The truth about these spring practices, aka organized team activities, is that you can only take so much away from them because players aren’t in pads. The players and coaches know this very well, which is why any reports of how a player looks must be put into context.
Of course, if a guy looks really good or bad it can’t be dismissed, but training camp and preseason games are much better gauges. That doesn’t mean you can’t get something out of these workouts, but it does mean to take each step for what it is. Sometimes players stand out in the spring and summer because they go one speed (ex-receiver James Thrash). Other times, it might actually lead to something (ex-receiver Anthony Armstrong in 2010).
So here are five things I’ll be watching during the Washington Redskins' OTA session open to the media on Wednesday:
Kirk Cousins' growth: In one practice it will be hard to tell exactly where Cousins has progressed. Teammates and coaches say he has been more of a leader, taking charge in ways he couldn’t before. But until now he had always been the backup and understood it wasn’t his team. Last spring, Cousins showed more exuberance than usual, but he also knows leadership means taking control. It will be the next step in his development -- yes, he’s still a young quarterback when you look at his number of career starts (25) and not his age (27). Of the top 15 quarterbacks in passer rating last season, 13 had at least 57 career starts and eight had at least 119. The only two who were under 57? Cousins and Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor (14). That’s why some are reluctant to crown a young quarterback until he does it over and over, but it’s also why others say he’s still young with room to grow.
Junior Galette: He’s such a big key to the season, so this will be the first chance we have to measure his progress since his Achilles tear. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one injury devastate a coaching staff like his did last year the week before the opener. Several people have noted how good he has looked in workouts. The true measure comes in August, of course, but this will provide a small glimpse into his recovery.
Josh Norman: It’s the first chance to get a good look at the Redskins' biggest offseason addition and to see what he brings to practices. The man he’s replacing, Chris Culliver, was ultracompetitive in practice and hated to lose any drill. It rubbed off on others. Culliver's issue simply involved his knees. It was telling a couple years ago to watch Darrelle Revis, then with New England, and how competitive he was on every snap. It’s how players rise to the top. With Norman, it’s our first shot at seeing him up close and how he approaches his workouts. Former fifth-round picks don’t reach this point by taking them lightly. And considering he’s with a new team and has a big contract, he will want to -- or should want to -- prove himself all over again.
How the rookies fare against the veterans: It’s not a fair matchup at this point considering how little time the rookies have been on the field -- and that they are still learning the playbook. But it will be fun to watch receiver Josh Doctson go against cornerbacks who will play on Sundays and not guys hoping to make it to training camp. Doctson and second-round pick Su'a Cravens, in particular, will play key roles this season. And fifth-round pick Matt Ioannidis might as well. So their progress against the veterans will be key. Third-rounder Kendall Fuller is still recovering from knee surgery.
Body changes: Last year, it was evident how much weight tight end Niles Paul had put on in the offseason, bulking up to more than 250 pounds. We will see a similar change in Trent Murphy, who has added 24 pounds in switching from outside linebacker to defensive end. How is he moving with the extra weight? One reason the Redskins felt good about him making the move is they felt his body could support the extra weight and not take away much quickness. (He was not considered an explosive linebacker, hence the move.) As for Paul, after his ankle injury he lost all the extra weight he had gained. How much of it is back?