Jon Gruden, Jay Gruden

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, (r) walks with his brother, ESPN broadcaster and former NFL head coach Jon Gruden, left, after practice at the team’s NFL football training facility, Friday, July 25, 2014 in Richmond, Va.

(The Washington NFL’s team officially opened their 2014 training camp on July 24 at the Washington NFL team’s Training Center in Richmond, Va. It marked the first training camp under new head coach Jay Gruden, who looks to bring explosive style to Washington’s offense and return third-year quarterback Robert Griffin III to the form he displayed during his rookie season in 2012.

“Our whole goal is to make sure that we make him as comfortable as possible with this system,” Gruden said at a press conference the day before training camp opened. “On Sundays, he’s comfortable and he feels good about the direction we’re going offensively. And if we can make him feel comfortable, put him in a comfort zone, a place where he can succeed, I feel like we’ll have a much better chance for this franchise to be successful.”

Unfortunately for Washington, it rained during their first official practice of the year. But Griffin told reporters after the practice that a little rain can be a good thing in preparing the team.

“It’s a good thing to have to work through the rain and have to throw those wet footballs and have to catch those wet footballs and have to work on the quarterback-center exchange – all those things,” Griffin III said. “I think today’s practice we got better as a football team just having to go through the rough practice.”

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, center, talks with quarterback Robert Griffin III, with tight end Logan Paulsen, right, during practice at the team’s NFL football training facility, Sunday, July 27, 2014 in Roanoke, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

RGIII/D-Jax Looking to Build Chemistry

Griffin said he is anxious to continue building chemistry with one of the team’s newest weapons, seventh-year receiver DeSean Jackson. As perhaps the fastest man in the NFL, Washington fans are eager to see RGIII and D-Jax hook up on deep passes downfield. The two didn’t connect on any deep balls during the rainy practice, but Griffin said there will be plenty more chances to get on the same page before the regular season starts.

“Me and DeSean, I think our chemistry is there,” Griffin III said during practice. “One practice doesn’t tell you anything about chemistry. I know you guys don’t get to see us that often, but it was our first day back, we don’t use that as an excuse. But he knows if I miss him one time I’m going to get him the next and if he misses something then he’ll make that play for me.”

Team Makes Up for Sloppy Practice in Better Weather July 25

The weather conditions were a lot better the following practice on July 25, which allowed the team to “fly around and make plays,” and make up for a sloppy first day of practice due to the rain.

“The weather was great,” Jackson told reporters. “The field was a little slippery still because of the rain, but we able to get out there and practice at a high tempo. Coach challenged us because he felt it wasn’t a great . So today we just came out with high energy, played at a high level and the tempo was there. Everybody flew around and made plays.”

Defense Improving on Weaknesses

While the offense was a bit sloppy on the first day, the opposite was true on the defensive side of the ball. Improving the defense will be a huge focal point for Gruden, as Washington finished 30th in points allowed last season and hasn’t had a defense rank near the top 10 in five seasons.

Gruden said he thought the team’s run defense was tough on Thursday and also highlighted second-year safetys Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, two young defensive backs he feels have improved since their rookie season a year ago.

“They’re doing well, especially Phillip,” Gruden told reporters. “And Rambo, you know, he’s trying to build on what he did last year. He made his mistakes obviously as a young kid, but they’re competing back there. We’ll see a lot of that growth start to play itself out once we get in pads and once we get to the preseason games.”

Gruden told the media he will be counting on 11th-year veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall to serve as a leader for his defensive unit.

“He’s one of the veterans we’re going to count on, one of the backbones of this defense,” Gruden said. “He’s been here for a long time. He knows what good defense is all about and he’s going to lead by example like he has.”

Hall told reporters that he has learned a great deal from former linebacker and defensive captain London Fletcher, and is ready to lead.

“I’m definitely up for the challenge,” Hall said. “I understand it’s not about me, it’s about this team and I’m just trying to get everybody better. If I could have some of these other young guys step up and make plays, that’s ultimately what I want to happen. I want those guys to eventually take over when I’m done or I can’t do it anymore.”

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor