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How did the Redskins end up as the favorites to be featured on Hard Knocks?

How did the Redskins end up as the favorites to be featured on Hard Knocks?

There's a solid formula to land on the HBO series Hard Knocks, and a rookie quarterback can play a big role. Last year, HBO picked the Cleveland Browns, and much of that was to showcase No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield. Three years ago, HBO did the same thing with the Rams and Jared Goff. 

This year, the No. 1 overall pick landed on a team that can't be shown on Hard Knocks, as Kyler Murray will play for new coach Kliff Kingsbury in Arizona. Teams with coaching changes are ineligible for the show, as are teams that made the playoffs the previous season. 

Well, the Redskins didn't make the playoffs last year and didn't make a coaching change. What other QBs were taken in the first round?

The New York Giants took Daniel Jones with the sixth pick, and the Redskins took Dwayne Haskins at 15. 

Hmmm.

For years, the idea of the Redskins on Hard Knocks seemed far fetched. Team president Bruce Allen is not particularly fond of the media or inside access for television cameras. Allen comes by that honestly, his father Hall of Fame coach George Allen liked to practice in complete secrecy. Like father, like son. And as much as HBO and the NFL can force a team to do Hard Knocks, if the team doesn't want to be a part of it, the access can be very limited. 

So, has that changed? Maybe. 

Oddsmakers have established the Redskins as the betting favorite to land on the show, with the Oakland Raiders and the Giants just behind them. Both the 'Skins and Giants have rookie QBs, but the reception around each rookie has been quite different. While generally, Washington fans are very excited about Haskins, the New York crowd seems non-pleased with Jones. 

The NFL rarely does things that upset the Giants, and in an offseason of turmoil for Big Blue, it's hard to see the team wanting the increased scrutiny of the documentary show. Between trading Odell Beckham, drafting Jones at six, and a series of odd quotes about Eli Manning's future, New York GM Dave Gettleman has become a national punch line. It seems highly unlikely Giants ownership wants their GM on national television, especially in an unguarded format like Hard Knocks, and usually, when Giants ownership wants something, they get their way. How many cold weather cities have hosted an outdoor Super Bowl again?

There's also the Raiders. 

Jon Gruden would be a star because he already is a star. The team traded for Antonio Brown, who is also a star. The Raiders would make great television.

But wouldn't they rather go on Hard Knocks next season when the team moves to Las Vegas? How glitzy is that? There won't be a coaching change — Gruden is armed with a 10-year contract — and the team should be better as their three first-round draft picks will have a year of experience. The Raiders on Hard Knocks in 2020 seems like a slam dunk. 

The Lions and 49ers are also options, but less appealing. Detroit is a perennial also-ran, and San Francisco lacks sizzle. 

So back to the Redskins. 

The team would be appealing for HBO. Washington has a huge fan base across the country, and the television network is already familiar with the team's Richmond training camp setup. In 2015, HBO chronicled the Houston Texans' training camp, and that included a trip to Richmond for joint practices. Everybody remembers that trip. 

But if the Redskins didn't want Hard Knocks before, why is this time different? Oddsmakers think things have changed, and digging in, maybe they're right.

By all accounts, the 'Skins had an excellent 2019 NFL Draft. They added their quarterback of the future in Haskins, and aggressively traded back into the first round to grab Montez Sweat, a potential beast of a pass rusher. The team also signed Landon Collins this offseason to an $84 million contract, and have pieces in place for a Top 10 defense. Offensively, Adrian Peterson is going into the Hall of Fame and second-year RB Derrius Guice should return from a knee injury to push for carries. 

Maybe, just maybe, the Redskins are willing to let HBO inside their walls because they want to brag a little bit. 

In the weeks after the draft, Allen did appearances on ESPN's First Take along with a host of national radio interviews. Stephen A. Smith interviewing Bruce Allen was wildly unexpected, and it corresponds to a noticeable increase in accessibility with the Redskins front office boss. Allen has conducted more media availabilities this offseason than he had in the previous two years combined. 

For all the talk of dysfunction that gets thrown around at Redskins Park, the reality is quite different. At least on the football side. The team did fire a number of high ranking business executives late last year after employing them for less than a season. That was an ugly scene.

On the field, however, things have been fairly steady for years. The team is aggressively mediocre in the Jay Gruden era, which is more stable than the franchise has been for the last 25 years. And Gruden would be hysterical on Hard Knocks, along with Rob Ryan and Jim Tomsula. 

Maybe going on Hard Knocks will change the perception around the team that owner Dan Snyder calls all the shots. Maybe going on Hard Knocks will get fans excited for the Haskins era, and get those fans to buy tickets. FedEx Field was noticeably empty last year. Maybe none of it happens too. 

Despite being the betting favorite, it is far from certain the Redskins land on Hard Knocks later this summer. But there are reasons to believe maybe this could be the year. 

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Redskins seek to add linebacker depth by signing Gary Johnson

Redskins seek to add linebacker depth by signing Gary Johnson

The Redskins added some linebacker depth Saturday afternoon by signing former Texas LB Gary Johnson, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported.

Johnson, 23, was released by the Kansas City Chiefs back in June following mandatory minicamp.

This signing immediately addresses a position of need as Washington's linebacker room is banged up. Reuben Foster was ruled out of the entire season due to a torn ACL he suffered in May, Josh Harvey-Clemmons is going through concussion protocol while strengthening an ailing knee, and Shaun Dion Hamilton is still questionable with a chest injury. 

In his two seasons at Texas, Johnson tallied 147 tackles, 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and two pass breakups in 23 games.

Johnson took to Twitter to celebrate his latest opportunity in the nation's capital: 

Johnson's Twitter profile also features the statement "I Hate QB's & RB's."

It's fair to say the Redskins are always on the lookout for defensive guys with that mentality. 

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Stock Up, Stock Down: Montae Nicholson and Samaje Perine going in opposite directions

Stock Up, Stock Down: Montae Nicholson and Samaje Perine going in opposite directions

The Redskins lost to the Bengals Thursday night at FedEx Field, but in the preseason, final results don't really matter. What matters comes in individual and group performances, particularly among first-team units.

In that vein, the Redskins starting defense looked strong against Cincinnati. Outside of some dumb and wacky penalty calls, the starting defense barely gave up any first downs. A number of players impressed on that group, so let's start with the stocks trending in the right direction. 

Stock Up

  • Montae Nicholson - The 96-yard interception return for a touchdown was an impressive display of playmaking ability and speed, but more than that, it was the culmination of a strong offseason and training camp. For the Redskins to be a Top 10 defense, Nicholson needs to be the hard-hitting stud that Washington fans saw glimpses of as a rookie in 2017. Last year was a lost season for Nicholson, who dealt with injuries, getting benched and legal troubles. 2019 is a new start, and so far, it looks quite good. 
  • Adrian Peterson - Not that a first-ballot Hall of Famer really needs preseason validation, but when Peterson ripped off a 26-yard run in the first quarter against the Bengals it became pretty obvious he's ready to go for 2019. And it's important too as second-year back Derrius Guice still isn't cleared for competition. 
  • Robert Davis - Another week, another long touchdown. If there's a handbook to show how to force your way onto a roster, Davis is reading from it. 
  • Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne - These dudes are beasts. 

Despite the good news, there was bad news too. Here's that list:

Stock Down

  • Samaje Perine - Five carries for one yard against Cincy. You read that right. That comes after a poor showing in pass protection in the preseason opener. Jay Gruden always sings praises of Perine but hasn't after the last two preseason games. Prior to Shaun Wilson's ankle injury, he seemed like a guy that could really push for Perine's roster spot. Could that be Byron Marshall now?
  • Paul Richardson - The speedster wideout missed the Bengals game, and the word from one Redskins coach was "he's hurt." Many players get held out of preseason action with slight injuries, stuff they would play through in the regular season. That's not the deal with Richardson. He needs to get right. 
  • Cole Holcomb - If you can't make the club in the tub, Holcomb needs to get back on the field. While he's not in actual roster danger because of the growing number of injuries at inside linebacker, Holcomb is dealing with an AC joint issue. Linebackers need their shoulders, and Holcomb missed a valuable opportunity against the Bengals with presumed starter Shaun Dion Hamilton already out for that game. 
  • Nate Kaczor - The Redskins new Special Teams coach is off to a rough start. In two preseason games Washington has already given up two punt return touchdowns, and against the Bengals, kicker Dustin Hopkins missed an extra point and a field goal. Special teams are tricky in the preseason. In the regular season with 53-man rosters, starting players land on special teams. In the preseason with 90-man rosters, it's largely a collection of players that won't make the final roster lining up on special teams. Still, ugly start. 

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