At rookie camp, new kids on the block

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY MIKE JONES mike.jones@wash­post.com

The Wash­ing­ton Red­skins on Satur­day wrapped up their rookie minicamp, and although they still have a long way to go, Coach Jay Gru­den said he was “im­pressed,” “sat­is­fied” and “happy” with his draft picks and the col­lege free agents.

Ev­ery­thing’s a blur for these play­ers right now. Not only are they learn­ing new sys­tems and ac­cli­mat­ing to new coach­ing staffs, but they’re also get­ting back into foot­ball shape. Work­ing out keeps them strong and fit to a de­gree. But there’s noth­ing like ac­tual game shape, and so it will be some time be­fore the rook­ies are fly­ing around at full speed.

“They have a long way to go, with­out a doubt,” Gru­den said. “They know they have a lot of work ahead of them. They’re be­hind. They have to catch up, but I like the way they worked. I like the way they prac­ticed, and I like their ath­letic abil­ity.”

The Red­skins de­voted their first three picks of the draft to de­fense, and two of those three play­ers went through prac­tice the past two days. First-rounder Jonathan Allen led the de­fen­sive line unit; se­cond-rounder Ryan An­der­son stood out among the out­side lineback­ers. Cor­ner­back Fabian Moreau is still re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing from a torn pec­toral mus­cle and likely won’t re­turn to ac­tion un­til train­ing camp or the start of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Other notes and ob­ser­va­tions from Satur­day’s ses­sions:

Allen im­pressed his coaches this weekend with his un­der­stand­ing of the game and tech­nique.

The 6-foot-3, 286-pound Alabama star dis­played good foot­work and use of his hands dur­ing po­si­tion and team drills. De­fen­sive line coach Jim Tom­sula gave Allen a lot of in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion on how to im­prove his tech­nique but seemed pleased with the way Allen worked to ap­ply the lessons by mak­ing ad­just­ments on the fly.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how Allen per­forms once he gets on the field with his vet­eran team­mates in the com­ing weeks . . . .

An­der­son’s size and strength are im­pres­sive. He is pow­er­fully built at 6-2 and 260-plus pounds. Gru­den said he’s a lit­tle heavy right now, but that’s to be ex­pected con­sid­er­ing he hasn’t played foot­ball since the end of his col­lege sea­son. Gru­den didn’t want to spec­u­late when asked about an ideal weight for An­der­son.

The line­backer will get to­gether with strength coach Chad En­gle­hart and map out a plan. But Gru­den said An­der­son isn’t “far away at all. And the kind of guy that he is, he’ll work his tail off and get in shape.”

An­der­son moved all over the place dur­ing Satur­day’s prac­tice. He lined up at left out­side line­backer — the spot usu­ally manned by Ryan Ker­ri­gan — and right out­side line­backer, where he likely will vie with Pre­ston Smith, Ju­nior Galette and Trent Mur­phy for the start­ing job.

An­der­son said he felt com­fort­able at ei­ther spot and just wants to prove his versatility. He’s look­ing for­ward to next week when he’ll start train­ing with the team’s vet­er­ans. He thinks this is an “ideal sit­u­a­tion” for him to come in where he can learn from well-es­tab­lished guys such as Ker­ri­gan and com­pete with other young play­ers such as Smith and Mur­phy . . . .

Fourth-round pick Sa­maje Per­ine made a good first im­pres­sion on coaches. He looked like the well-rounded prospect they be­lieved they were get­ting from Ok­la­homa. These weren’t padded prac­tices, so you couldn’t quite see Per­ine’s power on dis­play, but his quick­ness and ex­plo­sive­ness were ev­i­dent.

On one play, he took the hand­off on a sweep to the right, made a cut to evade a de­fender and burst up­field, draw­ing praise from run­ning backs coach Randy Jor­dan.

Later, Per­ine ran a pass route, go­ing right at an in­side line­backer and then mak­ing a great cut to cre­ate sep­a­ra­tion and make the catch. Jor­dan ran down­field af­ter his new back, ex­tolling him for his tech­nique.

Per­ine said he loves Jor­dan’s en­ergy and that he can tell al­ready that he’ ll feed off that.

De­spite the lack of con­tact, Gru­den could tell Per­ine had sharp tech­nique: “You can tell he runs hard. You can’t see that in shorts, but you can tell his pad level is al­ways down and he had good vi­sion and he has good feet in the hole, and he caught the ball well.” . . .

Another player draw­ing praise from Gru­den: sev­enth-rounder Joshua Holsey. The de­fen­sive back took reps at cor­ner­back and nick­el­back. He likely will start out his ca­reer on the in­side, but coaches have him learn­ing both po­si­tions for now. Gru­den liked what he saw from the Auburn prod­uct dur­ing one-on-one drills Fri­day and chal­lenged Holsey to carry that over into team drills. Holsey dis­played good quick­ness and in­stincts, get­ting out of breaks quickly to con­test passes.

On Sun­day, the 5-10, 190pounder stood out in par­tic­u­lar when he broke on the ball on an out route and swat­ted it away along the side­line. Gru­den was there to smack Holsey on the hel­met right af­ter the play. The cor­ner­back said Gru­den joked that he should have in­ter­cepted the ball.

Holsey was en­cour­aged by his start but can’t wait to mix it up with the vet­er­ans and try to learn ev­ery­thing he can from them. He said he’s go­ing to “eat what they eat, eat when they eat, sleep when they sleep” and just try to mimic ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble . . . .

Another cor­ner­back prospect who stood out was Mar­rio Nor­man, but partly be­cause he wore No. 24 and was the only try­out player with his name on his jersey. That’s be­cause he is the older brother of Red­skins cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man and was wear­ing the Pro Bowl cor­ner­back’s prac­tice jersey.

Mar­rio Nor­man is 14 months older than Josh Nor­man and has spent the past eight years bounc­ing around in the Cana­dian and Arena foot­ball leagues.

Asked how badly he wanted another Nor­man in the build­ing, Gru­den laughed and said, “You would think one would be enough, but he’s got a skill set. I tell you what, he’s a good player. He’s been in a cou­ple dif­fer­ent leagues. He runs around out there good. Josh has been tout­ing him pretty hard the last year and a half, so we wanted to give him a shot, give him a look, and we’ll dis­cuss his fu­ture to­day.”

PHO­TOS BY JOHN MCDON­NELL/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Red­skins first-round pick Jonathan Allen (95) leads the de­fen­sive line­men in a drill as new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Manusky watches.

Line­backer Ryan An­der­son, a Red­skins se­cond-round choice who was a team­mate of Allen’s at Alabama, prac­tices at the minicamp.

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