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With Montae Nicholson clear of assault charges, is he the Redskins answer at free safety?

With Montae Nicholson clear of assault charges, is he the Redskins answer at free safety?

Redskins safety Montae Nicholson dealt with a rough 2018 season. After a promising rookie campaign in 2017, plenty of folks expected Nicholson to be a breakout star in 2018.

It didn't happen. 

Paired with D.J. Swearinger in the Washington secondary, Nicholson did not show the same burst and play-making ability as his rookie year. Eventually, the team traded for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, which sent Nicholson to the bench. Then in late December, Nicholson was arrested in Loudon County on assault charges. 

Add all that up, and it wasn't clear what Nicholson's role would be in 2019. Well, the third-year pro out of Michigan State got some good news on Tuesday when reports showed that the misdemeanor assault charges brought against him had been dropped for a lack of evidence.

The Redskins spent big money to bring in former Giants Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins this offseason. He will help the Washington defense immediately, particularly in the run game. Collins, however, needs a speedster lined up next to him, a role which Nicholson could be a great fit. 

In college, Nicholson ran track. At the NFL Scouting Combine two years ago, he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash. Nicholson has speed and can cover ground fast, he proved that as a rookie. 

The situation with Nicholson seems a bit more complicated though. Last season, the Redskins stopped using their safeties in strong and free situations and started to just play them on the left or right side of the field. The goal was to not allow the offenses to know which player had which responsibilities. At times, it seemed to work, but at times, there was confusion. 

Collins is a natural leader, and on an overhauled defense, whatever happened in 2018 will be in the past. The Redskins could have two new inside linebackers starting this fall, along with Collins, and likely rookie Montez Sweat. Things will look different, and that could help Nicholson. A fresh start so to speak. 

As a rookie in 2017, Nicholson was often available to the media and seen as a fun part of the secondary group. A November concussion changed that, understandably, and Nicholson finished his rookie season on the injured reserve. His second season started with promise but went sideways, and from the surface, the safety never seemed as comfortable as he had early in his rookie season. Taking part in the festivities at the Ryan Kerrigan Golf Tournament on Monday, Nicholson was seen laughing and talking with Redskins teammates and coaches. That could mean nothing, but it seemed reminiscent of Nicholson in his rookie season. 

Since the big money got spent on Collins, Redskins fans have lamented what would happen at the safety spot opposite the 2016 All Pro safety. The team, however, never seemed too worried.

Much of that has to be a belief in Nicholson getting back to what he showed as a rookie. 

Pro Football Focus graded Nicholson as a +1.3 in 2017, strong for a first-year player. In 2018, that number dropped dramatically to a -8.9. PFF isn't gospel, but it can be a useful metric to consider play from year to year. 

At this point, the only thing that appears clear is that Nicholson is free from legal trouble stemming from the December incident. What, if any, punishment comes from the NFL or the Redskins remains to be seen, though Washington already suspended him late last season. Asked for comment on Nicholson, the Redskins declined. 

What's also clear? The Redskins need a free safety to pair with Landon Collins and did not draft anybody for that role. 

Maybe the Ashburn brass is banking on Nicholson returning to the level of play he showed as a rookie. It's a low-cost gamble that might just pay off. 


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One crazy stat that connects Dwayne Haskins with Cam Newton, but also Mark Sanchez

One crazy stat that connects Dwayne Haskins with Cam Newton, but also Mark Sanchez

The Redskins selected Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. While his record at Ohio State was impressive, Haskins didn't log many starts. 

Washington head coach Jay Gruden talked about Haskins back in March during the league meetings, before the Burgundy and Gold drafted the quarterback, and said that because he played just one year in college he would need significant time to learn the NFL game. 

"You would like a guy to play more than a year to see how he’s developed over the years. Haskins has a unique skillset. He’s big, strong and can really throw it," Gruden said. Then, "Is he going to be ready for the first year?"

After OTAs and minicamp, it's obvious Haskins has all the talent needed to play quarterback in the NFL. He's made touch throws and he's rifled balls into tight windows. At the same time, he seemed confused in spots about play calls and struggled with the speed of the pass rush. 

All of that is normal for a player with just 14 starts. But it's that number, the one year of starting experience in college, that makes one statistic stand out about Haskins. 

That's some serious company, both good, bad and ugly. 

As a rookie in 2011, Cam Newton went 6-10 with 35 total TDs and 17 interceptions, not to mention a Rookie of the Year trophy. His running prowess made up for average numbers in the pass game. The more important comparison for Redskins fans is that Newton eventually developed into an NFL MVP and got the Panthers to the Super Bowl. 

For Mark Sanchez, the rookie numbers and the career comparison aren't as kind. Sanchez threw 12 TDs and 20 INTs in 15 games as a rookie, though he was at the helm as the Jets got to two straight AFC title games. Still, for his career, Sanchez threw more INTs than TDs and could not keep a starting job after his rookie contract. 

Trubisky is a different deal. He's only started 26 games since being the second overall pick in the 2017 draft with a record of 15-11. He's thrown 31 touchdowns against 19 interceptions, and run for another five scores. It's hard to describe Trubisky's game. At times he's terribly inaccurate, but in other spots, he looks like a future Pro Bowler. 

Newton is the sure thing, Sanchez is the poor outcome. Trubisky is still to be determined. 

For Haskins, it's not good company or bad company. With only 14 starts at Ohio State before the Redskins drafted Haskins, it's just the company he's in.


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One analyst sees Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice having to split carries as a 'potential problem'

One analyst sees Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice having to split carries as a 'potential problem'

In theory, Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice working out of the same backfield should be an enormous boost for the Redskins this season.

In theory, Peterson's presence should allow Guice to slowly ease his way into the NFL during Washington's early contests, and in theory, Guice's availability should help Peterson stay fresher for 16 games since he won't have to be the one handling every carry.

But NBC Sports and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio doesn't exactly see the Redkins' running back situation playing out so peacefully. The NFL isn't a third-grade classroom; sharing isn't always caring.

"This is going to be a potential problem for the team because Adrian Peterson is not accustomed to giving up touches," Florio recently told NBC Sports Washington.

"When he was in New Orleans for not very long in 2017, he realized he wasn't getting the ball the way that he did in Minnesota," he continued. "He wanted the ball, he ended up being traded to Arizona where they had an injury need that made him the guy. Last year an injury need in Washington made him the guy."

Of the team's 339 rushing attempts by non-quarterbacks in 2018, Peterson was responsible for 251 of them. That means he was shouldered with 74-percent of the overall workload. 

During mandatory minicamp in early June, position coach Randy Jordan laid out his preferred ratio for Peterson and Guice now that they're together. What he wants sounds a lot more even than how last season's breakdown ended up looking.

“They are both different, but they are both explosive,” he said. “The thing is ideally you would like to see a 50/50, 60/40 [split]." 

Florio, however, is wary of how that could upset the future Hall of Famer.

"He wants to be the guy," Florio said. "Derrius Guice is going to — if he plays like he did before we saw that ACL tear last year — he's going to potentially eat into those touches and Adrian Peterson will not be happy about it and he will not be bashful about saying so."

While at the Ashburn podium following an offseason practice, Jay Gruden admitted that Peterson seems like a player who improves as his usage increases, but he ultimately explained he doesn't believe fewer carries will hurt Peterson. And you'd love to believe him.

Many offenses have thrived using multiple options on the ground, and it's an approach you're seeing more and more in pro football. Peterson and Guice can attack defenses in different ways, they have different strengths and they could each ease the burden on one another along with Chris Thompson, who you can't forget about.

Yet these are also two threats who are used to being the primary piece of their units. They're used to 20-plus touches and finding their rhythm at their own pace. So while Gruden, his staff and Redskins fans are focusing on the positive possibilities of a Peterson-Guice duo, Florio is less bullish.

"The more touches Guice gets, the more frustrated Peterson will be, because he knows he's only got so many years left to play football," Florio said. "He wants to get as many carries, as many yards as possible as he climbs higher and higher up the all-time rushing list. That's going to be a challenge for the team in 2019."