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Redskins Practice report, Day 19: Williams and Amerson return

Redskins Practice report, Day 19: Williams and Amerson return

RICHMOND—The Redskins got together for their final day of practice in front of the fans here (there will be a closed practice tomorrow). Here are my observations.

—OT Trent Williams was back to a full workload. So was CB David Amerson, who participated in individual drills on Saturday. Still out for the Redskins were TE Jordan Reed (hamstring), WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder), and WR Jamison Crowder (hamstring).

—TE Ernst Brun, who tried out after the morning walkthrough and signed before the afternoon practice, was out on the field for individual drills. He made a nifty one-handed catch during one of the sessions.

—There was a bit of comedy during the first part of full team work. Someone on the offensive line jumped early and the play was not run. As the offense went back to the huddle, S Duke Ihenacho picked up the ball and marched off the five-yard penalty. That put the ball right in the middle of the offensive huddle.

—The defensive coaches are fanatics about players chasing after any loose ball that is on the ground. A pass was overthrown and DB coach Perry Fewell yelled “Ball, ball, ball!” as the football skittered along in the grass. The idea is that players shouldn’t be referees. No harm can come from scooping up a loose football and you never know when a call might go your way.

—RB Matt Jones has played with an attitude ever since he arrived in Ashburn. Maybe some of it is rubbing off on RB Alfred Morris. No question, Morris has been a tough, hard runner ever since he came to town in 2012. But he seems to be developing a bit more of an edge, some feistiness he didn’t have before.

Robert Griffin III has not thrown many interceptions this summer but he had two during one red zone seven-on-seven series. One of them wasn’t his fault. His pass to Trey Williams was on the mark but the ball bounced out of the running back’s hands and was picked off by S Dashon Goldson. The second one was deflected by CB Justin Rogers and picked off by, again, Goldson. Griffin finally got the offense into the end zone with a pass to Jones, who found a soft spot in the defense just over the goal line.

—Before yesterday I had never seen a practice start in pads and end without them but the Redskins took off their full shoulder pads about an hour and a half into practice, about the same time they on Saturday. It’s not a bad idea for a team that is somewhat banged up but I’ve covered plenty of limping Redskins teams and I’ve never seen a practice conducted like that.

—After the pads came off, Griffin dropped back to pass. He had to step up in the pocket and he may have been sacked before he threw to WR Pierre Garçon on a deep crossing pattern. The pass was wobbly but Garçon made a nice catch for a good gain. A couple of plays later ILB Keenan Robinson got a hand on a Griffin pass from out of the pocket but WR Rashad Ross adjusted and made the catch.

—Later on with the second team offense on the field, RB Chris Thompson took a handoff on a draw and popped up the middle for a touchdown on third and goal at the five. He is quietly putting a lock on the third-down back job. It was his to lose coming into camp and he has done nothing to lose it.

—On a third and one from about the 40, Griffin couldn’t handle the snap, recovered, rolled out, and overthrew WR Andre Roberts in the end zone. Jay Gruden seemed to be particularly disappointed by this play. He had his hands on his knees and stared at the ground for several seconds after it was over.

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

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