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Need for speed? Jay Gruden confident in Redskins options at safety

Need for speed? Jay Gruden confident in Redskins options at safety

The Redskins struggled at the safety positions in 2016, dealing with position changes and injuries, and the front office moved early in free agency to address the back end of the secondary.

Washington signed D.J. Swearinger away from the Cardinals in the opening days of the 2017 league year.

Swearinger will likely join second-year Redskins player Su'a Cravens in the back of Greg Manusky's defense. Cravens played linebacker as a rookie, but word came out late last season he would play safety in 2017.

Both Swearinger and Cravens are playmakers and big hitters, but the question has emerged if either player contains the speed neccessary to keep up with some of the elite receivers that play in the NFC East. At his USC Pro Day in 2016, Cravens ran a 4.69 40-yard dash. At the NFL Combine in 2013, Swearinger ran a 4.67 40-yard dash.

For Redskins coach Jay Gruden, there isn't much reason to worry.

"Knowing Su’a, I don’t think there’s a lot of things he can’t do so I’m excited to see him back there," Gruden told to reporters during the NFL League Meetings. "I think he’s going to have a lot more range than people give him credit for right now. He didn’t run the greatest 40 time, but he plays fast on the football field and that’s more important."

Gruden allowed that the team has some questions with Cravens simply because he hasn't played safety yet in the NFL. Other Redskins players have voiced plenty of confidence in Cravens' ability in the back end, and much of his work from college would suggest he should be capable.

Swearinger has a stronger track record at safety, though he's also on his fifth NFL team since being drafted in the second round in 2013 by the Texans.

"D.J., when you watch him in his career, he maybe disappointed a little bit early, but last year I think he played as good as any safety in the NFL," Gruden said. "He’s done it in different spots, wasn’t just a box safety, he played in the hole, he played half the field, he played corners, he played everything. Very productive, brings a great energy."

RELATED: UPDATED 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 6.0

Beyond Swearinger and Cravens, the 'Skins have options on the roster in Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett and DeAngelo Hall. 

"That’s the one thing with D-Hall, when you watch him play safety he sticks his face in there. He’s a very physical guy so we have to get him right," Gruden said. "We have Will Blackmon who came a long way last year too and Deshazor. I really liked what he did when he came in the game. We matched him up against tight ends and he had a big interception against Philadelphia. He did some good things. He’s a factor on special teams so he won’t be going anywhere."

Hall's offseason will be interesting to watch. The former Pro Bowl cornerback has dealt with injuries in each of the last three seasons and is still working on his conversion to safety. In the NFL since 2004, Hall acknowledged he might have to re-work his contract to stay with the team, but most signs point to that happening. 

Improved safety play, and just improved tackling from the safety position, could lead to an improved Redskins defense this fall. 

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Maybe the Redskins aren't as banged up on defense as we thought they were

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Associated Press

Maybe the Redskins aren't as banged up on defense as we thought they were

The Redskins’ defense may not be as banged up as we thought it was.

On Thursday, the first day of serious preparation for their Monday night game in Philadelphia, injured defenders CB Josh Norman (rib), CB Bashaud Breeland (knee), and S Deshazor Everett (hamstring) all practiced on a limited basis.

Norman was inactive against the 49ers after suffering a broken rib against the Chiefs on October 2. Breeland injured his knee against San Francisco. They are the starters, and if they both can play against the 5-1 Eagles it would be a huge boost to the defense.

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS 26, 49ERS 24

It should be noted that both cornerbacks only took part in individual drills, so it is no sure thing that either will be ready to play in Philadelphia. But having them at practice was a good start.

Everett is a reserve safety and a key special teams contributor. His presence in the latter area could be important as the Eagles’ performance on special teams is among the best in the league.

LB Ryan Anderson (back) and S Stefan McClure (knee) both practiced on a limited basis.

Also practicing was S DeAngelo Hall. He has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered in 2016. The team now has a 21-day window during which they can activate him. However, he must sit out at least one more game.

On offense, Trent Williams (knee) did not practice. That is not ideal but he was able to play last Sunday after being out of practice all last week.

RELATED: IN A MUDDLED NFC WHY NOT THE REDSKINS?

Jay Gruden announced roster moves that had been reported previously, with K Dustin Hopkins (hip) and DE Jonathan Allen (foot) going on injured reserve. First-year player Nick Rose will handle the place kicking duties and A.J. Francis will take Allen’s roster spot.

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.

 

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A.J. Francis promoted to Redskins' 53-man roster

A.J. Francis promoted to Redskins' 53-man roster

The Redskins put Jonathan Allen on injured reserve and brought in a familiar face to replace him on the roster.

Jay Gruden announced that the team has signed former practice squad member A.J. Francis to take the place of Allen, who suffered a Lisfranc injury last Sunday in the game against the 49ers. Francis spent part of last season on the Redskins practice squad and he was on the 53-man roster for a couple of weeks, although he did not appear in a game. Francis also was on the team this year before being released in the cut to 53 on September 2.  

The former Maryland standout has played in three NFL games, all in 2015, appearing in two for the Seahawks and one for the Dolphins.

RELATED: MORE ON ALLEN'S INJURY

In all, Francis has been a part of 22 transactions, starting when he signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2013.

Allen has undergone surgery to repair the foot already. The normal schedule for a Lisfranc calls for a player to stay off of the foot for 6-8 weeks and then start rehabbing, which can take a month or possibly a lot longer.

He would be eligible to be activated off of injured reserve after missing eight games, which means he technically could play in Week 15 against the Cardinals. But that would be an extremely optimistic timetable for such an injury.

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS 26, 49ERS 24

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.