On the Field for Morning Practice – 8/12

Players were lively and enthusiastic at practice today, which essentially means that there was a LOT of jawing going on. Maybe it’s the nice weather — cool breeze, warm sun — or the impending end of two-a-days or just guys feeling good, but this was fun to watch.

Jason Taylor and Chris Samuels

Jason Taylor and Chris Samuels

  • In the one-on-one lineman drills, it was good to see Erasmus James getting worked back in with a nice pass rush against his guy, but the highlight was probably the Jason Taylor/Chris Samuels matchup. Taylor faked to the outside, then cut back to the inside and made it past Samuels fairly cleanly. Just practice, but that’s exactly the kind of speed rush move that everyone started hoping for when the team traded for him.
  • If there was jawing going on, you can be pretty sure that Fred Smoot was involved. Smoot talks more on the football field than some people do in an entire day. I have never seen anyone with that much energy, ever. He was after the entire offense — “Y’all aint having a bad practice, we just that good!” — as well as Jason Campbell (“You supposed to be the superstar quarterback!”) and the various receivers.
  • Smoot and the rest of the defensive backs also continue to do the jumping shoulder/hip bump after a good play, notably today when Smoot broke up a pass intended for Billy McMullen. Does that thing have a name? “We’re just trying to replace the butt slap. We got the butt slap in contempt of court right now.” Okay. Maybe name it? “The team stands shoulder to shoulder, so let’s call it shoulder-to-shoulder.” I’ll be honest, I was hoping for something a little SmootSmack-ier, but good enough.
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On the Field for Morning Practice – 8/11

Horace Gant, Santana Moss, and Billy McMullen at practice today.

Horace Gant, Santana Moss, and Billy McMullen at practice today.

  • Nice to see Devin Thomas and Erasmus James practicing today.
  • Thomas in particular looked good, making a couple of nice catches and showing flashes of his speed, and it was especially nice to see him bounce right back up from a slip that looked potentially painful. “We tried to pull him out,” Coach Zorn said after practice, “but he kept himself in there.” Apparently there’s a chance he might play in this week’s game, which is good news.
  • LB Alfred Fincher, who played well in his appearances in Saturday’s game, looked good again today, making an athletic move to pick off a Colt Brennan pass. For a guy who’s only been on the team for 12 days, he looks surprisingly sharp.
  • Rookie CB Justin Tryon put a nice solid hit on James Thrash at the line of scrimmage. Fred Smoot from the sideline: “He got a little peanut butter with that jam!”
  • Also earning a lively reaction from the sideline was Maurice Mann juking Carlos Rogers and coming wide open on a long pass play. (The pass was overthrown, but it was a great move by Mann.)
  • For those of you who think modern players have no sense of history: when Chris Cooley plucked a tipped Jason Campbell pass out of the air just before it hit the ground, a number of people on both the offensive and defensive sidelines could be heard shouting “Franco Harris!” Reassuring to know that NFL cultural references never go out of style.
  • Also, in the only punter battle update I’m doing today, Ethan Albright was loading the Jugs machine himself, instead of handing the ball to an equipment guy. The excitement never lets up with this one, guys!

(Published at 11:08.)

Last Facet of the Punter Battle: Ethan Albright

As my obsession with the position battle at punter has grown, I’ve spoken to just about everyone involved — both punters, their position coach, and even ten year old Jaxon Jordan, who worked the Jugs machine yesterday. When you watch the kickers around practice, though, they’re always accompanied by one other guy: long snapper Ethan Albright. Finally, I asked him for insights on his role in the whole thing (as well as his legendary Madden ranking).

Derrick Frost and Ethan Albright.

Derrick Frost and Ethan Albright.

So I’ve been watching holding drills a lot over the last few days.

(laughs and looks slightly skeptical) Okay….?

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Friday, August 8: Rock On Gold Dust Woman

There’s always music in the weight room, and it’s usually pretty much what you’d expect. A lot of rap, a lot of rock, a surprising amount of classic rock. On Tuesday, it was Metallica, which seemed about right to me. And then, Wednesday morning … Fleetwood Mac. Lots and lots of Fleetwood Mac. Landslide, The Chain, Gold Dust Woman, and a bunch of other songs that I recognize but don’t know the names of. Wednesday afternoon, more Fleetwood Mac. Thursday, both lifting sessions, still Fleetwood Mac.

Maybe I’m just buying in to pointless stereotypes, but I found this genuinely surprising, enough so to ask some guys about it after yesterday’s afternoon practice.

Pete Kendall was the first guy off the field, so I stopped him and asked if he knew who was responsible for the selection. “Why are you asking me? Cause I’m the old guy?” No, you’re just the first guy off the field. “Oh. I have no idea.”

Flush with this success, I asked Cooley if he knew who had put Fleetwood Mac on. “Fleetwood Mac?” he said, genuinely enthused, “Now I’m excited that it’s my lifting day!”

Ryan Boschetti had no clue either. “It could be an assortment of guys. I can’t really narrow it down for you much. Maybe ask the strength coaches?”

I’d get to them, but Antwaan Randle El was standing right there, so that seemed worth a try. “No, I have no idea. Nope. Ask Mike Sellers or Smoot.”

Sellers was nowhere to be seen, but I did ask Fred Smoot, who just shook his head. “No idea. Those guys just have some weird taste in music is all.”

With the players giving up nothing, I finally turned to assistant strength and conditioning coach Harrison Bernstein. “Oh,” he said, “It’s us.”

It’s you guys?

“Yep.”

Wow. Maybe I’m just shallow or something, but I would never have imagined Fleetwood Mac as workout music. Is it really effective to work out to?

“No, we don’t care about if it’s good to work out to. We just wanted to hear some Fleetwood Mac.”

And so another preconception crumbles to dust.

Watching Practice With Scott Campbell

The morning session starts with special teams practice, large groups of guys working on covering punts. It’s exactly the kind of thing that can be overwhelming if you try to take it all in, so I ask Scott what he watches during special teams practice.

Danny Smith observes special teams practice.

Danny Smith observes special teams practice.

“Right now, I focus on the punter that we drafted. I’m really focused in when they’re doing the punting drill, to see how he’s hitting the ball, and how Frost is hitting the ball. So I’m following that closely.”

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Today’s Position Battle Update: Talking to Derrick Frost

So I’ve spoken to rookie punter Durant Brooks, special teams coach Danny Smith, and yesterday I talked to Shaun Suisham. But I hadn’t had a chance yet to catch up with the guy who’s been the main punter for the Redskins for the last three seasons, Derrick Frost. Today I was able to fix that a bit, getting just a very few minutes with him after practice.

Derrick Frost in holding drills.

Derrick Frost in holding drills.

How did you get into punting? When did you start?

I started playing soccer as a kid. My dad was a high school football coach and I kind of always knew I wanted to play football, but I played soccer most of my youth. In high school, I just started kicking and punting – I played other positions, but I was always kicking and punting.

Did you go to any kicking camps to help you out or anything like that?

I went to a couple. Not a whole lot. Two or three of them. In college, I worked with a guy who played in the NFL, Louie Aguiar. He had been in the league for ten or eleven years, and I worked with him for two or three years. And that’s about it.

All right. Are you kicking in the game this week?

I’ve been told that I am, so I guess I am.

Obviously, they’ve drafted a rookie punter, there’s competition at your position. What should fans look for when you’re punting? Is there something specific to watch for?

I think when I’m hitting the ball well, I get pretty good hangtime to limit the returns. One of my strengths is directional punting. I don’t know if we’ll be doing that in the game or not – we might just be hitting it down the middle – but I do really like to directional punt. I also think that one of my strong points is getting the ball inside the 20.

Is there a way for the fan watching on TV to know if it’s a directional punt?

Yes, there’s a way. I can’t tell you what it is, but there is a way.

Right. It’s just that sometimes the announcers say, “Oh, this guy was out of position,” or “He shanked that,” and they can just be wrong.

Sure, sometimes you can hit a ball that looks like it might try to be directional, but it wasn’t – just wind or you kinda hit it wrong.

But a good directional punt is clearly intentional?

Not always. Not every ball is kicked perfectly, but you can kind of know if you watch closely.

Saw you pushing the sled today during practice. How are you feeling?

Fine, just trying to get a workout in without tiring my legs out too much. I like pushing the sled because it’s low impact and a really nice workout.

How was the rest of practice?

Today I didn’t do a whole lot. Yesterday I kicked and tomorrow I’m going to kick. I don’t think I’m where I want to be right now, my timing’s a little off. For me, though, it’s like one day I could get the timing back and kind of roll from there, so it’s just a matter of time for me.

On the Field at Morning Practice: 8/1

The main thing I noticed about practice today is that it was very, very short. More than half of the session was taken up with what amounted to a walkthrough for Sunday’s game, and two separate runs through the two-minute drill provided most of the excitement.

The first ended with a Todd Collins scramble-and-slide for a touchdown. Maybe. There was some dispute as to when he was down, not to mention some questions about the realistic effectiveness of a scramble in a practice against a defense that isn’t fully pass-rushing.

In the second two-minute drill, Derek Devine looked impressive driving the team down the field, threading a touchdown pass over the middle to someone I couldn’t quite see. (I thought it was Todd Yoder, someone else thought it was Billy McMullen. The fact that we could confuse these two guys — who could not possibly look less alike even if they actively TRIED to not look like one another — gives you an idea of how tough it sometimes is to spot these things.) Keep an eye on Devine on Sunday, when he should get some action. He throws a very pretty pass.

Lot of enthusiasm, lot of energy, some solid performances, nice weather, short practice, no injuries, and a game coming up. I’m still new to this, but I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of a good practice.