act together.