The practices will be conducted between Aug. 6-8; the Redskins play their first preseason game on Aug. 13 in Cleveland (Houston hosts San Francisco on Aug. 15). This isn’t quite like adding a fifth preseason game, but in some ways it’s better because you get to practice versus a fifth team. In a fifth preseason game the starters might play one series.
This also will give rookie right tackle Brandon Scherff plenty of work versus the NFL’s best defensive player, J.J . Watt. In games he moves around quite a bit but when the Redskins played Houston last season Watt often faced right tackle Tyler Polumbus. Watt also rushed inside so this will be a good test for right guard Spencer Long as well. Watt’s reputation is that he goes hard all the time in practice, too.
This will be an excellent test for quarterback Robert Griffin III. Houston has a good defense so it’ll be an excellent early gauge for Griffin and the offense, giving the coaches an idea where he might be headed. The football people in the organization -- from general manager Scot McCloughan to coach Jay Gruden – have made it clear that while Griffin will enter with the job, he must play well to keep it. This gives him another chance to prove himself -- or for others to inch closer.
The Redskins were not going to conduct a joint practice this summer, unlike last year when they hosted New England. A team source said last month there wouldn’t be one. But when New Orleans backed out of a joint practice session with Houston, following the news that the Texans would be on HBOs' "Hard Knocks," an opportunity presented itself for Washington. "Hard Knocks" clearly would love to have the Redskins, who would seemingly make a good reality show every season. The focus will still be on the Texans and I’m quite sure HBO will continue to pursue the Redskins to do this show someday. The team was definitely opposed to it this summer, probably for the same reasons HBO wanted them: Quarterback drama, a head coach still needing to prove himself, the name controversy.
I loved the practices with New England because it was an eye-opening revelation in how two franchises operate -- one always successful, the other one not. It was telling to see how a team’s best players -- Tom Brady, Darrelle Revis -- conduct themselves in practice. You can see how well-prepared they were and how they hated -- HATED -- to lose on a play. You just don’t see that with the Redskins, certainly not to the degree. The Patriots had accomplished players who acted like they had something to still prove. A nice concept; perhaps it’s why they’ve maintained their success and, well, another team has not. But it was also how practices were conducted and I’m curious to see if it rubbed off on the Redskins this summer. It’s up to the head coach to establish the tone of these practices, but the players must do their part, too.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien is a former Bill Belichick assistant so it’ll be interesting to see how his practices are conducted. Were the Patriots just that unique? It’s so helpful to see how other teams operate. Or how great players such as Watt go about their work.
These practices also break up the monotony of camp, not only for players but for the media. Gives us more concrete proof over how certain players perform, rather than just seeing them go against the same guys every day. When players know what’s coming -- whether it’s a play or another players move -- it’s easier to react. Good to be in more situations where you don’t know what’s coming.