Whether Bill Callahan's results will look different than Jay Gruden's results remains to be seen, but it's already clear that Bill Callahan's practices will look different than Jay Gruden's practices.
Now, any time there's a drastic change like a head coaching switch on a football team, it's natural to over-analyze every little thing to try and make comparisons between the new and the old. Hm, are the players wearing their socks higher? Are they drinking more Gatorade? DO THE WHISTLES SOUND LOUDER?!
That said, there are parts of Callahan's operation that stood out on Wednesday, his first as interim leader. Here's a recap of all the key differences.
- The stretching formations were adjusted a bit. The captains — guys like Brandon Scherff and Case Keenum — were facing the rest of the team and were positioned at the front of the lines. Callahan called it "a positive when your leadership is up there on a daily basis, and players can emulate [them]."
- There were referees in attendance, up-and-comers who do college games and who are trying to ascend to the pro level. Callahan explained how those refs can help the Redskins be better with everything, from formation alignment to hand placement to other aspects. The Burgundy and Gold have seen lots of yellow through five weeks thanks to major penalty issues, so perhaps the refs at practice can help them cut down on flags.
- While Gruden's practices featured plenty of music, with it starting in stretching and carrying over into individual drills, Callahan's de-emphasized tunes. Jay-Z and other artists were still present during warm-ups, but once the team broke into their positional work, the music was cut off.
- Here's a small one, but an interesting one nonetheless. There were four stationary bikes along the sideline on Wednesday, which was a new spot for them. Reuben Foster was riding one at one point, and Dustin Hopkins used one a few minutes later as well. Callahan wasn't asked about this switch afterward, but it seemed to communicate to the players that even if they're injured or not suiting up that day, they're going to remain as close to the action as possible.
- Those were the big tweaks obvious to reporters during the early period open to the media. At the end, meanwhile, the team could be seen doing sideline-to-sideline sprints. That happened in training camp under Gruden, but witnessing it in Ashburn was quite new. Callahan installed those to remind his roster about the importance of conditioning. He isn't a fan of how they've finished games and believes being in better shape will correct that problem.
- When he was in charge of the offensive line, Callahan kept his centers, guards and tackles on the field far later than any other position. Well, on Wednesday, every position stayed a little extra after sprints for what was labeled a "developmental period." It allowed each coach to tutor his guys on a specific skill or area and was especially designed for the younger players who weren't as involved in 11-on-11 snaps to still get work in.
Now, a few things need to be said after that recap.
Many of the changes seem quite logical and like they'll benefit the team; why not bring in refs if you're one of the more penalized squads in the NFL, for example?
However, it's easy to point at what Gruden did and what Callahan is doing and conclude that Gruden's practices were trash and Callahan's are top-notch. Just because a lot of this is new doesn't mean it's all going to have an enormous impact.
That isn't to dismiss Callahan's tenure, it's just to remind people not to get super, wildly, overly excited.
In fact, know what very well may be the most crucial difference this week? The Redskins are playing the Dolphins instead of the Patriots. If Washington wins in Week 6, the quality of opponent is likely to be a larger factor than the decline in music in Ashburn.
Of course, change can be useful, especially for an 0-5 bunch. But let's give it a month or so to allow these changes to really set in before making a proclamation on them one way or the other.
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