Reporting Grant Paulsen
With training camp now a week old, I figured it might be a good time to start to accentuate some of the top performers in Ashburn over the past week. I’ll post the defensive standouts later, but here is a performer who has stood out among their positional group over the first several days of camp.
Quarterback: Robert Griffin III
I don’t list Griffin as the standout quarterback because he’s blown me away. He’s gotten better as camp has progressed and he’s had a couple of particularly strong practices. He still seems deliberate when carrying out fakes in the backfield, and there are times when I think he holds the ball too long, but his raw tools and athleticism are on display daily. He’s got the strongest arm of any of the Redskins’ passers and his blazing speed gets flashed multiple times a practice. There just aren’t many guys in the league with his skill set, which is why Washington traded up to No. 2 to pick him.
Running back: Alfred Morris
It should be noted that Morris is on this list ahead of Roy Helu and Evan Royster because I didn’t know much about him and had no idea what to expect from him. But the 2012 sixth-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic has shown very well during the first week of training camp. Morris is a power-runner who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 218-pounds, but his shiftiness in the open field is what has surprised me mos; he’s elusive and has quick feet for a big guy. He’s also run very decisively in practice, making one cut before getting up the field with aggression. It’s nearly impossible to evaluate a tailback based on practices where there is limited contact and no tackling, which is why I can’t wait to see Morris in game action on Thursday night in Buffalo.
Wide receiver: Brandon Banks
I could have listed Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson or Terrence Austin here and felt just fine about it. They’ve performed exceptionally well, too. But Banks has more to prove than any of those other wide receivers, considering that he made the Redskins each of the past two seasons exclusively as a return specialist. Head coach Mike Shanahan told Banks at the end of last season (after the diminutive speedster ranked 20th in kick return yardage and 21st on punt returns) that he would have to make Washington’s roster as a pass-catcher. He also told him that he had to start doing a better job taking care of his body and being a professional, a conversation Banks says he has taken “full advantage of.” He’s flashed each day in practice, using his quickness to beat bump coverage at the line of scrimmage and his speed to get open in the middle of the field.
Tight Ends: Nobody has separated themselves
No single tight end has been substantially better than the rest, but most of the key guys at the tight end spot have had their moments. Fred Davis and Niles Paul have both used their speed to get free down the field and Chris Cooley may be leading his tight end peers in receptions during 11-on-11 work, with most of his catches coming underneath. Third-year reserve Logan Paulsen has done a nice job in his block-first role, and he’s made a couple of flashy one-handed grabs as well.
Offensive line: Trent Williams
I can’t praise Trent Williams’ training camp efforts enough in this blog post. Frankly, he’s deserving of his own post. Watching Williams dominate one-on-one drills the past few days has been like watching Christopher Nolan direct a batman movie. Williams has had his way with whoever he’s matched up against, including both of the Redskins’ starting outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. The third-year left tackle told me he trained seven days a week throughout the offseason, lifting weights and working out with a personal trainer five days a week and then working on his technique with a former NFL offensive linemen Friday through Sunday. With the hard work seemingly paying off, now the former Oklahoma standout just has to find a way to stay on the field for an entire 16 game season to start to garner some of the individual accolades he’s been hungry to obtain.