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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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2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Offensive line

2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Offensive line

The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts on Thursday. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.

This series started on defense and you can see all those posts here. On offense we’ve put the wide receivers, running backs and tight ends under the microscope. Today the focus turns to the offensive line.

2016 final game starters: (left to right) Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Spencer Long, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses

Due to some injuries and a four-game Williams suspension, this group started only seven games together.

Departures: C John Sullivan (UFA), C Kory Lichtensteiger (retired)

Sullivan signed after some early season injuries and he started one game. He was a good security blanket for Jay Gruden, who liked having an experienced backup for the middle of the line.

Lichtensteiger missed a combined 24 games in 2015-2016. He may not have been back even he had not decided to retire.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 10.0

Projected 2017 starters: (left to right) Williams, Lauvao, Long, Scherff, Moses

The one spot in any doubt is left guard. Lauvao is in the final year of his contract with a $4 million salary. Jay Gruden has expressed confidence in him but a guard drafted in the first few rounds this week could change all of that.

Moses and Long are in the final seasons of their contracts so they may need a succession plan in place at their positions.

2017 reserves: G: Arie Kouandjio, Ronald Patrick; T Ty Nsekhe, Isaiah Williams, Vinston Painter, John Kling, Kevin Bowen

The glaring hole here is at center. With Sullivan and Lichtensteiger gone they don’t have anyone for the middle of the line if Spencer Long is out. They could try to find one in the draft but it’s possible that they will be on the lookout for a veteran on the waiver wire between now and Week 1.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often  

Nsekhe is one of the best backup tackles in the league and the Redskins will be happy to have him even if he doesn’t play a single snap. Painter was on the roster for 13 games and he played just 10 snaps on offense.

Kouandjio is the only solid backup at guard and he could push for Lauvao’s starting job. If he wins the job and the team doesn’t want to pay Lauvao $4 million to be a backup, the Redskins will need a couple of guards for depth. Look for one or two to come their way in Rounds 3-5 this week.

Where can the offensive line find improvement?

The left guard spot was the weak link on the chain last year. Lauvao was charged with 32 QB hurries, by far the most on the team. Whether it’s Lauvao becoming fully healthy (a 2015 ankle injury limited him for the offseason program last year) or Kouandjio or another starter from the draft, the position has to be better in 2017.

Another factor that will help is Trent Williams being available for 16 games. Yes, Nsekhe is a very good backup. But in four starts Nsekhe allowed a sack plus 13 pressures. Williams started 12 games and allowed two sacks and 14 pressures. They are paying Williams $11.25 million this year for a reason.

Locks and bubble players

Trent Williams, Long, Scherff, Moses and Nsekhe are locks. Lauvao and Kouandjio are close but the draft could have an impact on them.

Out of the bubble players it would seem that Painter has the best shot of sticking simply because he was in the program last year. Bowe and Kling are huge and they are long shots who will draw interest if they can use their size.

The chances of any of the bubble players will be affected by the draft. There could be some fun competitions down the depth chart in training camp.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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NFL Draft Countdown: 5 questions for Redskins Director of College Scouting Scott Campbell

NFL Draft Countdown: 5 questions for Redskins Director of College Scouting Scott Campbell

Redskins Director of College Scouting Scott Campbell will speak to the media on Monday, and there are plenty of questions as Washington prepares for the draft on Thursday.

Some of the most important topics will not be about what college players the 'Skins will target, but rather the state of the front office since the ouster of former general manager Scot McCloughan. That said, Campbell plays a huge role in draft decisions, and it will be quite interesting to inquire on strategy. 

Below are five questions for Campbell:

  1. What now - With McCloughan gone, what, if any, changes have happened in the front office? Does Campbell have more control or input on player selection? 
  2. Final say - Again, with McCloughan gone, who makes the final call on players? Bruce Allen and Jay Gruden made very clear during NFL League Meetings a few weeks back that a composite of Redskins officials work to establish a grade for each draft prospect. The team then drafts based on those grades. But eventually, the team will be forced to deviate from the draft board or make a decision on two players with similar grades. Who makes the final call?
  3. Need or talent - Redskins fans tend to grow frustrated at the suggestion of taking the best player available in the NFL Draft, but that is also the methodology the franchise has employed. That system delivered first-round picks of a guard in 2015 and a receiver in 2016; neither position had great need. Washington most needs help on its defensive line, and the defensive side of the ball overall.
  4. Sweet 17 - The entire draft is an opportunity for the 'Skins to add talent, but no pick carries as much potential as the 17th overall. The speculation is wild about what player might land with the Burgundy and Gold, and the rumors will only build this week. Is a running back in play? Haason Reddick? Could off-field concerns drop Reuben Foster to 17? 
  5. Another arm - Washington has Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld under contract in 2017. After that, however, Cousins could be gone. Will the 'Skins look to add another passer, perhaps on Friday or Saturday in the later rounds? If they do, it's unlikely the team will carry four QBs this fall, so a decision could accompany that pick.
  6. Trading places - Might a trade be in the works? Last year the Skins made a number of trades over the course of the three-day draft, and it's likely more deals get worked out this week in Philadelphia. Does that mean a mega-trade that includes Cousins? Probably not. But it would not be a surprise if the franchise traded down in the first round, like they did in 2016. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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