If minicamp is meant to get a team ready for the rigors of training camp, then the Redskins certainly accomplished that goal on Tuesday.
The team held its first of three morning minicamp practices at its facility in Loudoun County, Va., where temperatures hovered around 90 degrees.
“We had practice in the morning – good tempo,” Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. “We try to beat the heat a little bit and get them out here fresh in the morning. I think it’s a good thing.”
If nothing else, the Redskins learned two things at Tuesday’s practice: summer has officially arrived, and the competition up and down the roster is extremely high.
Gruden said he can tell the players are ready to throw on their pads and do a little hittin’ at training camp, which begins July 24 in at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
“Yeah, there's no doubt they're ready – offensive linemen, defensive linemen,” Gruden said. “It's very difficult for them to handle these shorts, these practices without pads. You tell them stay off the ground and don't hold and don't grab, but you tell them have great pad level and be physical and it's hard to do that in shorts.”
Gruden said, for the most part, his players have done a good job staying off the ground and adhering to the league rules forbidding contact prior to training camp.
“I think in order to get a great look at the offensive and defensive line play, you’ve got to put the pads on,” the first-year head coach said. “Our guys have done a good job of buying into playing pursuit football, playing gap football and also staying off the ground."
Orakpo, Hatcher out
Two key pieces of the Redskins defense missed practice Tuesday, but Gruden said both instances are for precautionary reasons.
“I don’t know when (Hatcher) tweaked it, he just said he had a little bit of pain, a little bit of swelling, so we’re just going to make sure we do the proper procedures and as far as getting him checked out, MRI, X-ray, all that good stuff, just make sure he’s good,” Gruden said. “We’ll keep him out tomorrow also.”
Getting some reps in Orakpo’s place Tuesday was rookie outside linebacker
“Trent's done a great job,” Gruden said. “I see him all the time in the film room watching practice. He's very aware of what his role is and what it's going to be and he wants to study it and be the best at it.”
Gruden acknowledged Murphy – like all other rookies – has “got a long way to go,” but “with the amount of work that he puts into practice and in the games, I think he’s going to get there a lot quicker than a normal person.”
Asked which Redskins player is the biggest threat on offense, Gruden – a former signal caller himself – said he believes “the quarterback’s got to be the biggest threat of all time.”
“I think the good thing about our offense right now is we have multiple threats and the biggest key will be to distribute the ball, try to distribute it evenly and make sure everybody feels a part of the offense,” he said.
Gruden said tight end
“It’s just a matter of getting people involved and getting excited about the gameplan and knowing every play, there could be somebody different that could hurt you,” he said.
Red zone size
One area in which the Redskins hope to make major improvements in 2014 is with the ball in the red zone.
As previously mentioned, the Redskins feel they have plenty of weapons on offense to help improve those numbers, but the thought process of many is that a team fares better with more size in that area.
Currently, Reed is the Redskins’ largest primary target at 6-foot-3, while a majority of the team’s receivers stand 6-foot or shorter. But Gruden said he’s not worried about that aspect of the offense.
“It’s not the size that matters,” he said. “Pierre is six-foot tall. Jordan’s got a good size. DeSean plays a lot bigger than 5-foot-10, and, of course, a running quarterback with a major threat to run the ball is also very exciting to have. So we have plenty of weapons and we’re fine on size.”
But could the team possibly add a fourth arm to its training camp roster?
“I think three is good, and we will see how their arms do in training camp,” Gruden said. “If we need to bring another one in, we will, but I can also throw perfect spirals and complete passes.”
Gruden was all over the field on Tuesday, where he even made a nice catch during quarterback drills.
“You know, (offensive quality control coach) Jake Peetz threw a nice spiral, I made a good catch, got both feet down and turned up field and got the first down,” Gruden said with a laugh.