Fred Smoot left practice slightly hobbled today, someone having stepped on his toe. That’s not, however, why Devin Thomas brought out the wheelchair and set it up for him. “Oh, I just thought that we beat up the defense pretty bad today,” Thomas said, “thought he might want to take a seat.” (Smoot, as you might expect, responded by rolling his eyes and calling Thomas an idiot.)
That’s not exactly how I saw things unfold — Albert Haynesworth was a dominating presence, intercepting one pass, batting down another, and collapsing the pocket more times than I could count, and plenty of other defenders made their presence felt as well, including a LaRon Landry interception — but the offense does seem to be putting things together, and quickly.
Jason Campbell had one of the most accurate practices I’ve seen from him, for example, and you have to believe that the improved play of the offensive line is one of the reasons why.
Here’s Joe Bugel, talking to the media earlier today about his starters. “First team’s been really good,” he said. “They’re molding together. They’ve got great chemistry. If we can keep that bunch healthy, I think we’ll have a very, very good offensive line. That group is communicating together, they have a great respect for each other, and I’m real proud of them.”
Bugel is notorious for extolling the positives of his players to the press, but — as a result — a lot of the regular media types have gotten pretty good at detecting when he’s just being polite and when he’s being sincere. The consensus on this one was that he was being sincere. And he was happy to go into details, lavishing praise on Will Montgomery (“He’s had a stellar camp, and he’s a rough, tough guy.”) and Edwin Williams (“A pleasant surprise, I’ll tell you.”), among others.
Oh, and pretty much ending the right tackle competition, too. “Stephon Heyer is way ahead of everybody,” he said. “He’s a legit tackle. He’s improved tremendously. This is his third year and he deserves to be the starter. He’s been through all kind of torment and torture by me for three years. He deserves this opportunity. He’s taken advantage of it.”
Bugel followed up on this later, adding, “The biggest thing is I saw Stephon grow [through his] first, second, third year. I mean, he’s a completely different person right now. It means something to him. He’s very serious.”
And I saw some of that in practice today. Not only did Heyer acquit himself well in the actual physical matchup of the linemen’s 1-on-1 drills, but he was a more vocal leader when his linemates were participating, shouting encouragement and jawing at the defense.
When practice ended, I caught up with Andre Carter, who’s watched Heyer develop from across the line for Heyer’s entire career here. When I asked him if he thought Heyer had improved notably, Carter was effusive in his praise, immediately ticking off the improvements on his fingers.
“He has! One is his footwork,” Carter said. “The versatility that he’s showing, playing right tackle as well as left tackle. His hand placement’s been great on the run as well as the pass. He’s a lot lower. A lot more flexible. So he’s doing well.”
And the 1-on-1 drills today? “It’s a battle. They get us some days, we get them others. It works out, because if they weren’t getting better, we wouldn’t get better.”
Carter’s defensive linemate Chris Wilson had a slightly different take on the lively drill. “Sometimes when guys can’t do what they wanna do,” Wilson observed, “it gets into a jaw jackin’ session. That’s all.”
Other injury notes: Not practicing today were Rock Cartwright (sore groin), Carlos Rogers, Devin Clark, and Mike Williams.
Tags: joe bugel, JoeBugel, on the field at practice, OnTheFieldAtPractice, Stephon Heyer, StephonHeyer
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