ASHBURN, Va. -- Just before the snap, Washington Redskins corner Josh Norman hustled to the line and jammed tight end Vernon Davis after the snap. But safety Su’a Cravens stayed back, and a gap was created for Davis to exploit. That led to Norman and Cravens having a discussion after the play.
It’s partly the continued education of Cravens at safety. And it’s exactly what the spring workouts are about since it allows them to work out coverage details. Norman has spent the past few weeks trying out new coverages. He is playing off more and is anticipating that technique often this season in an attempt to make big plays.
But for the secondary to click, the safeties and corners must be in unison. Considering that Cravens is playing this spot for the first time in the NFL, it will take time. They’re not alone in growing together, but they are one example. The Redskins’ defense might have up to seven new starters and even more as reserves. They could be much better, but it also could take time.
“Playing together and understanding what each guy can do across the board I think is very important,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “But I want them from a communication standpoint to communicate and be on the same page. I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t read what they’re going to do. As long as we’re playing the same defense across the board, we’ll have success.
“With all the new guys that are coming in, they’ve got to catch up, especially the young draft choices. The install that we have is pretty lengthy, and they have got a lot of stuff to catch up on, but through those repetitions, they’ll eventually get it.”
So as organized team activities resume this week (Monday through Thursday), our focus when it’s open to the media on Wednesday will again be on these adjustments. Here are other areas to watch:
Red zone work: It’s a good news-bad news scenario when the offense has success in the red zone. It means, of course, that the defense isn’t. A mixed bag probably bodes better. But it must be an area of emphasis for Washington and, in the case of receiver Terrelle Pryor, most of his success (when we’re able to watch) has been outside this area. He’ll be a factor in the red zone this season. Jamison Crowder becomes a sneaky weapon near the goal line because of his quickness, his willingness to run any route and his ability to win one-on-one matchups. Again, the misnomer is that height alone makes a receiver good in the red zone.
Linebacker progress: Rookie Ryan Anderson did not show up in the best of shape so that was disappointing. His on-field skills have been obvious to the coaches so as he continues to work back into shape. What more will he show? And how does Junior Galette progress? We’ll have a much better idea in training camp when he faces left tackle Trent Williams in one-on-one situations. With Galette, the progress likely will come over the long haul as he returns from missing two years. That’s not easy. Zach Brown is another one to watch. Again, his best work will start to show in camp as he learns the defense better.
Rob Kelley’s hands: He said he’s worked on them a lot in the offseason so if he becomes a bigger pass threat, it enhances the Redskins’ offense. Obviously, he won’t become a third-down back with Chris Thompson around, but he at least needs to be a threat. Too often last season he wasn’t. Kelley caught the ball well at Tulane so he said it’s not a matter of hands, it’s focus. “Just calming down, taking a deep breath and catching the ball,” he said.
Receiver battle: As Jay Gruden said last week, it’ll be a tough decision on game day as to which five receivers he keeps active. That’s not because all will be good, but each can offer something. An eventual deciding factor will be special teams, but for now it’s just a time to measure the progress of players such as Brian Quick, Maurice Harris, Ryan Grant and Robert Davis. Also, Josh Doctson did not participate in the open portion last week so assuming he does Wednesday, it’s another chance to gauge his development.