Training Camp Day 1
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.
The second practice of the day was considerably cooler thanks to some heavy rain between practices. In fact, I actually thought that practice might be cancelled.
I arrived a little early to try and get a chance to talk to a few players but with very little success. (Little difficult without press passes) I did manage to ask Chad Morton if he was excited about getting a chance to play running back this year and his eyes lit up as he signed an autograph for me. He told me that he sure was. I sure hope he gets a shot. He was very acomodating to the kids that were around me signing autographs before practice started. he was oe of the first ones on the field for the afternoon practice.
Practice started with some exercising before the team split into offensive and defensive units.
I went to the opposite side as everyone again. It really is a lot closer action watching the defense. Note to people planning to attend camp... bring lots of bug spray, the black flies are plentiful.
I went straight to the defensive line since I had not seen them much this morning and Bruce Smith also dressed this afternoon. The defensive tackles were on the sled first. Jermaine Haley is a big guy. There wasn't much of note except that Noble and Haley were definitely the best two. Big Daddy didn't practice but I did see him leave in his nice white Hummer as I was walking to my car.
When the defensive ends came over, I noticed that Upshaw was not in pads. I had heard that he wasn't going to be practicing at all (but he did this morning) so I don't think that he hurt himself as much as he was just taking it easy. Smith and Wynn looked very good and their excellent technique is apparent when you see the ease with which they drive the sled. Wynn really impressed me today in the drills.
It started to rain and the defensive linemen moved to the opposite side of the field, so I decided that I would go over to the other field and watch the special teams practice. Am I ever glad that I did.
Bart Bartholomew was really hoofing his punts... and consistently. He was 10 yards longer than Bryan Barker on almost all of his punts (they alternated) and he was getting great hang time too. I was talking with a guy I met and we were both amazed at how well he was kicking the ball (several 50 yard punts).
Morton was very impressive. Not only did he field every punt, he never once bobbled the ball. Sean Dillard, the rookie from Temple, also made a few really good catches on Barker punts that he had to go a long way for.
The horn went and the defense and offense moved to the same field to do some passing drills. Wow, what a difference a half a day can make. The offense looked great, more importantly Patrick Ramsey was brilliant. Time after time, he fired the ball exactly where it should be. It was full speed with the defense and he was making his reads QUICKLY and pressure was never an issue... he just stepped up and fired it to the receiver.
There were a few players of note other than Ramsey. Laveranues Coles looked really good beating Champ once and beating Smoot badly another time. Cliff Russell may have been the receiver that impressed me the most. This guy is really fast... I mean really fast. He ran past the coverage three or four times like they were standing still. Taylor Jacobs also had a good practice, and also has great speed. I left practice today pretty excited about the possibilities for the receiving corps this year.
Other things of note about the passing drills...
Sultan McCullough made a great one handed diving catch running down the sideline.
Matt Bowen showed amazing speed and technique running down Jacobs from seemingly a long way back and by taking a great angle. It would have been really easy for Bowen to give up on the play but he hustled Jacobs down.
Darneian McCants and Ramsey also had a nice pass catch combo on about a 45 yard bomb.
Gibran Hamdan throws a really nice ball. (More on him in another thread)
Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas looked awesome beside each other. Noone seemd to be able to get near Ramsey during the drills. I don't know if that's a sign of a pass rush problem, an offensive line dream, or both. I'll keep my eye out throughout the week.
Morton had a couple of great plays including a play that he made an amazing spin move in the backfield and then sprinted away from everyone.
Practice was called short due to rain.
After the practice, Ramsey was once again very gracious with his time with the fans, as was Coles and Bryan Johnson. I talked to Johnson for a few minutes and told him that I'd love to interview him for the site. He seemed like a really down-to-earth good guy. Coles also came and signed an autograph for me when he had obviously had to go (to catch the team bus). Derick Dockery also came over for me and I was suddenly aware of what a small human being I was at the side of him. Wow.
I've met some really great people so far at camp,so if you see a long hair walking around with a theHogs.net visor on it... please, come up and say hello and let's watch a little football together.
That's it for the afternoon practice coverage. I have sorted out my online situation a bit, so I hope to start bringingthem to you a little sooner after practice. I'm also trying to be as thorough as I can and not being brief for the sake of posting as soon as possible.
I interviewed Hamdan's brother today too, so I'll post that later. I'm going to get a few pics ready for all you guys first.
This article was released on 2003-07-28.
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