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Dwayne Haskins says he's 'blessed' to call Alex Smith a teammate

Dwayne Haskins says he's 'blessed' to call Alex Smith a teammate

Monday marked the one-year anniversary of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith's gruesome leg injury. He broke the tibia and fibula bones in his leg Week 11 last season in a game against the Houston Texans, and after significant infections and more than a dozen surgeries, Smith finally appears on the road to recovery. 

Elizabeth Smith, Alex's wife, posted an uplifting video to Instagram documenting the quarterback's rehab to this point. Remarkably, he's running and working out again despite some reports this time last year that he might lose functionality in that leg forever. 

Tuesday morning Redskins rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins posted to Twitter reacting to Smith's video, "This man, is one of the best people I ever been around. Blessed to be able to call him a teammate."

In the immediate months after the injury, Smith was not around the team much. He was in the hospital for a significant amount of time and then worked on his rehab. But he's been a near constant presence at Redskin Park since the summer. Smith was in Richmond for training camp, and he's been traveling with the team for road games. 

The rookie was not around last fall when the injury occurred, and since Haskins joined the team in late April, Smith has been there. 

Smith is a part of this Redskins team, and clearly Haskins views that as a resource.

That's a good tone for the rookie and the veteran to strike because on some level, the two could eventually be competing for the starting quarterback job. Smith is guaranteed more than $20 million for the 2020 season, and at this point, it seems unlikely the Redskins would release him. Perhaps an injury settlement could arrive and Smith takes a different role in the organization, but that's speculation at this point. It's also possible that Haskins puts together a string of impressive play down the stretch of the 2019 season and takes a firm hold as Redskins QB1 for 2020. 

There's also one other wrinkle for 2020 that could emerge at quarterback. With a 1-9 record, the Redskins are currently in line for the 2nd overall pick. Should LSU quarterback Joe Burrow fall to 2, or should the Redskins finish the season with the No. 1 overall pick, things could get very interesting.

For now, Redskins fans should be happy to see the relationship between an accomplished veteran like Smith and a first-round pick like Haskins. The two have much in common, being Heisman finalists and playing for Urban Meyer in college. The first overall pick in 2005, Smith knows what it takes to make it in the NFL, and that knowledge could certainly hold some value for Haskins. 

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Jack Del Rio lays out the qualities a defense absolutely must have to succeed in the NFL

Jack Del Rio lays out the qualities a defense absolutely must have to succeed in the NFL

From 2002-2017, Jack Del Rio served as a head coach for 12 years and a defensive coordinator for the other four. Those NFL jobs took him from Carolina to Jacksonville to Denver and, finally, to Oakland in that span.

The 57-year-old has clearly moved around quite a bit, as well as seen his role change a few times, since the early 2000s. But one thing that's been pretty consistent for Del Rio, no matter his location, is that his defenses are reliable — and sometimes, they're very imposing.

That's especially true when you look at his work as a defensive coordinator, which is the title he now holds with the Redskins. In his four previous campaigns specifically overseeing that side of the ball (with the Panthers in 2002 and the Broncos from 2012-2014), the coach saw his units finish 2nd, 2nd, 19th and 3rd in yards allowed and 5th, 4th, 22nd and 16th in points allowed.

For comparison's sake, the last time Washington ended in the top-10 of either category was in 2009, when they were 10th in yards. Since then, they've been stuck in the bottom half of the league in both stats, and often times, they can be found hanging out at the very bottom half. 

So, what has been the key to Del Rio's groups through the years, especially the ones he heads up on his own? During a Thursday Zoom call with the local media, he detailed the qualities a defense must have to succeed.

"I think you have to be tough," Del Rio began. "And I think the toughness part is not just physical. A large part of that is mental. That's where we're gonna see a lot of growth."

In professional football, explosive strikes are going to happen. Look no further than the Burgundy and Gold's 2019 defense for proof of that.

According to Del Rio, though, being able to "bounce back" from a devastating sequence, and not allowing it to lead to another one, is hugely important. That's a trait he has valued throughout his time on the sidelines, regardless of the year or the personnel he has.

"Don't get discouraged," he said. "If there's a big play, you recognize there are talented people in the NFL, they're going to make some plays from time to time. You've got to be able to keep going and go to the next play."

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Now, as valuable of an intangible as that is to possess, Del Rio would clearly prefer it if his guys simply prevented those kinds of highlights in the first place. So, how is that accomplished?

He identified two very simple teaching points.

"It really comes down to leverage and tackling," Del Rio said. "Those are some fundamentals that I believe in that we will be getting in to."

To wrap up his thoughts on the topic, Del Rio described how he goes about building his scheme in the first place. That's the stage he's currently in right now, as he's closely evaluating Redskins new and old because, well, they're all new to him. 

That process must be "involved" and "collaborative" as he put it, and if it doesn't take into account what those around him are familiar with and strongest in, the whole operation is a failure before it begins.

"What I've tried to do, wherever I've gone, is take a look at what they've been exposed to and what experiences does the staff have?" Del Rio said. "And then we come up with what we are."

Now, what the Redskins ultimately are on defense under Del Rio won't be known for quite a while. But thanks to his remarks on Thursday, an outline of what he'll be looking to build is now available. 

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Way-too-early look at the Redskins potential 53-man roster

Way-too-early look at the Redskins potential 53-man roster

Ron Rivera took over the Redskins way back in January, and over the course of nearly six months, he's systematically changed nearly the entire organization. What does that mean for the 53-man roster?

Not as much as it did for the coaching staff or medical staff. Rivera can't overhaul an entire roster in one offseason, and frankly, wouldn't want to completely change everything the Redskins have built. There is some young talent on both sides of the ball, and plenty of players with potential. 

After carefully watching free agency and the NFL Draft unfold, and then listening to interviews with Rivera and all three coordinators - Nate Kaczor, Jack Del Rio and Scott Turner - what the Redskins 2020 roster will look like is starting to come into the picture. Real games won't start for at least another three months and nobody truly knows when practices will start. 

This is a rough outline of the group that will break camp and form the Week 1 roster. This is fluid, as injuries will pop up and perhaps more signings or trades too. The biggest question on offense - assuming Washington doesn't add another quarterback and that Alex Smith does not come back for a roster spot - is if the Redskins keep 10 offensive linemen or five running backs. Without a third QB, they have some roster flexibility on offense. 

Again, rough outline, but with lots of context and methodology. Let's go. 

QB
Dwayne Haskins
Kyle Allen
Note: This is obvious. 

RB
Adrian Peterson
Derrius Guice
JD McKissic
Antonio Gibson
Note: Health will determine much of this battle but the people that don’t see Peterson as a part of this race are misguided. He’s on this team. Peyton Barber will be interesting but he’s a plodder that averaged 3.1 yards-per-carry last year. As for Bryce Love, until he’s actually on a practice field - not a side field - the new Redskins brass won’t count on him. They have roster options to keep him on the PUP or IR too. It's also quite possible the Redskins keep five running backs and include a fullback, or that Barber takes a fifth RB spot. 

WR
Terry McLaurin
Kelvin Harmon
Steven Sims
Antonio Gandy-Golden
WRX
Isaiah Wright
Note: The Redskins will start the season with a veteran wide receiver on their roster. It may or may not be Cody Latimer, but they’ll have somebody with more than two years of NFL experience. 5th and 6th WR spot are probably the most wide-open spots on the offense, and I picked Wright because an undrafted WR has made the Redskins final roster each of the last two seasons and special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor went out of his way to highlight the former Temple player. Trey Quinn still has a shot unless WRX is a slot guy or Gibson proves a viable slot threat. Somebody has to back up Sims. If WRX is a slot guy then maybe this goes to Cam Sims. 

TE
Logan Thomas
Thaddeus Moss
Jeremy Sprinkle
Note: If Richard Rodgers gets through whatever version of training camp occurs he could make the roster. He has to prove some durability. Jeremy Sprinkle is the incumbent here but his salary cap number jumps to more than $2 million this year. Hale Hentges counts less than $700,000. For a team that has been piling up cap space throughout the 2020 offseason, things like that will matter. It’s also important to note that when Redskins offensive coordinator Scott Turner talked about the tight end spot, he specifically mentioned Sprinkle, not Hentges. 

OL
Morgan Moses
Brandon Scherff
Chase Roullier
Wes Martin
Corneilius Lucas
Saahdiq Charles
Wes Schweitzer
Keith Ismael
Geron Christian
Ross Pierschbacher
Note: This is very fluid. Christian needs to show more upper body strength whenever players get back on the field. The Redskins loaded up on cheap veteran tackles but none look overwhelming to make the roster. If Ismael can play he could probably squeeze ross Pierschbacher off the 53 and allow Washington to keep five running backs. Stay tuned. 

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DL
Daron Payne
Jonathan Allen
Matt Ioannidis
Tim Settle
Caleb Brantley
Note: Best group on the team.

DE
Ryan Kerrigan
Chase Young
Montez Sweat
Ryan Anderson
Note: Some questions where Anderson ends up playing, but asked about the linebacker/defensive end, Jack Del Rio sure talked about the former Alabama captain like a pass rusher. By year's end this could be the best group on the team, and probably needs to be. 

LB
Thomas Davis
Cole Holcomb
Jon Bostic
Kevin Pierre-Louis
Shaun Dion Hamilton
Khaleke Hudson
Note: If Reuben Foster can get back on the field, he will make the team. That's just such an unknown though. Jack Del Rio got asked about Foster and said while he's engaged in offseason Zoom meetings the organization is still waiting to see if he can get medically cleared. Otherwise, this group looks close to set. Del Rio didn't even mention Josh Harvey-Clemmons in a press conference when he talked about his linebacker group. Rookie Khaleke Hudson is undersized and could be converted to safety, but he looks to be primarily a special teams player and the organization might have a better roster situation at linebacker if Foster doesn't come back. 

CB
Kendall Fuller
Jimmy Moreland
Ronald Darby
Fabian Moreau
Aaron Colvin
Greg Stroman
Note: Maybe Danny Johnson pushes for a spot? Maybe there is a veteran free agent corner still to be signed? One other thing to watch - Moreland seems a natural fit at slot corner, but so does Fuller. Maybe the Redskins brass expects Fuller to play much more outside cornerback than the outside world.

Safety
Sean Davis
Landon Collins
Troy Apke
Deshazor Everett
Note: Seems pretty obvious here too. 

Specialists
LS - Nick Sundberg
K - Dustin Hopkins 
P - Tress Way

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