ASHBURN, Va. — It’s hard to form any sort of impression when players are running around in shorts and no pads. But this weekend’s Redskins rookie minicamp was a chance to see Washington’s draft picks and undrafted free agents go through a practice and get a glimpse of what they have to offer.
Friday brought the first opportunity to see first-round pick Da’Ron Payne and second-round pick Derrius Guice on the field for the first time. One thing is certain — Guice is going to be fun to watch.
“He’s a ball of energy,” Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden said Friday. “He’s really excited to be here and willing to learn. He’s first in the meeting, got his playbook open and just soaking in all the knowledge.”
Guice was almost giddy after his first practice.
“I felt like my dream finally came true,” Guice said. “It was a great feeling. It was just good to get out on the field and do football stuff.”
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for him since the draft, but he couldn’t wait.
“You’re willing to do anything you can for these guys because it’s family,” he said.
He is very anxious to have the veterans back on the field with him, especially running back Chris Thompson.
“I’m real eager to learn from him,” Guice said. “I’ve got a lot of questions for him. Can’t wait to meet with him.”
One thing that Guice is excited about is plunging into the 24/7 football life. That’s the biggest difference between college and the pros for him so far, he said.
Payne, drafted out of Alabama, was noticeable for his size on the field. It’s hard not to think about how tough it will be to run on him this season. He was also eager to get on the field.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It was a bunch of fun, especially getting to see how (Defensive Line) Coach (Jim) Tomsula works. He’s all about work and I’m ready to get after it.”
Payne will team with his former Alabama teammate Jonathan Allen who told him that they had a real chance to accomplish some good things this season. That all started with the work this weekend.
“I want to learn everything so I can do it all,” Payne said. “I just wanted to show that I could take the playbook and use it out there.”
The Redskins have had a few undrafted rookies stand out at minicamp in the past few years who turned out to be key contributors during the season:
Running back Rob Kelley made the team in 2016 and turned out to be the starting running back in 2017.
Wide receiver Maurice Harris has played in 16 games the last two years, hauling in a highlight-reel touchdown last year, after going undrafted out of Cal.
Quinton Dunbar was a college wide receiver at Florida who went undrafted in 2015, but made the successful transition to defensive back and has been in Washington ever since.
“You’re just looking for guys that obviously produce with the opportunities that they have,” said Gruden. “You’re looking for a skill set that you think would fit in well with what you’re trying to do offensively, defensively, or even special teams.”
One such hopeful is Broad Run High School graduate Connor Jessop, who threw for over 3,500 yards and 40 touchdowns against just nine interceptions his senior season at Division II Shepherd University. Jessop was one of three quarterbacks in camp, along with Colorado State’s Nick Stevens and Bentley’s Mack Lowrie.
“It was exciting,” Jessop said after his first day Friday. “Obviously growing up here, I’ve had the chance to come to a few of these minicamp sessions and just watch as a fan.”
While Washington has three quarterbacks on the roster in Alex Smith, Colt McCoy and Kevin Hogan, none are eligible to be assigned to the practice squad. As most NFL teams carry just two active QBs these days, that could signal an opening for someone like Jessop to latch on. For now, all he was guaranteed was a chance this weekend.
“It’s out of my hands after that. If they like me enough to offer me something to come back, I’d be thrilled,” he said.
We’ll see if anyone from this weekend fits that role and will turn out to be key contributors in the 2018 season.
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