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Here's how Bill Callahan justified the Redskins starting Montae Nicholson against the Jets

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Here's how Bill Callahan justified the Redskins starting Montae Nicholson against the Jets

The Redskins chose to start Montae Nicholson at safety in Week 11 against the Jets, a game that took place just a few days after Nicholson's reported girlfriend, Julia Crabbe, died of an apparent drug overdose at his house early last Thursday morning.

On Monday, Bill Callahan was asked multiple times to justify that decision.

His first answer focused solely on the process of physically clearing Nicholson to play and didn't address Crabbe's death or how Nicholson was handling it emotionally. The defender had been dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of Washington's previous two contests.

"I don't think there was a huge decision relative to his health," Callahan said. "We had worked him out prior to the game and he was OK to go, and we monitor that pretty closely and felt pretty positive about inserting him and starting him in the game."

A follow-up was then posed in an effort to get an answer about Nicholson's mindset and ability to play football when he was still processing the recent death of his reported girlfriend. 

Callahan explained he "didn't get into all of that" with Nicholson, but others within the franchise did.

"He spoke to a lot of other people in the organization relative to that situation," the interim coach told reporters. "From my perspective, in terms of playing him and the decision of playing him was strictly based on coaching gathered with all of the other information I had."

Callahan was then pressed one last time on the matter of how Nicholson was feeling mentally and whether he should've been allowed to suit up. According to the coach, the Redskins were content with letting Nicholson make the call.

"There was a discussion. He was prepared to play," Callahan said. "Those questions were put forth and it was ultimately his decision to play. That's why, when you work out a player before a game and you go out and you take him through any type of pregame conditioning, pregame test or standard drill for that matter, it's always a player's decision whether they're ready to play or not. He was physically ready to play and he wanted to play, so that was strictly his decision and he had the freedom to make that decision."

All in all, Callahan's comments felt callous, and his first answer — in which he acted as if the only thing to take into consideration was whether Nicholson's ankle was stable enough — bordered on preposterous.

A member of the Redskins public relations staff later came to the media to clarify that Callahan wasn't trying to gloss over the tragedy. All he was looking to do, per the official, was walk through the gameday process of getting a player ready to go. 

Of course, this is a very difficult thing to talk about. A 21-year-old died and it's important that everyone discussing it keeps that in mind. Perhaps Callahan hoped his first response would suffice and he wouldn't have to delve into anything more. It didn't suffice, however, and neither did his other quotes.

Unfortunately, the overall justification to play Nicholson wasn't nearly enough, in what was another misstep for the Redskins in a season full of them.

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One analyst gives a very dispiriting take on what the 2020 Redskins have at quarterback

One analyst gives a very dispiriting take on what the 2020 Redskins have at quarterback

No one will look at the Redskins' quarterback situation and call it superb or even settled, but with a slimmer and more experienced Dwayne Haskins positioned as starter and ex-Panthers signal caller Kyle Allen reuniting with his old staff as depth, fans can at least reasonably hope that things will work out under center in 2020.

NBC Sports analyst Josh Norris, though, doesn't envision a positive outcome for Washington's passers this year. During an interview on the Redskins Talk podcast, he explained why.

First, Norris gave his opinion on Allen. When the Burgundy and Gold initially acquired the former Carolina QB, some asserted that Allen would actually beat out Haskins for the top job. Norris, however, flat out doesn't believe Allen has that kind of talent.

"My lowest moment of 2019 was that two-month span where people tried to make Kyle Allen a starter in the NFL," Norris told Redskins Talk. "It was bogus. It was so ridiculous."

"I understand the production was there and he went on some starting streaks and they won some games," he continued. "But he's at best an NFL backup."

In the end, Norris compared Allen to Colt McCoy. Yes, most rosters need someone like McCoy — hell, he just left the area after a six-year run with the franchise and he's now a Giant, so he's clearly valued — but those kinds of guys aren't the ones coaches want running their offenses for more than a few quarters or so.

Now, here's the part where it gets dispiriting: While Norris doesn't think much of Allen — in addition to the McCoy comparison, Norris labeled Allen inaccurate and too susceptible to pocket pressure — he still expects him to start for team in 2020. That stems from Norris also doubting what Haskins will be able to do in his second season as a pro.

"We still don't know who he is," Norris said of the 2019 first-round pick.

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Yes, Haskins improved as a rookie in a situation that was largely a catastrophe, so it's not crazy to conclude he should continue to ascend now that the organization is more settled. Norris himself acknowledged the growth Haskins made.

However, even with that maturation, as well as Norris' positive feelings about Ron Rivera, Scott Turner and many other aspects of Washington's potential turnaround, the analyst still sees a glaring weakness that'll directly affect Haskins and could contribute to a less-than-stellar campaign for No. 7.

"What is possibly the most important part of quarterback success is offensive line play, and I think it's fair to question the Washington Redskins' offensive line right now, especially the left tackle spot," Norris said.

In the end, Norris anticipates Haskins having issues for a certain number of weeks, Allen stepping in after and the Redskins overall being unhappy with their collective output at QB. 

"We've seen NFL storylines repeat themselves," he said. "A [staff] goes to a new organization and brings a quarterback that may not be starting caliber but understands exactly what they want to do and he ultimately ends up starting a handful of games because of that, because they want to stabilize the situation as much as possible."

How stable does that really sound? The answer, of course, is not at all. 

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Why Cam Newton remains unsigned, according to his former coach Ron Rivera

Why Cam Newton remains unsigned, according to his former coach Ron Rivera

As the calendar turns to June and most NFL teams have settled on the first phase of their roster makeup, one notable name remains on the market. Cam Newton, the former Carolina Panthers quarterback and 2015 league MVP, is still unsigned as the 2020 season fast approaches.

Despite his past success and dual-threat skills, the 31-year-old has not sparked much interest, specifically as a starter, from NFL teams. Why could that be? One person who may have an understanding of the factors contributing to Newton remaining off a roster is Redskins head coach Ron Rivera.

Rivera and Newton spent nine seasons together as the quarterback-head coach duo for the Carolina Panthers, a run that came to an end following the 2019 campaign. Rivera has a fresh start in Washington, and Newton is looking for the same after being released earlier this year. Barring a major change, it most likely won't come with the Redskins.

However, the head coach still has solid insight on the situation. Based on what Rivera knows about Newton and has seen from him in the past, he believes there is one major factor that has teams hesitant to bring him in: Health.

“I think that’s probably the biggest thing, more than anything else," Rivera said of Newton's injury concerns on Fox Sports' 'Fox Football Now' with Jay Glazer. "You’ve got to know. The foot and the shoulder will be the two biggest concerns everybody has."

As Rivera alluded to, there are question marks surrounding Newton following a 2019 season that saw him only appear in two games. Specifically, consistent shoulder problems have messed with throwing motion will continue to be a concern for any team interested in bringing him on. Nagging foot injuries don't help. 

Time off and surgery have been beneficial to his recovery process, but Rivera understands that it's hard to truly judge a player until you see him in action once again. However, he has heard some rave reviews of Newton's physical shape as of late.

"I will say this, though, from the people that are around him that I know, they’ve all said the same thing to me. They’ve said, ‘Coach, he looks great. He really does,'" Rivera said.

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Rivera added that it isn't just his physical presence that is encouraging, but his mindset as well. Being released from the team he spent his whole career with and took to the Super Bowl, coupled with doubt from others around the NFL, has given Newton a new edge.

"He’s a little bit different. His whole attitude -- he’s got something to prove," Rivera said he's heard.

Rivera's words are encouraging, but only time will tell where Newton ends up and when he'll get another chance to prove himself in the NFL. There is one thing Rivera knows: whenever that opportunity does arise, Newton will make the league remember just how talented he is.

"And I will say this -- the one thing about Cam Newton with an edge for something to prove, don’t ever bet against him.”

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