Michelle Martinelli

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Dwayne Haskins isn't letting 'brain farts' stop him from trying to be Redskins' starter

Dwayne Haskins isn't letting 'brain farts' stop him from trying to be Redskins' starter

Dwayne Haskins won't know if or when he's ready to be the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback until his coaches tell him. And he's OK with that. 

The team released its first unofficial depth chart Monday, and the rookie out of Ohio State is listed as the third-string quarterback behind Colt McCoy at No. 1 and Case Keenum as the first backup. While Washington coach Jay Gruden downplayed the importance of the first depth chart -- he said it's "an order that means nothing at this point" -- Haskins isn't too concerned about it either. 

"The good thing about this is I get to play in the preseason games, so [I] can just have fun with that and go show what I can do," Haskins told NBC Sports Washington's Julie Donaldson on Monday. 

"And it's like I always said: It's all about the end goal. It's not about what happens right now. It's about how you react and how you finish. So I might be three, I might be one tomorrow -- you never know. So I'm just having fun."

Haskins said learning the plays and a new system behind McCoy and Keenum isn't the hard part. It's the multitasking and "brain farts" that get him sometimes. 

It's not that Haskins doesn't know what he's doing. He says he does. But he said he gets "into my little rookie head sometimes" and messes up. 

So what exactly are those brain farts?

"Forgetting the snap count, taking the wrong footwork, telling a guy to maybe run the wrong route," said offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell, who briefly crashed Haskins' interview with Donaldson.

"But I'll tell you what," O'Connell continued. "Every day, he makes two or three throws that make us all really excited that we've got him. And the skillset and talent. It's just understanding how hard this position is to play."

Haskins is also getting a hand from more than just the coaching staff. 

Injured passer Alex Smith is also in Richmond and on the sidelines with his crutches. Haskins said he regularly relies on the veteran QB for help and analysis.

"I talk to him every day, every play," Haskins said of Smith. "'What did you see? What do you think? What would you do?' And then he'll give me advice and just give me some tips. He's great. I think he's a great guy, and he goes out of his way to help me, and he's been a great resource." 


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Max Scherzer returns to injured list, Erick Fedde called up from Double-A ball


Max Scherzer returns to injured list, Erick Fedde called up from Double-A ball

Sorry, Nationals fans, but Max Scherzer is out of the starting rotation again.

Washington's ace and three-time Cy Young Award winner was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a mild rhomboid strain in a move that was retroactive to July 26, the Nationals announced Monday. Additionally, they recalled right-handed pitcher Erick Fedde from Double-A Harrisburg.

This happened a day after Nationals manager Davey Martinez said he was "doubtful that he'll make his start on Tuesday" in the second of a three-game home series against the Atlanta Braves. 

Scherzer -- who just turned 35 on Saturday -- has been dealing with a back injury since June 30, but he returned to the mound Thursday, throwing 86 pitches (57 strikes) through five innings. The Nats lost, 8-7, but Fernando Rodney took the loss because Washington had the lead in the top of the ninth but let it slip away.

However, the next day, Scherzer woke up with an irritation in his back, which led to an MRI and a stem-cell injection. But his return to the injured list suggests it's a more serious injury than something that can be cured with a shot. 

Scherzer is 9–5 with a 2.41 ERA in 20 starts so far this season. He has the second-best ERA in the league and is solidly at the top with 189 strikeouts.

This is the second time he's been on the injured list this season, following his career-best month of June. He was placed on the injured list July 13, retroactive to July 10, because of a mid-back strain that was specific to his scapula, missing two starts in 12 games.

Through eight starts and 13 games, 26-year-old Fedde is 1-1 with a 3.40 ERA for the Nats this season. His last start was June 24 against the Rockies.

He played in seven games between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Fresno and is 3-1 with a 5.45 ERA with 37 strikeouts and nine walks.

The Nats' first matchup in the three-game series against the Braves is Monday (7 p.m. ET) with Patrick Corbin on the mound. Fedde is scheduled to pitch Tuesday.


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DeAngelo Hall on the key to unlocking the Redskins' 'scary' defense

DeAngelo Hall on the key to unlocking the Redskins' 'scary' defense

Former Washington Redskins defensive back DeAngelo Hall thinks the team's defense -- the secondary in particular -- could be a huge threat this season. But for that to happen, its leaders need to take charge.

Specifically, Hall was talking about cornerback Josh Norman and safety Landon Collins, the former New York Giant who the Redskins signed in March. They have different leadership styles, Hall said, but they'll complement each other as well. 

"Landon is one of those quiet leaders who is going to lead by example," Hall told NBC Sports Washington at training camp in Richmond. "Josh is one of those leaders who's going to bark out his commands and expect you to follow him. So I'm excited to see what him and Landon and the rest of those guys can do, because I think this defense has a chance to be scary."

Hall -- who spent 10 of his 14 NFL seasons in Washington -- said he was "frustrated" with Norman last season as the team finished 7-9 and didn't make the playoffs. He said he thinks Norman's "very best is an All-Pro level," and he "didn't see that" from the 31-year-old corner last year.

Norman was second on the team with nine passes defended and three interceptions for 79 yards, and he had 64 total tackles. He was a Pro Bowler and named first-team All-Pro in 2015.

But Hall gets the vibe that things might actually be different for Norman this year. 

"From talking to him [last week] and talking to coaches, I think we'll see the All-Pro Josh Norman," Hall said about his expectations for 2019. 

"I think he needed to kind of just be woken up. You know a lot of us corners, sometimes you kind of get complacent in the position you're at. Josh kind of hears a lot of the talking, and he's working, he's grinding. Every coach I talk to, every player I've talked to says this is the Josh Norman they've never seen as far as preparation. You heard him say he's preparing his mind as well as his body. 

"So I told him that I got his back. I'm looking forward to him having a great year, continuing to lead these guys."

Overall, Washington's defense finished the 2018-19 season ranked 17th in the league and 15th in passing yards per game with 237.1. 

But, as NBC Sports Washington's Pete Hailey noted in March when the terms of Collins' deal with the team became public, the 25-year-old safety could turn out to be "the piece that elevates what was an average unit in 2018 into the top-third of the NFL."

Collins still has some growing to do, but he's an excellent tackler with a history of making key plays. He also has a mentality that could rub off on those around him. 

"In Landon Collins the Redskins added a true leader -- a veteran guy who has made a bunch of plays, who's played in big games," Hall explained when asked what type of player Washington is getting in the safety. "He has the pedigree. He has the demeanor. I mean, the guy can do it all. I'm just talking about his mental makeup."

With the Giants -- who finished even lower than the Redskins in the NFC East at 5-11 -- Collins led the team with 96 tackles, adding four passes defended and one forced fumble.

"Physically, he can cover," Hall continued to say about Collins. "He can run. He loves to tackle. He's just the kind of guy to help bring a young guy like Monte Nicholson along because Landon is not just here to be a great player. He's here to help lead these other guys and help them become great players around him."