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Practice – Offensive Line Doing Some Talking

Posted by Matt Terl on August 25, 2009 – 5:31 pm

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.” Read more »

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Practice – Offense Catching Up, Sort Of

Posted by Matt Terl on August 24, 2009 – 5:46 pm

Sort of a bizarre day at practice today.

Let me start with Coach Jim Zorn talking after practice about the progress that the offensive line’s made and go from there. Here’s Zorn:

“I think we’ve seen a lot of progress. I’m very excited about the fact that we have given our starters time and even our backups and young guys some time as well to stand strong and throw. We’ve had some good play development.

“You can see the plays developing now, and that’s getting a chance to make them work. We’ve picked up some complicated blitzes with these two teams we’ve played and we stood our ground. There have been some scrambles. There has been some need for scrambles, but not nearly as much as we’ve seen last year.” Read more »

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Morning Practice – Mutual Admiration Society

Posted by Matt Terl on August 19, 2009 – 12:14 pm

Usually I open these things with my general impressions of the morning’s practice, but today I think I’ll let London Fletcher do the heavy lifting: “It was … It felt like Ali and Frazier, their third fight, when they just beat on each other. Each one of them couldn’t get off the mat. It was one of those practices where we just went at each other. “

Yeah, that’s about what it seemed like: full pads, grueling heat, and an offense that’s beginning to come together.
Read more »

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Afternoon Practice – Orakpo And Skolnitsky Get Taped As Well

Posted by Matt Terl on August 18, 2009 – 5:14 pm

There are, I’ve determined, two different kinds of hot-weather practices. One is the sneaky, muggy kind, where it doesn’t seem that hot but you wind up drenched with sweat anyhow. Today was the other kind: clear, with a blazing hot sun and a breeze that abjectly failed to cool anything.

It was the most up-tempo shorts-and-shells practice I’ve seen in some time, too, with Jason Campbell throwing the ball downfield repeatedly and the defense frankly demolishing the third-team offense to the tune of three interceptions with several more dropped.

One of those drops belonged to rookie Brian Orakpo, in perfect position back in coverage at strongside linebacker.

So when Orakpo found himself taped — along with fellow (albeit much less heralded) rookie defensive end J.D. Skolnitsky — to the goalposts after practice, he had to shake his head thinking about the missed opportunity. “I think ’cause I dropped that,” he said, “that’s what made it a little worse, too, especially from the DBs.”
Read more »

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Saturday, August 15: Morning Practice – Justin Tryon Moves On

Posted by Matt Terl on August 15, 2009 – 12:24 pm

Let me cover the biggest story from this morning’s practice first, in case you weren’t following on Twitter: Colt Brennan is NOT dating Jessica Simpson, despite what the gossip columns are apparently saying.

“My life coach Chris Cooley told me to neither confirm nor deny,” Brennan said, before denying the rumor. (“Oh, she’s not dating Colt,” center Casey Rabach said, “she’s dating Chad Rinehart.” I hope you’ll all forgive me for not trying to chase down Rinehart for comment.)

On the football field, the word was “healthy”. The only people who did not practice were Scott Burley (quad), Anthony Alridge (foot), and rookie Robert Henson (birth of child, as announced on Twitter — congratulations to Robert and his family).

Practice was in shorts and shells, and — while Jason Campbell looked sharp and it was great to see Carlos Rogers back out on the field — I mainly found myself watching a few of the guys who had a rough time in Thursday night’s game. Read more »

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Afternoon Practice – Getting Ready For The Ravens

Posted by Matt Terl on August 11, 2009 – 5:27 pm

Despite the heat — clear skies and bright sun, no rain after all — this was one of the most uptempo practices we’ve seen in awhile, lively enough to send even the notoriously ice-phobic Fred Smoot to the ice bath afterward.

With Santana Moss and Anthony Alridge again the only two sidelined, this shorts-and-shells practice was the first I’ve noticed covering such specific plays as the Hail Mary (one of which was caught by Malcolm Kelly, just like we all dreamed about when he was drafted), the kneel-down, and the QB scrambling and heaving the ball to run out the clock.

Jason Campbell had a good practice (although I think tired legs tend to favor the offense in practices like this), and — with this as the last full practice before Thursday’s game — everybody seems pretty enthused about facing the Ravens. Read more »

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Special Teams Practice – Hunter Smith Takes Footwear Advice From Fred Smoot

Posted by Matt Terl on August 10, 2009 – 4:40 pm

Special teams practice this afternoon, mostly working on kick and punt coverages with the JUGS machine. Shaun Suisham and Dave Rayner did some kickoff work, with Suisham getting the ball just into the endzone and Rayner putting the ball through the back of the endzone at least once, but I have no idea how (or if) the intermittent strong breezes were playing into that.

In the end, though, the most interesting thing to observe about the afternoon’s practice was Hunter Smith‘s new pair of kicks.

Burgundy and gold and fresh out of the box, they were eye-catching enough that there were two of us — me and David Elfin of the Washington Times — waiting to ask him about them when he got off the field.

“I got the idea from Fred Smoot, actually,” Smith said. “Fred wears these and I liked ’em.”

By this point, at least one TV camera and another print journalist had shown up.

“The true story is, we kickers wear soccer shoes,” he went on. “We try tons of new shoes every year, and this is just the next flavor of the week.”

Read more »

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Morning Practice – Linemen Battling

Posted by Matt Terl on August 10, 2009 – 1:34 pm

Practice today was yet another hot one, with even hotter temperatures predicted for this afternoon’s special teams practice. Coach Jim Zorn, presumably as yet another way of demonstrating his now-legendary quirkiness, is thrilled by this. “The heat is wonderful,” he said after practice. “It’s going to be hotter this afternoon. We cannot wait. It helps us.”

Less wonderful, of course, are the still-nagging injuries. “Not to my liking,” he said. “We still have little nicks, and the nicks are with some of the key guys.” The main guys he was referring to were Santana Moss and Devin Thomas, both of whom sat out of practice today. Jeremy Bridges and Reuben Riley were held out of offensive line work, and Anthony Alridge was completely absent from practice.

I caught up with Alridge afterward, walking around with a boot on his foot — not what you hope to see from a guy known almost entirely for his speed. But Alridge — who was injured in preseason last year in Denver — seems optimistic. “I’m fine, man,” he told me. “I’m ready to play. I’m wearin’ the boot ’cause they want me to wear it, but I’m ready to go.”

Like, ready to play in the game on Thursday? “Oh yeah. I’d better be [ready on Thursday]. Just tape me up and I’m ready to go.”

Jason Campbell seemed to be looking downfield more, which was good to see, but his accuracy was down, which wasn’t. Colt Brennan was spotted having his arm looked at by the training staff and seemed unusually tentative during his work in drills, but said afterward that he felt fine and that his arm was just tired from a combination of strenuous throwing and weightlifting yesterday, an assessment that Coach Zorn agreed with. “We threw a lot of balls yesterday and all of the arms were a little bit tired today,” Zorn said. “He’ll be fine.”

But the high point of practice — for me, at least — was the linemen’s 1-on-1 drills. In fact, this has become far and away my favorite thing to watch at practice in general. There’s usually a pretty clear winner and loser, some solid hitting, and the guys who aren’t participating tend to chime in with some enthusiastic chatter.

Today’s practice was no different.
Read more »

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Afternoon Practice – Portis Has Some Fun

Posted by Matt Terl on August 9, 2009 – 5:08 pm

Blazing hot practice this afternoon, firmly into the dog days of summer. Malcolm Kelly was back on the field as a full go, somehow wearing tights despite the heat. (The cornerbacks were far crazier, though, most of them wearing long sleeves as well as tights.)

The biggest news of practice was probably Randy Thomas‘s return, albeit in a limited fashion, a development that Coach Jim Zorn called “encouraging.” Carlos Rogers, Devin Thomas, and Mike Williams were also limited. Santana Moss and Kevin Barnes were out but on the sidelines, and Anthony Alridge was having his toe examined during practice.

The general takeaway from the afternoon session was that although the defense is still ahead of the offense, the gap is closing a little bit. Jason Campbell had nice passes to Antwaan Randle El and Marques Hagans, and there was just a tiny bit more swagger to the offense than there had been to this point.

For me, though, the most interesting bit of practice was Clinton Portis. Read more »

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Morning Practice – Throwing To The Wrong Guys

Posted by Matt Terl on August 9, 2009 – 11:41 am

This morning’s practice was relatively light and short — no pads, just shorts and shells, and over in less than 90 minutes. Which was good, because the heat was coming up fast.

Many of the previously injured players returned to at least do some light work with their position groups, including J.D. Skolnitsky, Carlos Rogers, Malcolm Kelly, Mike Williams, Randy Thomas, and Devin Thomas. Not practicing were Jeremy Bridges, who we knew about, and speedster Anthony Alridge, who has an injured toe. And rookie Kevin Barnes hyperextended his knee yesterday and was forced to take things very slowly today.

Today, according to Coach Jim Zorn, “was a skills practice. We had a lot of drill work. Our quarterbacks, except for that 7-on-7, really did a lot of servicing and we served both offense and defense. We threw to linebackers, defensive backs, just trying to get the idea of quarterback ball speed and interceptions.”

Well, the ball speed thing definitely worked out okay — on one occasion, Todd Collins nearly took off Lendy Holmes‘ head with a pass. But today’s drills mean, essentially, that the quarterbacks spent an awful lot of time this morning throwing to the wrong guys.

So I asked Jason Campbell if that sort of thing worries him at all. Read more »

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