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Derrius Guice and two more Redskins worth watching against the Falcons

Derrius Guice and two more Redskins worth watching against the Falcons

If this were the regular season, you could probably call Thursday night's game against the Falcons a "must-win" for the 0-2 Redskins. It's August, though, so no one in the universe can call it that.

But it's still an important contest.

The third preseason matchup will be the one where the starters play the most, and also be another chance to shine for backups and fringe roster guys. That means everyone in Burgundy and Gold will be worth watching.

These three, however, will be particularly interesting to keep an eye on.

Derrius Guice

On Tuesday, Jay Gruden said he feels it's vital for Guice to "get a couple carries" and "get used to being taken to the ground, protecting the football." The head coach didn't commit to playing the running back in Atlanta, but those comments, plus some reports, indicate his long-awaited return should be coming.

Guice may be the offense's biggest X-factor for 2019. If he's healthy and able to handle a large workload, there's no telling how much of a boost he could be for Washington. Thursday looks like it'll be everyone's first chance to see how ready he is to assume that role.

Everything, from how he runs the ball to how he pass protects to how he catches the ball, will be closely examined. Let's see if he's playing confidently and with a burst in his first live-action since last August.

Greg Stroman

Fabian Moreau is going to miss the Atlanta game because of an ankle injury, which should mean an increased workload for Jimmy Moreland early on. Moreland, though, has already proven he deserves a spot on his team, so while it'll be a nice opportunity for him, Stroman's the one to monitor with Moreau out.

The second-year corner looks to be in a solid position to make the 53 behind Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Moreland. Adonis Alexander could've pushed Stroman for a spot, but he's been hurt as of late.

Still, Stroman could use a strong defensive effort in the secondary versus the Falcons. Plus, with Trey Quinn missing as well, he may be in line for some punt return reps.

Overall, he figures to see the field a lot. It's time for him to make a splash play.

Josh Harvey-Clemons

Shaun Dion Hamilton is dealing with a chest issue and won't be active for the second consecutive week. Last week, Josh Harvey-Clemons got the work in place of Hamilton, and he likely will pick up the slack there again this time.

JHC has put on a ton of muscle and weight since entering the league in 2017 and looks much more prepared to handle his linebacking duties than he was in his first two years. Hamilton and Jon Bostic appear to be the starters there as of now, but both Harvey-Clemons and Cole Holcomb have the potential to push those veterans for snaps.

Watch to see if Harvey-Clemons is making plays in both the run game and the pass game. Rob Ryan would love to see someone emerge at inside linebacker who can truly play three downs, and JHC has the tools to do so. Hopefully he puts them to use on Thursday.

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Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders ready to kick off an updated XFL

Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders ready to kick off an updated XFL

The reboot is almost here. 

The second edition of the XFL, the infamous football league brought to you by WWE founder Vince McMahon for a memorable, combustible one-year run in 2001, begins play in February. It is a second chance for the league and for the players who’ve joined, including former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones.

Jones is the quarterback for the DC Defenders, Washington’s newest pro franchise that will play its home games at D.C. United’s Audi Field. The first game isn’t until February 8 after the NFL’s season concludes with the Super Bowl, but the organization opened its offseason camp at the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House indoor facility on Thursday. The debut is just over two months away. 

“I love it. It’s pretty cool to be part of something that’s going to be a first, a historical moment of the return [of the XFL] and to be in [the D.C.] area,” Jones said. “Hopefully not just me, but this team can leave a lasting impression.”

It remains to be seen how much of an impact the Defenders will make on a crowded winter sports scene with the NHL’s Capitals and NBA’s Wizards playing and the World Series champion Nationals starting their title defense just across the street from Audi Field in April just as the XFL plays its final two games and its two playoff rounds. 

Jones, of course, led Ohio State to the national championship in 2014 when he came off the bench to replace two injured starters and led the Buckeyes to wins in the Big 10 championship game and two more in the college football playoffs. He started seven games in 2015 as a redshirt junior, but lost his job and turned pro after that season. 

Part of the appeal of the XFL is to get another shot at an NFL opportunity. Jones was drafted in the fourth round by the Buffalo Bills in 2016 and made his debut in a game late that season. He was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018 and spent that year on the practice squad. Jones was with the Seattle Seahawks this summer and again cut from the practice squad in September.  

“My focus is strictly on the XFL and the DC Defenders, nothing more, nothing less,” Jones said. “I do have long-term goals and aspirations, but all of them consist of being a better player and teammate to this franchise and this organization.”

Pep Hamilton is the head coach and general manager of the Defenders. Quarterback at Howard in the early 1990s, Hamilton has spent 10 years coaching in the NFL and was most recently the assistant head coach and passing game coordinator at Michigan. 

That drew a laugh from Jones, who was going back and forth with Hamilton to set up a meeting after the Defenders’ roster was announced. Hamilton still has a home in Ann Arbor so that’s where Jones, the ultimate Ohio State guy, had to go. 

“Right around the corner from the University,” Jones cracked. “So I had to drive past the Big House every freakin’ time I’d go up there. Monday through Wednesday I’d have to go past there.”

Jones laughed and said he was driving through campus one day and saw some players he recognized wearing Michigan gear. He yelled out the car window “O-H!” and sped past them cackling. Every workout Jones makes sure he has his Ohio State cleats on and Hamilton wears his Michigan shoes. 

Jones, Hamilton and the rest are all on the same team now, though, and it will take lots of repetitions throughout the offseason for players from colleges all over the country to come together and form a cohesive group. There isn’t much time. Walk throughs and team meetings began this week and continue into next week. Then come OTAs next weekend and finally a two-day minicamp on Dec. 16-17. 

“This is going to be interesting,” Jones said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I sense a great buzz. We did a couple of appearances and some meet-and-greets with the fans and I was shocked by the response that we got and how excited people are around the city. It’s football all year round.” 

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Nate Orchard was installing windows prior to signing with the Redskins

Nate Orchard was installing windows prior to signing with the Redskins

A week ago, many Redskins fans were not familiar with the name Nate Orchard. But after No. 54's exceptional performance in the Redskins' Week 13 victory over Carolina, he's turned into a feel-good story in an otherwise tough season in Washington.

As many Redskins fans know by now, Orchard was signed just days before the Week 13 game. Due to injuries to linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat, as well as Ryan Anderson being ejected, Orchard was forced to play meaningful snaps towards the end of Sunday's victory. He finished with a sack, recovering a fumble, and two tackles for loss in the win.

The former star on HBO's Hard Knocks while he was with the Cleveland Browns had worked out for 10 (!!) teams this season, but none chose to sign Orchard until Washington did last week. It makes sense why he was so emotional postgame.

So, how was Orchard spending his time before joining the Burgundy and Gold? 

Orchard, who spent most Mondays and Tuesdays this season working out for NFL teams, was installing windows in Utah a few days during the week, according to 106.7 The Fan.

"A typical week for me, I would leave for a workout Monday, get back Tuesday night," Orchard said on 106.7's Grant and Danny"Wednesday morning, I'd hit the gym early, then go and install windows from 7 [o'clock] until about 3 [o'clock], then come back to my family and rest up. [I would] repeat that Thursday and Friday."

Orchard admitted that he questioned whether he should continue to train and wait for a call, but says his wife encouraged him to stay motivated and continue to workout.

They say hard work pays off, and Orchard's whirlwind of a season thus far ended up being very rewarding for him this past Sunday.

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