RICHMOND, Va. – The lessons unfolded in live action, with the linebackers getting sucked up in play action or the receivers adapting to bump coverage and the offense adjusting to another team’s pass rush.
After practicing against themselves for 10 days in training camp – and the entire spring – Monday provided the Redskins an opportunity to work against another team. It gave them a chance to see where they stood in certain areas. It provided a glimpse into a Patriots organization that’s one of the NFL’s best.
It’s what the Redskins needed.
“You learn your new teammates and see how they like to compete,” Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. “As a team we grow together.”
The teams worked together as if it were a normal practice, albeit one with more fans and probably more intensity. They performed much of the same drills, doing seven-on-sevens; full team work in third-down situations and then in a move-the-ball drill. The starters practiced against one another. There was less individual work than in a typical Redskins’ practice. They also did two sets of drills between the offensive and defensive linemen, first one-on-one situations and later in the morning a two-on-two session.
The Redskins’ defense was able to face one of the NFL’s best-ever quarterbacks in Tom Brady. And an offense that has used the same system for his entire career. The Patriots also like to run a lot of no-huddle, playing at a tempo that regular-season opponents such as Philadelphia, among others, will employ.
“The main thing is you have to stay focused, especially when they go hurry up,” Redskins corner David Amerson said. “[Brady] caught us off guard sometimes and we didn’t get the calls. Guys were scrambling around. We have to do a better job communicating the calls and stay calm.”
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said, “Their whole offense is in such unison. They don’t have to take long in the huddle. They just get out there and run plays. It’s good to go against that kind of pace.”
The linebackers had to adapt to the effectiveness of the Patriots’ play-action game. Linebacker Keenan Robinson, on one play for example, flew up in the hole to fill the run only to have Brady throw to the area he was supposed to be covering.
“Their linemen stay low and that makes it hard for us,” Robinson said. “But once I saw it I got a feel for it. It happened to the safeties, too. You have to know what they can do to hurt you.”
The coaches wanted to see how players adjusted on the go, considering nobody is operating with a scouting report.
Offensively, the Redskins’ receivers had to play against a team that loves jamming them at the line. Corner Brandon Browner, in particular, is one of the more aggressive corners with his jams, testing the Redskins' wideouts in their ability to get a good release. Browner likely would have been called for a few holding penalties for grabbing after five yards. The Patriots, unlike the Redskins, have not been briefed by officials yet during camp as to the new point of emphasis on defensive holding. It led to some missed timing; eventually the Redskins adjusted some with throws to tight end Jordan Reed.
“It’s like that in practice even with our DBs,” Redskins receiver Andre Roberts said. “We understand that’s part of the game and we know in a game they won’t always throw the flag. I don’t know if they got their briefing yet; we kind of noticed that today.”