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Big Picture: 4 lessons learned from Redskins preseason debut

Big Picture: 4 lessons learned from Redskins preseason debut

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When the Redskins departed Gilette Stadium Thursday night after opening the 2018 preseason with a 26-17 loss to the Patriots, injuries dominated the conversation. 

Will Derrius Guice be ok?

That's what fans want to know most. 

That answer will come from an MRI exam on Friday, but plenty of information is available from the game against the Patriots.

1. On the Move

For two weeks at training camp in Richmond, it's become apparent that the Redskins offense will feature more movement from the quarterback position.

The design aims to take advantage of Alex Smith's mobility, and even without Smith playing Thursday night, the results looked good. Colt McCoy can move inside and outside of the pocket, and did a good job of that in New England.

His numbers (13/18, 189 yards and 2 TDs) might be a bit inflated by the Patriots deploying a vanilla defensive set, but small portions of a West Coast passing game infused with some spread concepts were on display.

2. Here to Stay

The Redskins will need to make tough decisions when the roster eventually gets trimmed from 90 players down to 53. The decision with Maurice Harris, however, will be simple.

After Jamison Crowder, who didn't play in Foxborough, Harris has been the team's most consistent wideout in training camp. He showed Thursday his ability to get open and make plays, bringing in three catches for 22 yards and a touchdown. And don't forget Harris was primarily matched up against the Patriots top cornerback in Stephon Gilmore.

While Jay Gruden and company will have difficult choices cutting some good players at receiver, Harris won't be one of them.

He's on the team.

3. Holding 

Running back presents another roster battle with a lot of intrigue. Guice's first-quarter injury aside, Samaje Perine seems like one player truly fighting for his spot.

Byron Marshall made a few impressive plays early in the game, first on a blitz pickup and later on a nice catch-and-run for a touchdown.

When Perine entered the game, he played fine and had one nice 14-yard burst. But he also put the ball on the ground, something the Redskins staff doesn't tolerate. Perine got bailed out on the play by a forward progress call from the referees, which didn't allow Bill Belichick to challenge the play on the field.

As a rookie last season, Perine had some fumbling issues.

That's not a good habit to keep. 

4. Good Depth, and Wide Depth 

The Redskins rebuilt their defensive line this offseason, adding Daron Payne and Tim Settle in the draft.

On Thursday, Payne didn't play, and neither did 2017 first-round draft pick, Jonathan Allen. Settle did, and he looked good. Surprisingly athletic with a huge frame, Settle had a truly impressive second half in New England.

Sure, he was matched up against third and fourth string players, but Settle himself is a fifth-round pick.

If he can continue to show that type of effort and strength, the future looks very bright.


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VIDEO: Montae Nicholson and Vernon Davis return to Redskins OTAs

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VIDEO: Montae Nicholson and Vernon Davis return to Redskins OTAs

Montae Nicholson and Vernon Davis were among those absent at Monday's open Redskins OTAs session, and both absences were surprising considering each player's somewhat unsteady spot on the roster.

Nicholson's second year with the Redskins was a struggle both on and off the field, while Davis is often mentioned as someone who might be in line for a contract restructuring or even a release. 

However, thanks to a video that the Redskins posted on Instagram, it's now clear that the safety and the tight end have since returned to Ashburn to work with their fellow teammates:

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8️⃣5️⃣ putting in the work

A post shared by Washington Redskins (@redskins) on

It's an especially encouraging development for Nicholson, who should be doing whatever he can to get back in the good graces of the coaching staff. Whatever the reason for his absence was on Monday, it's a good sign to see that he didn't stay away too long. 

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Most OTAs absences don't matter, but Montae Nicholson's absence sure stands out

Most OTAs absences don't matter, but Montae Nicholson's absence sure stands out

Most of the time, if you're getting upset about an NFL player skipping voluntary OTAs, you're doing life wrong.

But if you're a Redskins fan who's a bit puzzled by Montae Nicholson not showing up to the early sessions of Washington's offseason workouts, you have a right to be.

Nicholson wasn't in Ashburn on Monday, a practice that was open to the media. There's been no indication that he's reported to the 'Skins since, either (UPDATE: Here's a video proving he has since returned, which is an encouraging sign). 

Now, this isn't a situation worth really freaking out about. Again, OTAs are voluntary, and it's totally possible Nicholson was working out somewhere else and feels that's how he'll be best prepared for 2019. 

Still, though, assuming he had nothing else serious going on, it's a questionable choice by the defensive back. And, according to Jay Gruden, it was a questionable choice he made on his own.

"Correct," Gruden answered Monday when asked if Nicholson skipping was based on the 23-year-old's decision. Gruden said earlier in his presser that he was "not really surprised" by it.

Perhaps the coach is telling the truth and he wasn't surprised. You can bet he was definitely annoyed by it, however.

Nicholson isn't an established player like Trent Williams or Josh Norman, other guys who weren't there when the Burgundy and Gold started this phase of the NFL calendar. He's a third-year safety with 22 up-and-down games to his name.

Not only that, he's just a week or so removed from the news that December assault charges against him were dropped due to a lack of evidence. You'd think someone who just learned that would be eager to get in front of Gruden and his coaching staff and try to repair his image.

After all, much of the same coaching staff who preferred to keep Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the lineup over Nicholson, even as Clinton-Dix struggled following his arrival, remains in charge.  

The starting spot opposite of Landon Collins is wide open, and of the options on the roster, Nicholson is the most talented. He also would fit nicely next to Collins, considering he's got the speed and ability in coverage when he's healthy and mentally right.

Speaking of Collins, he attended OTAs, despite the fact that he wasn't able to participate as he continues to rehab a shoulder injury. Yet there he was, involved and roaming the sidelines, encouraging his teammates and coaching up the younger DBs on various techniques and details.

One of those DBs Collins should've been coaching up is Nicholson, yet Nicholson was nowhere to be found. Plenty more reps await Nicholson over the coming months, but the fact that he wasn't there to claim the first helping of them is not the best way to start his path back into the starting lineup.

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