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Duke Ihenacho: Obviously I want to be playing but it's the coach's decision

Duke Ihenacho: Obviously I want to be playing but it's the coach's decision

When Duke Ihenacho landed on the Redskins inactive report Week 1 against Pittsburgh, many around the league were surprised. That surprise waned as the season progressed. Weeks 2 and 3 Ihenacho was active, yet hardly played. 

Now injuries to DeAngelo Hall and Bashaud Breeland are forcing the Redskins to shake up their secondary, though it remains unclear if that means more defensive snaps for Ihenacho. Asked if Hall's torn ACL means Ihenacho will hit the field more on defense, Redskins coach Jay Gruden sounded non-commital.

"Could be," the coach said. "We're gonna dress four safeties most likely and they'll all probably get an opportunity."

MORE REDSKINS: NO HEALTH CONCERNS FOR DAVID BRUTON

The Redskins will start Will Blackmon and David Bruton at free and strong safety, leaving Ihenacho third on the depth chart and Deshazor Everett fourth. This week in practice, Ihenacho said his workload has increased, albeit slightly.

"I'm getting a little bit more reps at practice," Ihenacho said. "I'm really backing up both the guys. I know both positions."

For the bulk of his career, Ihenacho has dealt with injuries. In five seasons, he only has 15 starts, though his lone healthy season came in Denver in 2013. That Broncos team made it to the Super Bowl with Ihenacho at strong safety, and the five-year veteran out of San Jose State produced. In 14 starts that year, he logged 67 tackles to go with nine passes defensed and three forced fumbles.

Ihenacho has not stayed healthy in his two seasons in Washington, but he is healthy now. Asked why he isn't seeing the field more, the safety was unsure.

"Obviously I want to be out there but I'm not a coach so I just kinda got to deal with the cards that are dealt," he said. "Obviously I want to be out there, I'd like to be out there, I feel I should have been out there."

While Hall was healthy, the Redskins began to substitute Blackmon in for Bruton on longer third downs against the Giants, a nod to Blackmon's coverage skills. With Hall injured, that substitution pattern did not continue. Some fans and media have questioned if there is an issue or injury causing Ihenacho to stay on the bench.

"None of that. I haven't had any off the field issues, haven't had any injury issues. I know the defense, it's not a matter of me not knowing the playbook or anything like that. It's not a matter of me being inexperienced. It's not a matter of the coaches not trusting me."

Like any player, it's natural for Ihenacho to want to be on the field, but he understands what his role is for now.

"I feel like this is a situation where [the coaches] got guys they want to play. That's just what it is. Sometimes it's just as simple as that. They got other guys they just want to give shots to, and that's cool. Obviously I want to be out there but that's part of being a professional, understanding that and just waiting for your time."

Despite not seeing much action on defense, Ihenacho made his presence felt in the win against the Giants. On a long Jamison Crowder punt return, Ihenacho laid out two New York defenders with one block.

"The opportunity presented itself," he said. "I looped back around and I saw Crowder break a lot of tackles and make a couple guys miss. He brought it back around and my eyes kind of lit up when I hit the first guy and then at the last second I see the second guy and I just threw my body into him and it kinda just worked out."

When the team watched the game film, Ihenacho said the whole room had the same reaction to his block.

"It's like 'oooooooooh.' It was cool."

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Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 22, four days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five safe picks for the Redskins

Sometimes teams try to hit home runs with their draft picks. They may hit a few but they also will strike out a lot. Teams often are better off trying to hit solid singles and doubles. Here are five picks who would are unlikely to make many Pro Bowls but the Redskins would not regret the pick if they turned in the cards with their names on it. 

RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn—I’m starting off here with a player who would be a safe pick in the third round. Of course, the Redskins don’t have a third right now but if they do swing a trade and get one, Johnson would be a good pick. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, which is one reason why he might be available in the third. He is a grinder who will be an upgrade over Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. 

DL Vita Vea, Washington—There is plenty of hand wringing over whether Vea is a three-down player or just a base defense nose tackle. But even if he can’t rush the passer very well his floor is a player who can go a long way towards helping the Redskins stop the run, a chronic weakness. This is why a lot of fans and media are urging the Redskins to not overthink this and take a player that will, at a minimum, bolster one of their weakest areas. 

OL Billy Price, Ohio State—He started 55 games for the Buckeyes, the most of any player in the storied history of the program. He did suffer the partial tear of a chest muscle in the combine but that will be fully healed by training camp. When he’s ready, he’s an explosive, smart, and powerful player. Just plug him in at left guard and the Redskins’ O-line is set with all home-grown talent. 

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State—He doesn’t have the ceiling that the more heralded Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have. However, he may have a higher floor. Smith is undersized, and Edmunds will be highly drafted based more on potential than on production. At 6-4, 256, Vander Esch has plenty of size, and he racked up 141 tackles last year on his way to defensive player of the year honors in the Mountain West. 

 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado—The All-Pac-12 selection has the size and athleticism that add up to a safe pick in the second round. He needs some work on technique, but he has enough natural athletic ability—he competed in the decathlon—to be a productive cornerback right out of the gate. One other plus that fans will appreciate is that his strength is press coverage, not off man. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 95
—Redskins @ Cardinals (9/9) 140

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

In case you missed it