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10 Questions for training camp: Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

10 Questions for training camp: Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

The Redskins spent a ton of money to fix their safety position this offseason, shelling out $45 million guaranteed for Landon Collins.

There's only one problem, however, as a modern NFL defense requires two safeties.

Assuming health, Collins will undoubtedly start at safety. What player lines up next to him will bring concerns regardless of the direction the Washington coaching staff leans.

The leading contender for the job is Montae Nicholson, a third-year pro out of Michigan State. As a rookie, Nicholson looked like a potential draft steal, especially early in the season when he showed speed, pop and a nose for the football. His rookie season ended after just eight games though due to injuries and a concussion.

Going into this second year in 2019, Jay Gruden heaped significant praise on Nicholson, and compared his importance to the defense as Jordan Reed was to the Redskins offense.

Things didn't go well.

Nicholson never seemed to understand the new scheme in place, where he and DJ Swearinger occupied sides of the field instead of a more traditional strong and free safety role. Nicholson has the track background to play a real center field, and seemed bewildered at times playing close to the line of scrimmage.

As the 2018 campaign staggered along, Redskins team president Bruce Allen traded with Green Bay for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, effectively benching Nicholson. Clinton-Dix wasn't much better in D.C., and eventually he signed with the Bears as a free agent this offseason.

There was also a late-season arrest for Nicholson outside of a Loudon County bar. While charges eventually got dropped, the Redskins suspended Nicholson for the final few games of 2018.

Add all of that up, and it's hard to believe Redskins' brass when they speak about how much they trust Nicholson and expect great things from him. Still, the NFL is no place for hurt feelings, and both the franchise and the safety need to turn the page from an ugly 2018 and hope 2019 fares better.

The reality is the Redskins don't have many options if Nicholson can't reclaim his starting role. Troy Apke showed next to nothing in an injury-plagued rookie season last year. Deshazor Everett has been with the Redskins for four seasons and has been a valuable special teams player, yet, when the team has needed somebody to fill a revolving door at either safety spot, he rarely gets a chance.

Odds are there isn't more help coming.

The draft came and went without Washington adding a safety. Same with the second wave of free agency.

Maybe a veteran safety with legit speed emerges on the marketplace - an unexpected training camp cut - but the Burgundy and Gold can't count on that. It's also possible veteran defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can make the Redskins 53-man roster and help at safety in passing situations.

Remember, however, that DRC retired from football last year halfway through the season. Let's see him get through the grind of two-a-days in Richmond before considering the 33-year-old part of the solution.

Add all of that up and it's very clear the Redskins need a lot from Nicholson.

Collins should help Washington immediately, as a leader and as a sure tackler. He's had some elite seasons in the NFL, but that last happened in 2016.

Collins on his own as the last line of defense will help the Redskins, but not to the tune of an average salary of $15 million.

Collins paired with a healthy and fully engaged Nicholson could be special. But that requires Nicholson to be both healthy and fully engaged. Time will tell on that.

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One important thing that Ron Rivera will bring to the Redskins, according to an NFL agent

One important thing that Ron Rivera will bring to the Redskins, according to an NFL agent

What will Ron Rivera bring to the Redskins in 2020 and beyond (well, besides lots of people who worked with him in Carolina)? That's a question everyone's trying to figure out.

Many are hoping for more wins, obviously. Washington's been one of the league's worst franchises for the past decade, while Rivera was a two-time Coach of the Year with the Panthers who made it to the playoffs four times in nine seasons there.

Beyond that, however, there's an expectation that Rivera can also elevate the Burgundy and Gold's day-to-day operations, making the organization more professional, consistent and stable — words that haven't been used to describe their operations in a long time.

In an interview with the Redskins Talk podcast, longtime NFL agent Andy Ross spoke to that second point.

"I will say this," Ross, who reps players such as Morgan Moses and Taysom Hill, told the podcast. "The one thing that Ron really instilled in the players, because I've had players on Carolina, was accountability. These are young men that are growing into men, so he wants to teach them to be strong men, be strong leaders. And I think that's something he's going to bring into Washington."

CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH ANDY ROSS ON THE REDSKINS TALK PODCAST

The 2019 campaign was beyond chaotic for the Redskins, and one of its major turning points came when Dan Snyder made the decision to fire Jay Gruden after five straight losses to open the year. One of the most popular criticisms of Gruden was a lack of accountability. According to Ross, that won't occur now that Rivera's in charge.

The 58-year-old also possesses another quality that'll be incredibly valuable as he tries to turn around the Redskins, a place that's been plagued by distractions, leaks and fracturing season after season.

"He doesn't allow the outside influence to affect his football team," Ross said. "So I think you're going to see, with the Redskins going forward, that everything is going to be really kept in-house."

Rivera's reputation precedes him. Right after he was hired by Snyder, in fact, Panthers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy said he would tell players in Washington that "one of the best things in your career is about to happen."

Ross is yet another person to echo that kind of praise for the head coach. With each passing day, it sounds more and more like the Redskins landed someone with an approach that's precisely what everyone involved with the team needs.

"They have some really good, young talent," Ross concluded. "And I think he's really going to mold a lot of these young players into really strong men, and that should be good for the culture."

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Ron Rivera sends military veteran to the Super Bowl

Ron Rivera sends military veteran to the Super Bowl

One lucky fan is headed to Super Bowl LIV, courtesy of Redskins head coach Ron Rivera.

Teaming up with USAA and the American Veterans, Rivera is sending military veteran LeCheton “Omar” Settles to Miami. The Redskins head coach tweeted about it on Wednesday.

Settles joined the United States Marines at age 17 and dedicated eight years of his life to service. During his military tenure, Settles spent time as a Field Artillery Cannoneer, Marine Corps Security Force Guard, Martial Arts Instructor-Trainer, and Small Arms Weapons Instructor.

Rivera comes from a military background himself and is using this as a way to reward one military member for his service.

"Inspired by my father’s military service, we always had a strong military appreciation in our team’s culture during my time in Carolina and I plan on continuing that now with the Redskins in Washington, D.C.," Rivera said in the release. "To kick that off, I am privileged to partner with USAA and AMVETS to award a trip to the Super Bowl to Sergeant Omar Settles in recognition of and for his service to our country."    

 

He will meet with Settles on both Friday and Saturday of Super Bowl week at the USAA Salute to Service Lounge in Miami. 

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