I almost had to turn off The Junkies this morning as I was driving into work.
"So it sounds like the consensus is that the Patriots dominated the Redskins in their scrimmage," JP Flaim said confidently. "Tom Brady picked apart the Redskins defense all day it seemed."
Had I missed something? I spent the entire morning on the field (even though Tony Wylie specifically gave me "no field access" because I'm the redheaded stepchild of Redskins "bloggers") next to every single person covering the team yesterday, watching the same drills, same 11-on-11 and same 7-on-7 as Mike Mayock and Mike Jones - and I could not agree less.
First off, we're talking about practice. I counted at least four times when Orakpo or Kerrigan reached Tom Brady and had to just run around him. Tom Brady - being the insufferable douche that he is - continued to stand in the pocket and throw his passes, long after a sack would have taken place and sometimes even after his own coaches were blowing the sack whistle.
When Brady wasn't being that guy at the gym who keeps driving to the basket even though play has stopped - he was throwing almost exclusively to the flats and underneath to Julian Edelman while Washington linebackers tried to defend the middle of the field. In 7-on-7 drills I watched Brady throw three bombs in the center of the field that were easily deflected by Ryan Clark and two seam passes to tight ends that were broken up by Meriwether and Amerson respectively. Only once did I see an impressive pass of over 15 yards (in the air) thrown by Brady in 11-on-11 that was caught (was a pretty epic, long touchdown) and in 7-on-7 I watched several passes that should have been picked, dropped by Amerson and D-Hall - again, this doesn't matter because WE'RE TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE.
Yes, the no-huddle Patriots did look like they were winding the Redskins defense. I also felt like the Patriots ran the ball pretty well against the Redskins front seven - but "dominate" in PRACTICE? Not even sort of. I was impressed with the Redskins defense considering they had not prepared or scouted the Pats at all. They looked aggressive and aware - not getting lost or completely leaving receivers open as we've seen before. There were several coverage sacks for the Redskins secondary when Brady felt like he had to go deep and had no options underneath.
All that said - Julian Edelman was cutting up the defense. Take that with a grain of salt because it was like playing touch football with your little brother. Brandon Meriwether could have ended his career on about five different catches Edelman made in crossing patterns in front of the former Patriots safety.
I spent less time watching the Redskins offense because honestly, I'm not very concerned with their ability to score points this year. What I did see was solid run blocking by the offensive line and a seemingly uncomfortable Robert Griffin III.
While I thought Brady was getting decent pressure - the Patriots were collapsing the Redskins pocket consistently. Despite this, towards the end of the day when the scrimmage went live (as in, they moved chains and executed a drive) Griffin (and Cousins for that matter) was completing some gorgeous passes to Jordan Reed down the middle and a few accurate, outside timing passes against man coverage.
Darelle Revis looked great against DeSean Jackson but Brandon Browner looked slow and was holding Redskins receivers on every other play. The highlight of the Redskins receiving corps on the day seemed to be rookie Ryan Grant, who had some really entertaining catches running between the second and first teams. Aldrick Robinson caught a 70ish-yard touchdown by Kirk Cousins against the Patriots second team.
Robert's shakiness in the pocket and the receivers struggling to get into their routes quickly were both things addressed in Gruden's post game presser: "We have to improve mostly on A, getting off the jam; B, our decision-making at quarterback and then, obviously we always have to work on our protection. But I felt good about where our running game is."
So those are the observations I made when not trying to make small talk with Britt McHenry. If there was anything that signaled "domination" to me, it was what happened at the end of practice.
As the Redskins huddled up, broke their huddle, went to greet fans and talk to the media - the entire Patriots roster, including Tom Brady and the rest of the quarterbacks - was running cross-field suicides for the last ten to fifteen minutes on the field. I assume Belichick has been doing this forever.
As an outsider, it looked like the Redskins were more concerned about getting to their interviews and into the locker room than they were about getting in better shape. The Patriots were clearly in better shape than Washington throughout the practice, which might be why people may have thought the Skins were "dominated". You'd think Jay Gruden might want to get them doing a few sprints - this was not the case.
It presented the picture of two teams:
One - a disciplined, successful team running together at the end of practice. The other - a team that was 3-13 a year ago, straggling off the field while their head coach is briefed by their communications guy on the upcoming press conference.
It's probably not a fair criticism, but perception is reality. But hey - we're talkin' bout practice - don't read too much into what is said about these scrimmages.