Dual practice could be way of future


RICHMOND, Va. -- Dual practices aren't unusual. About a half dozen occur each summer. But the New England Patriots' visit to Washington Redskins camp this week was structured in a unique way that could become a regular part of future training camps.

On Monday, both teams went through base offense and defense matchups. On Tuesday, they broke it down into situational alignments -- third downs, red zone, two-minute drill and others. Both teams were scheduled to clean up things on Wednesday.

There were no fights. Injuries were at a minimum, and the work was exceptional. In the future, scrimmages of this type could be more beneficial to teams than half of the preseason games. Since the current CBA was signed in 2011, coaches have struggled to prepare teams. Padded practices were limited. Two-a-days were eliminated, and contact time is minimal.

With commissioner Roger Goodell looking to find ways to shrink the preseason to two games, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Redskins coach Jay Gruden showed how teams can get more out of their camp time. As Belichick pointed out, a team's first-stringers are likely to see only a handful of situational plays in four preseason games. In a scripted scrimmage, the teams could get 25 such plays if they want, plus they can get tape of their players facing other teams.

Interest wasn't a problem, either. The Tuesday practice drew 21,665. Given the right practice arrangement, teams might draw more fans in a three-day scrimmage than they would in a preseason game.

The Patriots and Redskins were on the field for almost three hours Tuesday. Even though players were fatigued in the final hour, Robert Griffin III led several Redskins in doing wind sprints after practice.

Even though the Pats and Redskins haven't played a preseason game, they are ahead of most of the teams in the league in getting ready for the games that count.

Here are five observations from Tuesday's Patriots-Redskins joint practice.

1. A positive repair sign on RG III: Last year, Griffin was coming off ACL surgery. He spent the offseason rehabbing and strengthening his knee instead of advancing his game. Looking back, people in the organization are saying Mike Shanahan made a mistake playing him at the start of the 2013 season. New head coach Gruden is repairing the player, and the hard work is showing results. Gruden admits RG III has a long way to go, but the knee brace is off and the sky is the limit for him.

Griffin gets to the office at 6 a.m. and is lucky to leave by 8 p.m. Gruden has him working on more three- and five-step drops to get the ball out quickly and get into a rhythm. Where the previous coaching staff wanted to use Griffin as more of a running quarterback, Gruden wants to be less reliant on that part of his game. Expect the Redskins to call only a few runs a game for Griffin. In Cincinnati, Gruden turned second-round choice Andy Dalton into a three-time playoff quarterback who just received a monster contract. Griffin has more talent than Dalton. By midseason, watch out.

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