That's a lot of camps to compare to. But here's what stood out from Gruden's first camp: There was a lot of passion and energy from the coaches, not just him but other new assistants such as Randy Jordan and Brian Baker. Not only does that help on the field, but it helps in meeting rooms too. It's different than it was under Mike Shanahan; whether it's better we'll find out in a few months. Gruden isn't as passionate as, say, a Marty Schottenheimer. But you can see how much Gruden enjoys being on the field and in his current role. Meanwhile, the players rave about Baker in the meeting room. Makes life more fun for them. Gruden is self-deprecating and quite honest, which is a welcome sign. He's not afraid to criticize and let players know what they must work on, but he is not someone who only will rip a guy. He's definitely more suited to being an NFL head coach than guys like Steve Spurrier or Jim Zorn -- and he communicates better than Norv Turner. Of course, we need to see Gruden coach a real game and then 15 more to get a better feel for that aspect. Gruden's camp was more physical than Shanahan's. It's tough to compare that aspect to others, though, because the 2011 CBA changed training camp practices.
Both aspects translate into when the backs have to handle this role in a game. That means keeping your head up or attacking the defender and moving your feet. In this drill, a linebacker is aligned a couple yards off the line and can bull rush them or beat them to a side. In a game, they likely would be reduced to one or two options because of congestion around them. Still, it's effective -- and if the same guys keep getting beat and making the same mistakes then it's eye-opening, too.
In the coming days, position battles will turn fierce as the first round of roster cuts approach and bubble players begin to run out of time. On Aug. 26, teams must cut down to 75 players. Four days later, the final 53-man rosters must be set.
Who will be the nickel back? Tracy Porter and E. J. Biggers have switched off there through camp except when Porter was not fully participating as he finished rehabbing his shoulder. Bashaud Breeland was also taking some first-team nickel snaps before his brush with the law on Monday. It appears that Breeland will be the guy eventually but what happens in the short term is up in the air.
Monday night's preseason game between Washington and the Cleveland Browns has generated considerable buzz because of high-profile rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel and his dual-threat skill set. But the Redskins' defensive players like their chances because of their knowledge of the offense Manziel and the Browns will run.