Here is Mike Shanahan’s quotes on how Rookie Mini-camp went, with my thoughts on what he said:
On his impression of rookie minicamp:
“Good. I thought we got a lot done. We had five practices. I thought we got a lot out of it. We got a chance to evaluate a lot of players. Our draft choices and our free agents that were signed got a chance to be more familiar with our terminology. Overall I was really pleased.”
On if he saw what he was expecting from those players:
“Yeah. It’s an introduction to our system, both offensively and defensively. We don’t work on special teams in this camp, but we will in our OTAs. But they get a feel for what we’re trying to do. We get a chance to take a look at them, what type of athletes they are, what type of quickness and speed. And that was very impressive to see our draft choices out there and to see their size and their quickness and their speed and things we were hoping for. Their ball skills were very evident out there over the last few days. So it was a good practice.”
My Take- Though this is likely a “coachspeak” answer, there is a fair amount of positive comments here. With currently 19 players on the 90 man roster who are rookies (and actually there were some lesser 2nd year guys there as well), it is good to get them off to a good start. It can sound minor, but prospects who miss rookie camp due to school/injury typically are behind even heading into the season.
On if he saw a big jump in some of the players, particularly defensive backs like cornerback David Amerson:
“I think what someone does is they get used to what you’re doing, what kind of system you’re having. We do a lot of different things with our secondary and we put a lot of pressure on them mentally as well as physically. He gets a chance to see some of the things that we’re trying to do and I think by the fifth practice, he feels a lot more comfortable with our system and himself with what he’s trying to do. It was good.”
My Take- Would have loved to have heard more specifics, especially how Amerson looked in press coverage or if they tried him in the slot at all, but it is nice to get an initial positive report.
On Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo playing both safety positions:
“You have to. Any time you have the motions and the shifts and the tight ends with the type of talent they have nowadays, you’ve got to be able to play both positions. And the good part about them, they’ve got the size and the athletic ability to play both positions. I think everybody knows what type of receiving skills they have and their ability to make plays, but I’ve seen enough on them on film I think both of them could do a great job at the strong safety position as well as the free safety position. That’s what you’re looking for when you draft them and hopefully that plays out that way.”
On if he can gauge their work ethic this early:
“When we drafted them, we have different tests that they take that tell us what type of mental quickness they have, what type of dedication, commitment, those type of things that are very important to us. Those two guys, one had a 10 and one had a nine out of a 10-point [scale]. That’s as good as you see and that’s what you’re hoping for. Now it’s open competition. It really doesn’t matter where you’re drafted, if you’re a first rounder or a free agent. It starts over again. We get a chance to see what they can do on a day-to-day basis and who wins the position. So it’ll be fun.”
My Take- A lot of coaches and teams talk about liking versatility in their safeties, but most teams seem content to separate those roles, the Redskins appear to be serious about having guys who can play both positions. Worth ethic will be key to get both Thomas and Rambo on the field early. I really like Mike Shanahan’s statements about it being an open competition. Obviously it can be a big negative mark if the rookies aren’t ready to produce early, but it is better to sit a rookie rather then compound a mistake by playing him before he’s not ready. Every player should earn their spot regardless of contract or draft status.
On how close the personnel in the secondary is to being where he wants it:
“Well, like we were saying from day one, you’re constantly trying to get better. You’re trying to add depth where people can compete, and that’s what I think we’ve been able to do. We got three quality guys in the secondary that we were hoping to get. A lot of times you go in there with the idea that you get two or three guys and sometimes it doesn’t work out that way because your guys are taken. But I feel very good because the guys we were after were there. Now they get a chance to show us what they can do.”
My Take- Well the Redskins definitely got better in the secondary (would have been hard to get worse), and it definitely seems to fit their current mold of ball hawks. The question is how consistent they can be.
On his expectations for these players retaining information from this camp:
“The majority of the guys, depending on their finals, they come back a week from tomorrow and they get a chance to go through not only one more week of the second phase, but they get ready for OTA days. If someone is here for all the OTA days, they get a good feel for what we’re going to do during the season. Collectively, we’ve got a lot of time for these guys to come in, get in football shape. We get a good feel for what they can do actually before we go to Richmond. That’s what we want to do, get these guys mentally ready so once we do start in Richmond, they don’t have to think, they can react and we can see their athletic ability.”
On what he looks for in players trying to make the roster:
“Well, the good part about it right now is it’s hard to make our 90-man roster. We’ve got a lot of guys out here. We had 47 guys, I believe, that were free agents and they had to show us what they were made of or what they could do to earn a spot because we’ve got to cut somebody to bring somebody on. We’ve got more depth right now than we have had, so it’s not easy to make our football team. The last couple of years, we’ve had a lot of guys come in. Now it’s a little bit tougher and that’s the type of depth you want.”
My Take- It might seem like these mini-camps and OTA’s aren’t as important, but it will be crucial in helping these guys both make the team and contribute. With the Redskins drafting some more raw guys, or players who lost significant time due to injury this time can really help prepare them for the season. It is great to see that the Redskins are improving their depth and competition. They haven’t really been big players in undrafted free agency, but they’ve had more than a few guys earn roster spots these last couple of years. This year might not be so easy, which is a good thing.
“Take a look at Thompson. It’s six months since he had the ACL [injury]. He’ll be full-go according to the doctors by the time we open camp. It’ll be right at eight months, which is great. He’s working out now. Doctors say the ACL is looking great. He’s working out right now. You can see him run. I’m very impressed. He’s a guy that we think can help us. He’s got big play capabilities and a guy that we had ranked very high. I believe if he didn’t have that injury, he would have been a first-round, second-round draft choice. That’s how we had him ranked. Hopefully he can get healthy. When you take a look at Reed, he had a little bit of a pull with a quad, a little bit of soreness in the knee because of the quad. We’ll see. We’re going to put him through a little bit of rehab and hopefully he’ll be able to go in a couple of weeks. We just don’t want to push him too hard because it’s a little bit sore right now. He hasn’t done anything in about two-and-a-half, three weeks. But our key is to get him them ready for the season and both guys will be, I think, more than ready.”
My Take- It is of course no surprise that Chris Thompson couldn’t participate in the rookie mini-camp and will be out till at least training camp. It is slightly surprising that Mike Shanahan is already basically saying he’ll be ready for training camp. While eight months is essentially the minimum (and really by training camp it will be 9 months for Thompson), a lot of guys need more like 10 plus months, especially when his game is completely predicated on speed and cutting. While it doesn’t seem like it should matter much, teams have to make a tough decision about whether to work a guy out or put him on the PUP list during training camp. If you workout a guy too early and he’s not ready or suffers a set back, you can’t go back and put him on the PUP list. It could force you to have to IR a guy who might only really be out 6-8 weeks. Obviously the decision will be made at the time of camp depending on how Thompson is, but it’s odd hearing it sound as routine as Shanahan is making it out to be. What is most shocking is how highly rated the Redskins had Thompson pre-injury. He would have likely gone higher without the injury, but 1st-2nd round seems like a stretch. Other non-injured speed backs were falling left and right, making it pretty clear that teams didn’t have 1st or 2nd round grades on them.
The more interesting and somewhat troubling news is the set back that Jordan Reed had. Though he could be ready by OTA’s later this month, this is definitely not a good start for Reed’s chances to make much of an impact this year. Reed is perhaps the most raw prospect the Redskins drafted. He came out as a redshirt junior, and spend his freshman year as a quarterback, his red-shirt freshman year splitting time between receiver and option quarterback, before moving to TE in 2011. Reed also missed some time in both 2010 and 2011, limiting some of his experience. There is still plenty of time for Reed to get up to speed, but it does make it more likely that he’ll be behind to start camp.