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Redskins rookie camp practice report--afternoon session

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Redskins rookie camp practice report--afternoon session

The Redskins finished up the open portion of their 2015 rookie camp under mostly cloudy skies in Ashburn. In my report from this morning’s session I focused primarily on the offense. Here is a look at their afternoon session (which was shortened somewhat by impending storms) with a focus on the defense.

—Kyshoen Jarrett lined up at both free and strong safety. He showed some good instincts at free but he’s a step too slow.

—Preston Smith is very active when the ball is snapped. On one snap from right OLB he got to the middle of the line fast enough to clog up a quick-hitting inside run. On a pass he charged in and nearly was in position to knock down a pass that was thrown to the defensive left side (another defender did bat it down). It should be noted that this was in shorts and helmets against an offense mostly comprised of players who will never play a down in the NFL. But it was fun to see such an active defender who probably will take snaps all over the defensive front.

—Martrell Spaight was in at inside linebacker and dropped back in coverage. The pass went deep over his head and tight end Je’Ron Hamm caught it. It didn’t look like Spaight should have been that deep but he did something wrong because Joe Barry gave him an earful. “That's a hard lesson to learn, Spaight,” the defensive coordinator yelled as he jogged back towards the huddle. “That's a hard lesson to learn.” Perhaps he needed to get a jam on the tight end but whatever it was made Barry very unhappy.

—Tryout linebacker Abraham Kromah out of Duke made a nice play on a quick out pass intended for undrafted free agent tight end Devin Mahina. Kromah timed his move well and knocked the ball down before the tight end could get his hands on it. Mahina perhaps could have had a shot at the ball if he had come back to it a bit and used his body to shield off the defender.

—I won’t swear that Tevin Mitchel played exclusively at slot corner but I didn’t see him line up anywhere else. He was good in coverage and blitzed on occasion. Now that we know what his role is we can see how well he performs it.

—They broke out into special teams drills about 45 minutes into the session. Rasheed Ross, Reggie Bell, and Jamison Crowder fielded punts. Tryout punter Keith Kostol out of Oregon State put them through a good workout, booming some punts with good hang time. He got some congratulations from other special teamers as he came off the field.

—The camp ends tomorrow; the rookies will convene at Redskins Park for film work and meetings.

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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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