ASHBURN - Sure the bodies were big and the uniforms matched the Redskins burgundy and gold, but on Saturday afternoon in Ashburn, it was clear to see that the football field was not full of NFL veterans. With rookie minicamp in full swing, the play is often sloppy, but for Redskins coach Jay Gruden, he saw plenty to like.
"They're all positive," Gruden said of his impressions of the rookie workouts over the last few days.
Specifically, Gruden said he was pleased with the work from 1st-round rookie WR Josh Doctson and 2nd-round rookie safety/linebacker Su'a Cravens.
"He's a smart kid," Gruden said of Doctson. "He's been very impressive."
The 6'4" Doctson stood out on the field, both as one of the tallest players and with a strong blend of size and speed. For the bulk of the practice the media was able to watch, Gruden stayed with Doctson. The coach watched the rookie wideout run individual drills, catch passes from other rookie QBs, and work in 11-on-11 drills. In fact, Gruden grew frustrated with some of the rookie passers missing Doctson on routes, to the point the coach threatened to come in and throw the passes himself.
"A meaningless threat," Gruden joked after practice, adding with a laugh, "I was out of line as usual."
Talking about Doctson is easy for Gruden, it's obvious what position the rookie will play. Talking about Cravens, however, is not as simple.
"We're going to continue to figure that out," Gruden said of what position the former USC standout will play for Washington.
Throughout drills on Saturday, Cravens worked at the inside linebacker position, often next to fellow rookie Steven Daniels. Where Daniels has the body (5'11", 240 lbs.) to take the collisions of an inside linebacker, Cravens (6'1", 226 lbs.) might not. Besides, Cravens has the ball skills and playmaking ability to be lined up all over the field.
"Initially we have to teach him a position," Gruden said of Cravens. "And for now it will be inside linebacker."
The coach made clear that there are plans for Cravens to "branch out" and play in nickel and dime packages. Drafted in the second round, it's also quite obvious the team has high expectations for Cravens to emerge as a hybrid linebacker/safety, a position emerging throughout the NFL as teams work to combat passing offenses.
NFL people warn media and fans alike not to take too much from football drills where players aren't in pads. Even less should be taken from rookie minicamp, as the bulk of the players on the field have little chance of ever making a 53-man roster. That's why it's no surprise Gruden seemed most intent on watching his first round prize Josh Doctson.
Speaking of both Doctson and Cravens, Gruden said "We have high hopes for them."
On a practice field littered with tryout players, high hopes almost equates to high praise.