RICHMOND, Va. -- Early in the day, Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden laid out what he wanted to see from a running back. It wasn't earth shattering; he says the same thing every year. It was noteworthy, though, because of what happened later.
Gruden wants his backs to be able to pass protect, to not fumble and to make tough yards.
During a red-zone drill, rookie running back Samaje Perine had the ball stripped from him at the 5-yard line. He did not carry the ball again. Maybe that was by design, but it also could have been Gruden letting Perine know that was unacceptable.
"Ball security is very important," Gruden had said before practice.
Perine will get the tough yards. Few of his runs end in anything but a tough collision. He has thick thighs, which is why he runs with power. When he runs, he does a good job moving forward and not wasting footwork. On Monday, he delivered a blow with his left forearm at the end of a run around the end, drawing the attention of the defense, which started chirping at him.
Perine showed mixed results in a blitz pickup drill against the linebackers, allowing Mason Foster to get inside him on one rush and stopping Zach Vigil on another. In a 7-on-7 drill, Perine showed soft hands, catching a pass out of the backfield. After the catch, he was left one-on-one with corner Quinton Dunbar. He's a tough player, but that's the sort of matchup a powerful back wants to see. On this play, Perine didn't stutter-step; he planted and cut inside to score.
Perine will continue to challenge Robert Kelley for the starting job. But days like Monday serve as a reminder Perine has to prove a few things. There's a lot to like -- and other stuff to clean up. Kelley does well with ball security and he's improved in the pass game. Gruden loved some of his short runs last season that he felt weren't blocked well.
"Those are the big factors," Gruden said. "Protection, ball security and [being] able to get the tough yards."
Other thoughts after Monday's practice:
1. Let's stick with the rookies. I enjoy watching linebacker Ryan Anderson take on blockers and how he attacks the line. He blew up one pulling guard during a run Monday, pinching the run back inside. At other times, he's handled fellow rookie tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. Another time it was long-shot tight end Manasseh Garner. In a lot of cases, Anderson should win these battles -- there's a reason he was selected in the second round, after all. I do want to see more of him in the passing game; once or twice he appeared a little lost on where he needed to be when dropping. But there's no doubt about his willingness to play the run.
2. Spent a few plays watching second-year end Anthony Lanier. In a one-on-one drill, he got into guard Arie Kouandjio's pads, drove him back and eventually to the ground. Lanier, primarily working vs. backups, was more up and down during full-team work -- tackle Kevin Bowen got him off-balance one play, for example. He has the ability to win often when he's consistent with his leverage. He will try to fight through double teams.
3. Second-year corner Kendall Fuller continues to play well. He looks comfortable; he's not getting beaten down the field -- a sign his knee is fully back -- and is making plays. Will it continue? That's always the question, but Fuller looked good in the spring and outside of a couple of plays he's looked good in camp. He's consistently worked as the starting slot corner, with Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland on the outside.
4. The inside linebacker rotation remains mostly Will Compton and Foster with the starters. But the Redskins continue to mix in other players, with Zach Brown getting some first-team work -- and a surprise few snaps for Pete Robertson. When Brown was in, Foster replaced Compton as the signal-caller. Brown and Compton worked together, too.