Friday, May 2nd 2008 was the first of many things for quite a few people that were at Redskins Park this weekend. Jim Zorn went into his first NFL mini-camp as a head coach. Zorn addressed the entire team for the first time on Friday morning, and then he held the team's first practice of the Zorn Era. Head Coach Jim Zorn was originally hired as the team's offensive coordinator to replace Al Saunders and his 700 plus page playbook, the Redskins eventually hired him to serve as head coach after an extended search. After being named head coach, Zorn needed a replacement for himself at offensive coordinator and brought in Sherman Smith, he also hired Stump Mitchell as the assistant head coach-running backs, both made their debut as Redskins coaches this past weekend. Zorn and his staff introduced an abbreviated offensive playbook during the three-day mini camp to gradually introduce the players to his West Coast offense (a new offense).
More than 90 players participated in this mini-camp as they took the first steps of learning the new offense. Although new defensive coordinator Greg Blache has said (since he accepted the DC position) that there would be no change in scheme he has also said "there are some areas we need to clean up" and that "pressuring the quarterback remains a key", this mean there maybe a shakeup along the defensive line. The defensive line will be handled by another new face, defensive line coach John Palermo who was brought in as Blache replacement.
As far as new players go, three year veteran wide receiver and kick returner Jerome Mathis was the only player singed during this off-season as the team focused on retaining its own free agents. During the draft the Redskins selected wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, safeties Kareem Moore and Chris Horton, quarterback Colt Brennan, punter Durant Brooks, cornerback "J.T." Tryon, offensive lineman Chad Rinehart, tight end Fred Davis and defensive lineman Rob Jackson. Once the draft ended the Redskins signed un-drafted rookie offensive linemen Kerry Brown, Shannon Boatman, Devin Clark, and Kyle DeVan, defensive linemen Alonzo Dotson and Dorian Smith, defensive backs Kevin Mitchell, Matteral Richardson, and Justin Scott, wide receiver Horace Gant, quarterback Bret Meyer, and linebackers Curtis Gatewood and Bryan Wilson. Also joining the new faces are tight ends Jason Goode, Brandon Davis, and Jay Sonnhalter, defensive tackle J.T. Mapu, and defensive back Steven Tate o n a tryout basis, they are hoping to be invited to the Organized Team Activity that will start on Monday.
With the new staff, a new playbook and many new faces the 2008 Washington Redskins took their first steps toward kicking off the 2008 season. Shortly after 10:30 am on Friday a group of 90 plus players took the practice field for the first time and everyone could tell who the rookies were, as rookies have to earn their helmet logos, and veterans have the Redskins logo on their helmets. This was the first of five scheduled practices, and the first noticeable change from the Gibbs Era to the Zorn Era. Gibbs would normally hold one practice per day and Zorn held two each on Friday and Saturday, and one for Sunday morning. When a team changes head coaches the team is awarded an additional mini-camp however Zorn has decided to forego the extra camp because the Redskins are playing in the Hall of Fame game which gives the team a earlier start on training camp than most teams
Day One ...
-- Offensive lineman Shannon Boatman who played at Florida State and signed as an un-drafted rookie last week failed his physical
-- Quarterback Colt Brennan (hip surgery) was at mini-camp but spent most of his time watching from the sidelines as the coaches worked with the quarterbacks
-- Safety Kareem Moore (arthroscopic knee surgery) is walking on crutches and tight end Tyler Ecker was held out of practice on Friday due to a pulled groin.
-- Right tackle Jon Jansen said his injured ankle felt fine after working through drills and that it's close to 100 percent.
-- Cornerback Carlos Rogers and linebacker Rocky McIntosh did some light running and other drills while working with assistant strength and conditioning coach Bobby Crumper as they continue to recover from knee ligament surgeries.
Day Two ...
-- 6-5, 300-pound un-drafted rookie offensive lineman Rich Beverly was brought in for a tryout
-- Wide receiver Devin Thomas was excused from both sessions on Saturday, to attend the funeral of his grandmother.
-- Zorn had the quarterbacks playing "dodge ball", where the quarterback must keep both hands on the ball and maintain proper footwork, while avoiding a ball thrown at him.
-- Defensive tackle Kedric Golston suffered an ankle injury was carted off the practice field during the morning session and did not return for the afternoon drills.
-- Former U.S. congressman and Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent watched the afternoon practice from the sidelines. Largent played with Jim Zorn in Seattle from 1976-84
Day Three ...
-- Rookie tight end Fred Davis overslept and Sunday's only scheduled practice
-- Safety Reed Doughty missed practice due to the health of son Micah; this was obviously an excused absence.
-- Kedric Golston sat out the due to the ankle injury he suffered during the first session on Saturday.
Notes and Quotes:
Head Coach Jim Zorn when asked why he insists that players and coaches stand back 15 yards from the players lined up on the field: "It gives the players a sense that they're actually out on the field by themselves, and it gives the coaches a full view of the whole play. And it's also a safety issue. When we have a quarterback scrambling, I want them to be able to scramble and not worry about running into an O-line coach, or a tight ends coach."
Running back Clinton Portis when asked if it was strange not seeing former head coach Joe Gibbs on the field: "It was, but at the same time Coach Gibbs is doing great right now. I get to watch him on NASCAR. I am trying to get him to let me come down and drive before the season starts. It is great for what he is doing. I think him stepping away, family issues and all--a lot of guys figured it would be hard to replace him. But I think Coach Zorn was a great pick to come in and do that."
Head Coach Jim Zorn when asked w hat he thought of the new players: "I thought the new players were outstanding in what they did. Really the new guys were outstanding, but what they did was they learned from the veteran players. I could see them waiting for that veteran to show them how to do it and then they tried to execute in the same manner, full speed, trying to do everything they could to show what they can do, and they did."
Defensive End Andre Carter when asked about the changes to the defense: "It is great. It is more reaction than thinking. Sometimes you have so many packages you tend to over do it. You tend to think too much rather than play. Just to have that in this defense is going to benefit us... Every year is the same--you have to be physical. You have to have a level of consistency day in, day out. Four-man rush, the tackles blow up the pocket and the ends come around the corner, that is it."
Head Coach Jim Zorn when asked why there is a burgundy line about 10 yards in-field and runs the length of the football fields: "It is for the quarterbacks and receivers. When the receiver is running, it is an indication of saving room in case he has to fade into the sideline. It is an indication not to get squeezed into the sideline. That burgundy line is an opportunity for us to know where we really want to be when that ball is thrown deep down the field."
Update on Reed Doughty's son Micah:
His son Micah was born in August 2006 but developed kidney problems; he underwent a kidney transplant operation in March. Micah's temperature topped out at 105.8 over the weekend and he is unable to fight viruses because of the transplant. On Sunday Reed left mini-camp to be with his son. He found out fever was unrelated to the transplant, and Micah's condition has improved. He is expected to be released from the hospital in a day or two.
Organized Team Activities (OTAs) start Monday May 5th.