The Washington Redskins' last organized team activity session takes place Wednesday, before another round of practices begin next week at their mandatory minicamp. And then? A long wait until training camp begins. So Wednesday offers the media another opportunity to watch practices and get a feel for how players look.
During this time, it's always good to keep things in perspective, especially at certain positions (notably running back; I always remember the glowing reports once upon a time about Larry Johnson). For now, it's about installing plays and seeing how players progress and how well they're moving.
That said, here are five things I'll be watching Wednesday during the OTA session:
Receiver Josh Doctson: He missed the first two weeks of organized team activities with various foot injuries and he hasn’t practiced this week. There is a chance he might practice Wednesday, however. It’s not as if he can’t overcome missing a few weeks of on-field work, but for rookies this is valuable teaching time. The good news for Washington is that it doesn’t need Doctson to provide an immediate impact because of its receiving depth. But the Redskins do hope and expect he will help right away. The coaches are getting anxious to see him work against the veterans, but the last thing a player needs to do in early June is make an injury worse by returning too soon.
Receiver DeSean Jackson: He returned to work this week. As always, a reminder that these are voluntary sessions. What the coaches want to see is Jackson report in shape and run the offense correctly. That’s the early word on what he’s done. But this will be our first chance to see him practice as well as talk to him. There are a few topics worth addressing: entering the final year of his contract, passing up a $500,000 workout bonus by missing the offseason work and facing cornerback Josh Norman in practice. The Redskins do have their mandatory minicamp next week, so the assumption is that Jackson will be here for consecutive weeks before the team breaks for the next month or so.
Cornerback Quinton Dunbar: It sounds as if Dunbar has had a solid spring. He made some nice plays in the first OTA session watched by the media, and he’s a player who has continued to impress some coaches at Redskins Park. The next step is doing it again in the summer and then in the games. But his awareness has improved -- last summer after moving from receiver, he played off instincts alone and you could see there were times he lacked awareness of routes, plays, etc. If he continues to improve in this area, the Redskins could have excellent cornerback depth. They thought they had it last year, too, so let’s take it one step at a time.
Line play: There are a few areas along the front worth watching because of their importance to the season -- the development of end Trent Murphy and rookie Matt Ioannidis on defense. It will be interesting to see the development of Spencer Long at center and how Kory Lichtensteiger looks at the same spot. Lichtensteiger will be tough to gauge until pads go on and his strength is fully tested. I’d also like to see more from guard Arie Kouandjio. He has work to do if he wants to challenge for a starting job at left guard (as of now, Shawn Lauvao and Long both would be, and should be, ahead of him).
Offense vs. defense: For the most part, it’s tough to get excited about spring practices, because it only provides small glimpses (in most cases) of what a player can do. But it’s fun to watch the first units work against each other. That’s when play picks up a little bit, because the competitive juices flow faster. In the two practices we’ve watched, the defense has done a solid job. Will that continue? Just keep in mind that in previous springs, the defense has looked good, only to struggle in the season. So keep emotions in check. But this is also when you start to develop an attitude. And if the Redskins’ offense has Jackson and fellow receiver Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed, it will be fun to watch them go against cornerbacks Norman and Bashaud Breeland (and anyone they hope can cover Reed).