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Redskins Under Wraps.

Redskins Under Wraps.

The Washington Redskins released the schedule of training camp practices that are open to the public. You can find it several places online, but I’ll copy it below. Really, it’s no problem. It’s not like it takes up much space.

Monday, August 1--4:00 PM Practice
Tuesday, August 2--4:00 PM Practice
Wednesday, August 3--8:30 AM Practice
Thursday, August 4--4:00 PM Practice
Friday, August 5--4:00 PM Practice
Monday, August 8--4:30 PM Practice
Tuesday, August 9--4:30 PM Practice
Thursday, August 11--8:30 AM Practice

Assuming that each practice lasts about two hours, that’s 16 hours of training camp over a 12-day period that are open to the public. If that doesn’t seem like a lot, that’s because it’s not. Compare that to the Cowboys’ open training camp schedule . I really don’t want to post that here as it would take up a lot of room to post the details of the 70 hours of camp that their fans can attend over a 22-day period. There are 15 instances of two-a-days being open, so if someone travels a long distance to see Dallas practice, they can go in the morning and watch one practice, go eat lunch, and come back for another session before going home. All of the Redskins’ practices are single-session affairs.

The Giants will open about 46 hours of practices over the course of 26 days. Packers Backers will be able to attend practices all the way through the 28th of August. A random look around at about 10 NFL team sites revealed that all who had released their camp schedules had well over twice the hours of practice available to their fans as did the Redskins and all had numerous two-a-days available.

To be sure, not having polled every team, to say that the access Redskins fans have during camp is among the worst in the NFL is an educated guess. But it’s a fact the opportunity for the members of the press to observe the Redskins during minicamp and training camp is the worst in the league. The Professional Football Writers’ Association (PFWA) did a survey among its members and the Redskins were the last in the league when it came to letting reporters watch mincamp and training camp practices.

What’s the downside here? For the fans, it’s the fact of the limited access itself. There are that many fewer opportunities to go and hang out with a few thousand fellow Redskins fans, catch some of practice (or try to, anyway; there are no stands and if you’re not there early enough to get along the fence it’s hard to see anything more than footballs flying in there air) and maybe gather in an autograph or two. The no two-a-days means that a fan driving some distance to get to Redskins Park will have to stay overnight in order to catch two practices. Finally, because there are so few practices open, the attendance at each one numbers in the thousands. If the attendance opportunities are greater, the crowds at each session will be smaller and you will have a better chance to get the prime real estate on the fence line and a prime signature on your hat.

Certainly you’re not in the least interested in how these policies make life more difficult on the members of the press corps. Perhaps, though, you may take notice in the effect that they have on the coverage of the team. First, it’s difficult to get stories about the younger players, the longshots to make the team. The writers have to do stories about Patrick Ramsey, Shawn Taylor, Clinton Portis and the other big names on the team. The limited access to practice leaves little time to observe and write about the lesser-known starters, let along the up-and-comers. An example: a few years ago I heard Hue Jackson, the Redskins running backs coach at the time, constantly yelling at Sultan McCullough, an undrafted free agent running back. Over the course of a few practices I deduced and wrote that McCullough had an excellent chance of making the team; otherwise, why would Jackson waste so much time observing and correcting him? Had I had to spend my time focusing on the “must-have” stories, I would not have been able to make that observation. (I wouldn’t be telling this story, of course, if McCullough didn’t make the final cut.)

Also, you can only observe some things over the course of time. Last year, when the Redskins had a similar camp access schedule, the passing game drills with Ramsey and Mark Brunell looked sloppy. You hear about passing drills where the ball never hits the ground. The balls those two were throwing were quickly grass stained. It’s not unusual, though for a team to start out that way and improve as camp goes on. With nobody around to observe, however, there’s no objective viewpoint to report whether or not such things improve over the course of camp. We found out the answer to the passing game question eventually last year, but it took a few games into the regular season.

There is one person who must sign off on the training camp schedule and that is Joe Gibbs. This is his idea, and it’s a new one for him. In his first stint as the Redskins coach, Gibbs was average to above average in the amount of camp sessions that fans and writers could attend. Now if you blink, you miss it.

There is no doubt here that Gibbs is doing this for one simple reason, the same reason he does almost anything else, because he thinks it will help the team win more football game. From what I can gather, most of the other writers assign no ulterior motives to Gibbs. All of us, though, are equally puzzled as to how what’s observed and reported on during a camp practice is going to harm the Redskins. It’s not like we’re going to write that they like to throw the X-Right, Red Zoom 32 on third and between six and eight or that a particular blitz package is getting consistently good penetration. You just can’t tell that much when the players are going at most ¾ speed most of the time.

There are two possible reasons why Gibbs wants to restrict access that I can come up with. One is that he doesn’t want reporting on injuries to key players. But, by NFL fiat that’s all public info by the time the game starts so that’s pretty marginal. The other is that he may not want the identities of the young players who are performing well in practice to get out to other teams. This makes a little more sense. Gregg Williams said at minicamp last month that the Redskins had 11 undrafted free agents on defense by the end of the year in 2004 and a good number of them were cut in camp and, having made a good impression, were signed back up when the need arose. Still, having such severe limitations on access seems to be a bit extreme to keep secret a player that everyone else can see on film from college and from preseason games.

It’s Gibbs right to be paranoid, but the two of his fellow NFC East coaches who coach the high-access teams listed above, Bill Parcells of the Cowboys and Tom Caughlin of the Giants, have been known to hear voices when nobody else does, too. But they have seen value in letting the fans and those who deliver information to them extensive access to training camp practices. It would be great if Joe Gibbs did the same.

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Robert Kelley, Su'a Cravens, Colt McCoy among Redskins who'll have new numbers in 2017

Robert Kelley, Su'a Cravens, Colt McCoy among Redskins who'll have new numbers in 2017

The next time Robert Kelley plows over a helpless linebacker, he'll do it with a new number on his uniform.

The second-year running back is switching from No. 32 to No. 20, according to Redskins.com. And he's not the only returning player who'll take the field in 2017 with a new pair of digits.

Su'a Cravens will no longer be No. 36 for Washington. Instead, he'll change to No. 30. DJ Swearinger will be taking over No. 36 after coming over from the Cardinals, a number that he reportedly purchased from Cravens for $75,000

Then there's Colt McCoy. McCoy has donned No. 16 for the past three seasons, but he's throwing it back to his college days and will now rock No. 12.

MORE REDSKINS: THE ULTIMATE REDSKINS DRAFT PREVIEW

Finally, second-year corner Kendall Fuller only spent one year with No. 38. As he hopes to improve in his sophomore campaign, he'll be doing so with No. 29.

As for the free agents, Terrelle Pryor will be replacing DeSean Jackson in more ways than one when kickoff rolls around. Not only will the ex-Brown have to shine as a top receiver for Kirk Cousins like Jackson did, but he'll also be sporting Jackson's No. 11.

New linebacker Zach Brown, meanwhile, is now No. 56, linemen Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain are Nos. 92 and 97 respectively and Brian Quick will keep No. 83 from his Rams days.

For a complete list of all the changes, click here.

RELATED: IS REUBEN FOSTER WORTH THE RISK?

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

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USA TODAY Sports Images

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.”

[Related: Full Redskins Seven-Round Mock Draft]

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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