First practice of training camp and my first observation is, it is HOT in Ashburn today. Overcast skies and muggy conditions made for a very sticky morning practice.
The offense and the defense split up almost immediately and went to separate fields. I went to the defense field because it was less crowded and a little more sheltered from the heat. The linebackers, defensive linemen and cornerbacks all worked out as separate units.
The cornerbacks did a lot of footwork drills. Fred Smoot was very vocal and is definitely the jester out there. He and Champ both looked head and shoulders above everyone else in the agility drills. I watched newcomer Matt Bowen for a while, and he has really good speed for a safety. He looked confident out there too, not like some of the rookie newcomers who really looked quite lost at times this morning.
I had to leave the cornerbacks because the linebackers moved to a blocking sled, and i could hear Lavar yell "I love the sled." The linebackers all lined up and I figured they were just going to be running at the sled, engaging it, and then coming off of it. Instead, Coach Edwards had them get on their knees in front of the sled and just drive through it with their shoulders... two pops each. Lavar went first. He blew the sled right up, even from his knees. I just figured that maybe it wasn't that difficult because L.A made it look so easy... but many of the linebackers struggled. None of them blasted the sled as hard as Lavar did although Jeremiah Trotter was close.
One of the coaching staff told the linebackers that it was time for a water break at which point Lavar screamed, "We don't need no water!!!" Obviously they did take the water, but lavar was very vocal all through the drills and is obviously this unit's leader.
Trotter was impressive too, and he is huge! The next LB drill was a hit the sled and come off of it on the side that you attacked from. I lined up on the side that L.A and Trotter were on so that I could take some pictures as they came off the sled. Just a note to the fans here, I was standing about 6-8 FEET behind the blocking sled taking pictures. It really is a quaint atmosphere. So quaint in fact that one of the times that Trotter hit the sled and came off running, he nearly ran right over top of me. I was taking one for the team if it happened and as such I got a great picture with Trotter right in my face. He would have launched me, but the shot was worth it .
I really had trouble moving away from the linebackers, but I wanted to try and get a look at the whole defense, so I moved to the linemen. Big Daddy Wilkinson and Bruce Smith were in street clothes and not practicing. Regan Upshaw however, did practice. I didn't get to see much of the DL before they moved to some offense vs. defense plays, but my main observation was that Brandon Noble looked like a great, big grizzly bear and Renaldo Wynn just looked smooth.
For the last half hour of practice, the offense and defense lined up and ran some full speed passing drills. While some of these plays displayed the obvious timing problems that you expect to see, there were some really solid performances.
Patrick Ramsey had a few 'off' throws but he also had a few brilliant passes. On one particular play, he hit rookie Taylor Jacobs in full stride with about a 35 yard strike. Jacobs also dropped a couple of balls, but in fairness to him, one ball was slightly overthrown. The other 'drop' actually went right through his hands and was intercepted by Matt Bowen. That seemd to fire up the defense because very soon after, Lemar Marshall hammered a receiver (sorry I didn't get the number). Until that point the drill had been very low contact, so I was expecting some trouble from the coaching staff, but the only scream that came was from Lavar jacking up Marshall over the big pop.
Rob Johnson looked pretty good too. In fact, Johnson threw one of the best passes of the session on a rollout that he threw over Champ to a streaking Rod Gardner.
Practice was called at about 11:15-11:30 and the players gathered at mid-field for a few minutes before filtering their way up to the dressing rooms. it was obvious that the players were hot and tired. It was a tough practice. At one point one of the coaches could be heard yelling at a player to put his helmet back on. The coach (I never did see who it was) yelled, "You'll be tired when I say you're tired. Now put that helmet back on." it was that kind of no-nonsense, all business type practice.
A few of the players stopped to sign autographs on their way off the field, but you could just see that some of them needed to get out of the heat. Both Ramsey and Bailey were extremely gracious with their time. Arrington didn't get to spend a lot of time with the fans, but he did spend a good 15 minutes fielding questions from the media.
That's a wrap for this morning. I will try to post some of the great pictures I got later today. I'm heading back to Redskin Park a little early to see if I can snag a player or two for an interview as they come in.
Look for the 4:00 pm practice summary around 8-9pm tonight. I hope you enjoyed our coverage of the first practice.