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Redskins practice report, Day 9: Scrambling at cornerback

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Redskins practice report, Day 9: Scrambling at cornerback

RICHMOND—Rain was a constant threat as the Texans returned for the second of three practice sessions against the Redskins. Here are my observations from the practice:

—There were officials present again today, the crew led by referee Walt Coleman. I’m not sure why teams don’t bring in refs for every day of training camp, at least a small crew and even college refs could help call offside, catch/no catch, etc.

—The teams started off with a long session of special teams work. Although it’s boring to watch since they only go about 70 percent to practice the kicking game, the Redskins certainly need the work.

—Matt Jones is a north-south runner. He’ll go at an angle to get to the hole and once he does it’s straight towards the goal line. The rookie went around left end on one play and as soon as he got in the clear he immediately headed straight up the field.

—Brandon Scherff had some tough moments going up against J.J. Watt. But on one play Scherff got proper position on the defender and cleared him out of the hole. That is how you have to try to control a player like Watt. You aren’t going to out muscle him.

—Rookie wide receiver Quinton Dunbar changed from a white jersey to a burgundy jersey, indicating a switch from offense to defense. He lined up there all day and did a credible job. At 6-2, he has the length they like at the position but at 201 pounds he look a bit fragile out there. But they needed the help and Dunbar stepped up and provided it. He’s still a long shot to make the team but the more he can do, the better his chances will be of eventually hanging on.

—The Redskins’ top four cornerbacks were out so Dunbar and others had to try to hang on against the Texans passing attack. On one play Houston wide receiver E. Z. Nwachukwu easily beat Deshazor Everett deep but quarterback Ryan Mallett overthrew him.

—Among others working at cornerback were Tajh Hasson, Dunbar, Trey Wolfe, Justin Rogers, and DreQuan Hoskey.

—With the Redskins’ weakened secondary, the Houston offense looked pretty good. It resembles the scheme used by the Patriots, where Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was the offensive coordinator. It’s about quick, accurate passing. The pass rush is going to be the strength of the Redskins’ pass defense and the quick throws help to negate that. Of course, when it’s Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett executing the offense and not Tom Brady, it doesn’t work with quite the same devastating precision.

—Mallett and Hoyer are splitting first-team snaps and competing for the starting quarterback job. Based on the limited snaps I’ve seen, I think Hoyer would be the better choice. But unlike some in the New England media did last year, I’m not going to declare who the starter should be based on a very limited sample size of what they have done during the offseason.

—Working off to the side at the beginning of practice were Logan Paulsen (toe), Preston Smith (groin), Trevardo Williams (hamstring) and David Amerson (shoulder). During the course of practice, Stephen Paea (groin) and Frank Kearse (knee) joined them on the sideline.

—Robert Griffin III was up and down during the course of the day. He had a rough time on one particular series when nearly every snap he either was pressure or didn’t have anyone open. The good thing was that he didn’t panic and try to force the ball into too small a space. He threw it away when he had issues.

—Hoyer went back to pass and quickly was swarmed by the defense. The defense didn’t hit him, of course, and he managed to flip a pass to a back. He turned and looked at O’Brien, seemingly pleading with the coach to count the completion. O’Brien was having none of it. “There’s no [expletive] way you got that off,” he said.

—Safety DaMon Cromartie-Smith was playing deep middle when third-string quarterback Tom Savage either severely overthrew a pass or threw it into a deep area thinking a receiver was going to be there. Cromartie-Smith ran up and made a diving interception.

—The second team offensive line was, from left to right, Willie Smith, Arie Kouandjio, Josh LeRibeus, Spencer Long, and Tom Compton.

—Kirk Cousins started off a series with a fumbled snap and then had a pass batted away.

—The play of the day from the Redskins standpoint came when rookie running back Matt Jones took a handoff and headed down the left sideline. Texans rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson tried to get in his way. But Jones is about three inches taller and 45 pounds heavier than Johnson. Jones easily won the collision and mowed over the cornerback. That drew hoots and hollers from the players on the sideline, both offensive and defensive.

—In goal to go sets just before the end of practice, both the Redskins’ first- and second-team offenses scored touchdowns. Griffin threw a nice fade to Pierre Garçon in the corner and the official on the spot signaled a completion and a touchdown. Then Colt McCoy mishandled a shotgun snap but recovered, scrambled, and threw to Evan Spencer just over the goal line.

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.