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Redskins training camp practice report, Day 3

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Redskins training camp practice report, Day 3

RICHMOND—The Redskins took the field in pads for the first time in front of the largest crowd of the week. Here are some of the highlights of the practice.

—As they have every day so far, the Redskins started out with special teams. Among those returning punts were Rashad Ross, Trey Williams, Andre Roberts, and Jamison Crowder.

—I thought the rotation they used at the key punt team personal protector job was interesting. Niles Paul, who had the job last year, split snaps with two guys who are likely to be starting at safety, Dashon Goldson and Jeron Johnson. It’s an important spot and it’s not unusual for teams to have a front-line player handling it.

—Robert Griffin III was on target in some one-on-one coverage drills. On one play Quinton Dunbar shook off Chris Culliver on an out pattern and Griffith hit him on the sideline. He also hit Garcon on a deep down and in. That makes twice in two days that Dunbar has managed to get free from high-dollar free agent Culliver.

—A bit later in team drills Griffin felt some pressure, scrambled to his left, reset and completed a short pass to Alfred Morris. A year ago in camp it is likely that Griffin would either have been frozen and taken a sack or would have taken off running.

—We saw some good power running by Matt Jones right up the gut. There appeared to be no hole but Jones burrowed for about 10 yards.

—I think that the defense is trying to send a message to Jones. He was a little too rough in the no-pads OTAs. Perry Riley and Kyshoen Jarrett both gave Jones good shots.

—Kirk Cousins isn’t known for operating on the move but he did it nicely on one play. After a play fake he rolled to his right and hit Andre Roberts with a strike for a good gain.

—On Thursday, Silas Redd made a nice run but it was ruined when Duke Ihenacho punched the ball out from behind. Today Redd made another nice run and Ihenacho again tried to knock the ball out. This time, though, Redd was aware of the defender and had the ball in his left arm, away from Ihenacho. His punches were futile.

—Terrace Knighton blew through Kory Lichtensteiger on a one-on-one pass protection drill. It should be noted that these drills favor the defense. Even given that, Steiger will need help against big, athletic nose tackles. Fortunately there aren’t too many like Knighton out there.

—In the latter part of practice, it looked like things were getting ragged as Griffin took a sack and then the offense had to re-huddle after going to the line. But Griffin made up for it with a sharp pass to Roberts.

—Jamison Crowder told me yesterday that his game is based on quickness more than on speed. That may be true but he sure looked like one of the fastest players on the field when he took an end around handoff and zipped around left side for a nice chunk of yardage.

—Team drills finished off with a two-minute drill. Griffin we five for five, all fairly short passes. He did take a sack when Ryan Kerrigan and Keenan Robinson got into the backfield.

—At the end of practice the entire team has been lining up along the sideline from end zone to end zone for some stretching and then a run across the field. I suppose it should be called more of a jog and many players are nearly walking the last five yards or so. It’s not a great look.

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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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