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Veteran minicamp notes, Day 3: Redskins close with red zone work and Jimmy Moreland pops again

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NBC Sports Washington

Veteran minicamp notes, Day 3: Redskins close with red zone work and Jimmy Moreland pops again

The 2019 Redskins' mandatory minicamp was a little less mini than it has been lately under Jay Gruden, as the head coach decided to have the team report to Ashburn for all three days instead of cancelling the third as he's done in the past.

That, in part, is due to a shifted offseason schedule. But the coach also explained on Wednesday that he wants the 'Skins to get as much offseason work as possible, seeing as they have new QBs to work in and plenty of other younger guys as well. 

So, how'd Washington do with the extra action? Here are your bullet point observations on what went down Thursday...

  • Trey Quinn wasn't on the field, but Gruden said he just tweaked his hamstring and they were only being cautious. Adonis Alexander, meanwhile, did a tiny bit after dealing with a groin issue on Wednesday. However, he still was absent in 11-on-11s, which isn't great for someone who's in a crowded position battle. 

 

  • One of the more entertaining people to watch this week has been Nate Kaczor. Washington's new special teams coach is wildly energetic and very vocal. During one punt return drill, the return team did a nice job sealing up their blocks and giving the returner a lane. A proud Kaczor turned to Greg Stroman, who was waiting to catch the next punt, and screamed, "WHAT'S THAT SEAM LOOK LIKE?" Stroman didn't answer with words; instead, he just put his hands up for a touchdown signal. 

 

  • Thursday's session was a bit shorter than the other two this week, and it included a ton of red zone and goal line scenarios. The first notable sequence came when JP Holtz hauled in a very easy score on a simple crossing route, and Gruden was furious about it. "Every team runs this," he yelled at his defense, and he made both sides of the ball walk through the call again. At real speed, the linebackers failed to pass off Holtz, which allowed him to get so open. For a defense that had serious issues with crossing stuff last year, it wasn't surprising to see the head coach get so upset about the blown coverage, even if it's early June.

 

  • It's a rule that if you write about a Redskins practice, you can't go past the fourth bullet point without giving an update on the quarterbacks. Thursday was more of the same, with Case Keenum continuing to run a more polished offense while Dwayne Haskins struggled with inaccuracy and, for the first time with the media around, interceptions. Keenum has shown really sweet touch on some 10- and 20-yard throws, including one to Brian Quick for six.

 

  • Haskins had back-to-back turnovers down near the goal line during team work, with one resulting more because of a standout defensive effort and the other falling mostly on him. First, he connected with Cam Sims on a quick out route, who made the catch and turned to try and get into the end zone. But Jimmy Moreland, who had been a bit quieter this week than he was during OTAs, just ripped the ball from No. 89, turning a TD into an INT. It was a terrific job by the seventh-round rookie, and after, Gruden noted that it was the fifth pass that Moreland has pilfered since arriving. It was probably the top highlight of the afternoon.   

 

  • Haskins' next giveaway, however, was fully his mistake. Josh Norman — who explained after practice how he's been yearning for the chance to square off with the popular passer — was lined up on the right side and the 15th overall pick decided to challenge him. It didn't end well for the youngster. Norman jumped the route and pulled in an aggressive interception. There was some debate as to whether Norman was in bounds when he got his hands on the pass, but the DB let the refs handle that while he sprinted allllllllllll the way the other way for a touchdown. Gruden came over and slyly convinced one official to drop a flag, making a confusing situation even more muddled. But regardless of the final ruling, Norman absolutely won the matchup. 

 

  • At one point, an incomplete pass bounced through the end zone and into some high grass behind it. So, who ended up retrieving it? Rob Ryan, who announced, "I'll get it!" and then hustled over to recover the lost ball. Hopefully Ryan coaches here for eternity, and then another eternity after that.

 

  • As mentioned a few times in other recap posts from this week, tracking running plays can be difficult because no one's really blocking and no one's really tackling. With that being said, it wasn't hard to imagine how one toss to the right would've ended up in a legitimate game, because Jon Bostic whistled through a gap and was there to meet the back well behind the line of scrimmage. He's known as a linebacker who can really contribute in the running game and he showed it there. 

 

  • Dustin Hopkins was brought on to end Thursday's practice and was tasked with kicking at a set of goalposts that are skinnier than the NFL standard. He hit a beauty from 47 yards out that was good, but then yanked a rushed one that came after Haskins and the offense hurried off the field for a simulated fire drill kick. It's important to remember that Nick Sundberg is still not practicing as he rehabs from injury, so Andrew East is serving as long snapper. East filled in at the end of 2018, but his snaps were slower than Sundberg's. Hopkins, Tress Way and Sundberg have been together for years now, so hopefully Sundberg will get 100-percent right before 2019 begins. 

 

That's it for minicamp. The Redskins will be in Ashburn for one final open OTAs session on Tuesday, June 11, but since that's another voluntary get-together, attendance might be lighter. NBC Sports Washington won't be taking it off, though, so be ready for more updates there.

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'Just plain dirty': Trevor Matich blasts Keanu Neal after hit on Jordan Reed

'Just plain dirty': Trevor Matich blasts Keanu Neal after hit on Jordan Reed

On Thursday, the Redskins earned their first preseason victory of the season, defeating the Falcons 19-7 on the road in Atlanta.

But after the game, celebrating an exhibition win was not in the cards. Attention was turned directly to the health of Washington's star tight end.

After absorbing a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from Falcons safety Keanu Neal in the second quarter, resulting in his helmet flying off, tight end Jordan Reed was forced to exit the contest. No. 86 started feeling concussion-like symptoms at halftime, and head coach Jay Gruden confirmed after the game that Reed had entered the concussion protocol.

The tight end has a history of concussions. If diagnosed with a concussion again, this would be the seventh documented instance for Reed since he started playing college football.

On Redskins Postgame Live, saying that NBC Sports Washington's Trevor Matich was furious about Neal's hit would be an understatement.

“Just looking at that hit, I thought it was a dirty hit. It was dirty," Matich said. "The safety coming up had plenty of time to see what was going on. Reed was in the grass. Reed didn’t duck his head down, and ended up taking a helmet to his head because of a defender coming in low and didn’t expect Reed to duck."

Matich completely put the blame on Neal and emphasized that there's no place for a hit like that, especially during exhibition football when the games don't count in the standings.

"Reed didn’t duck his head. That defender came in high," he said. "That was a dirty hit. It would have been dirty in the regular season, and especially dirty in the preseason.”

The play resulted in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. But it's fair to question whether Neal deserved a harsher punishment.

Santana Moss was asked whether he thought Neal should have been ejected for the hit, and he had no doubt in his answer.

“It should have been," Moss said. "I saw last week in a preseason game a guy had one shot to the head and he was out of there."

Inconsistent officiating has been an issue in the NFL for several years. 

As the league continues each year to alter the rules in order to make the game safer, Moss wants to see the officiating improve its consistency as well.

"That’s one thing I wanted to see, that our officials do better," Moss said. "We talk about all the rules they are changing and the way they’re going to ref these games. When you see something like that, instantly get the guy out of there. This is something that we’re not trying to tolerate. If you allow guys to do this, you’ll find guys in situations like Jordan Reed.”

The NFL continues to try and make the game safer. Many rules have been put into effect recently to eliminate hits like Neal's. Of course, defenders largely dislike these guidelines, claiming it takes away from their ability to defend receivers. Some fans may dislike the lack of contact as well. 

“It takes away some spectacular hits that fans want to see," Matich said.

But at the end of the day, the NFL is a business. 

"Ultimately, this is family entertainment in the NFL. Head trauma is not good for business," Matich said. "It’s just not. You have an expense of losing some of those fantastic hits, but you also have fewer concussions and problems."

While Neal's hit may have been deemed acceptable and regarded as a great hit a decade ago, there's no place for a hit like that in today's NFL.

"I thought that hit right there was just plain dirty," Matich said.

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Cassanova McKinzy brave in face of stepbrother’s death with standout performance vs. Atlanta

Cassanova McKinzy brave in face of stepbrother’s death with standout performance vs. Atlanta

In the Redskins' 19-7 preseason victory over the Falcons, outside linebacker Cassanova McKinzy arguably solidified his spot on the 53-man roster. 

The former Auburn linebacker recorded three tackles and two sacks, one of which resulted in a forced fumble. The other, McKinzy blew by the left tackle using a Demarcus Ware-like technique to have a free run at the quarterback.

McKinzy, who is positioning himself to be on an active roster to start a season for the first time in his career, was asked by NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay if any of the coaches had said anything to him regarding his stellar performance and roster status.

"I had a couple of coaches saying 'good job,' but I haven't talked to anyone," McKinzy told Finlay. "I stayed out there a little longer than I was supposed to."

After the clock hit zero and the initial on-field postgame exchanges concluded, McKinzy stayed a little bit longer on the turf. He had to let his emotion out.

Just three days prior, the linebacker's stepbrother had passed away. 

"I haven't cried all week. I haven't let anything out. I haven't told anybody. That was just my time to let it all out," McKinzy said. "I feel a little better, and when I get around my family, I'll feel even better. I'll see them tonight."

Despite his devastating loss, McKinzy was able to stay focused on football. Very few people, if anyone, in Redskins Park knew what the linebacker was going through.

He didn't want anyone to know, either.

"No one really knew. I didn't tell anyone because, at the end of the day, it's still my job," he said. "I don't want any pity from nobody. I just want to go out there and do my job and show that I can keep focus, no matter what's going on in my life."

"I have to do my job," he continued. "In that building, the only thing that matters is football. Everything else, you have to keep outside the building."

The linebacker was able to do just that on Thursday, as his standout preseason continued. In the three seasons since he went undrafted, McKinzy has just one NFL tackle to his name. He's changed his body and gotten quicker, and if this preseason is any indication, he could be a viable pass rusher for the Burgundy and Gold in 2019. 

While No. 58 would not say he dedicated his performance to his late stepbrother, it did give him, if anything, a little extra motivation.

"I would say half and half," on whether he dedicated his performance to his late step-brother. "I came out today saying I was going to work on some things, and I worked on them. I came out and said I was going to start reading, being better with my keys and more consistent running to the ball. Just paying attention to what the tackles were giving me, the whole nine."

While he's likely played himself onto the 53-man roster, McKinzy doesn't believe he's a sure thing yet.

"I wouldn't say lock, I still have a lot of work to do," he said. "It felt real good just to be back out there and do what I know how to do."

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