Stump Mitchell, Redskins assistant head coach-running backs, just took a short break from helping Coach Jim Zorn with the new playbook and preparing for the draft. Mitchell poked his head into the press room and I'm the only guy here (maybe everyone is watching the NCAA tournament?), so I got a little one-on-one time with one of Zorn's top lieutenants.
"It's a busy time," Mitchell said. "The draft is coming up, you're looking at college players, and at the same time you're trying to implement a new offense and also trying to get to know players at your position, in particular, and other players on the team. So it really is a busy time, but it's an exciting time at the same time, being with Jim Zorn, having the opportunity to come and try to put your stamp on a team.
"You have an opportunity to try to help the coaches that have been here, the organization and the players that have been here, to achieve more success than they have in the recent past. But you're also chasing history that some of the former players have achieved in the past. It's all encompassing. It's a great challenge, but it's a great thrill at the same time."
Zorn, formerly the Seattle Seahawks' quarterbacks coach, hired Mitchell from the Seahawks on Feb. 13. Considered an outstanding teacher, Mitchell is well versed in the offensive scheme Zorn is implementing and was heavily involved in diagramming running plays while with Seattle.
Mitchell, a running back who played his entire nine-year career with the St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals, is impressed with Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis. "When I look at film of Clinton on the field, he's definitely someone that you'll be happy to have on your side," Mitchell said. "He gives ultimate effort. He's a total back. You want him to be able to run the ball; that you know he can do.
"He had  receptions last year, so he can catch the ball. And just the effort that he gives when he's not the primary player in the play, in terms of pass protection, in terms of blocking down field, you don't see that effort a whole lot from most of the players playing the game right now."
Of course, every player can improve, Mitchell said.
"As a runner, it's my hope and desire to get Clinton to be more elusive in the open field," Mitchell said. "But other than that ... man. He gives you the effort that every coach would want their running back to give them."
Zorn, Mitchell and offensive coordinator Sherman Smith are making progress on the playbook they're preparing for minicamp, which begins May 2. Concerned about overloading players early, Zorn is trying to find the right balance of how much information to put into the first version of the playbook, and he's leaning on Mitchell and Smith help him.
"It's a challenge not to put too much in, but it's also a challenge not to put enough in," Mitchell said. "We want these guys to comprehend everything we do, but we don't want them to be bored with what we're doing. We want to challenge these guys to be students of the game.
"We want them to have to look in that playbook. We don't want them to leave it in their lockers and say, 'This is too easy.' After the first day [of minicamp], we'll see how things go, but we'll have that right mixture."
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