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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Colts

Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Colts

Here is what you need to know on Wednesday, September 12, four days before the Washington Redskins play their 2018 home opener against the Colts.  

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Here is some of what you should know about the Redskins’ upcoming opponent. 

1. Andrew Luck appears to be healthy

At his point, Luck literally is the Colts’ franchise quarterback because they have so little talent elsewhere. After missing all of 2017 with a shoulder injury, Luck appears to have regained the form that had him in the top 10 of NFL quarterbacks, at least for one game. He passed 53 times in a game that his team led for most of the first three quarters. Luck wasn’t great, throwing an interception and averaging just 6 yards per attempt, but it was an encouraging return for the top pick in the 2012 draft. 

2. Colts built their interior OL like Scot McCloughan wanted to

In 2016, it was common knowledge that the former Redskins GM wanted to draft center Ryan Kelly to put alongside former fifth overall pick Brandon Scherff in the interior of the offensive line. The Colts took Kelly before the Redskins went on the clock. This year, the Colts took guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth overall pick. They essentially have the interior line that McCloughan wanted. Injuries have hampered Kelly’s career so far. He missed nine games last year with a foot injury and a concussion. 

3. The Colts lack an impact defender

Maybe Kelly and Nelson will work out for the Colts, but in this past draft they really could have used that sixth pick for help on defense. Perhaps LB Roquan Smith would have been a better pick or maybe CB Minkah Fitzpatrick. They just have no impact players. Defensive end Jabaal Sheard had 5.5 sacks last year. Nobody else currently on the roster had more than three. They cut Jonathan Hankins, their best run stopper. Safety Malik Hooker was their first-round pick last year and he may be good at some point, but injuries cost him nine games last year. In 2017 they were 30th in both yards and points allowed and they may not be much better this year. 

4. Ryan Grant led the Colts in receptions in their opener

Yes, the player who had nine receptions in 16 games with the Redskins in 2016 caught eight passes for 59 yards against the Bengals on Sunday. It was an odd departure from Washington for Grant, who did rebound last year to catch 43 passes for 573 yards last year. He clearly was a favorite of Jay Gruden’s, but the team never made much of an effort to retain him when his contract was up last March. The Ravens had a four-year offer worth $29 million on the table for him that they pulled back when they said he failed his physical. He took some visits after that and ended up with a one-year, $5 million deal with the Colts. The Redskins never got in on the market for him. With only three healthy wide receivers right now, the Redskins could use a guy like Grant. 

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The agenda

Today: Alex Smith press conference 12 p.m.; Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden press conference and open locker room after practice, approx. 3 p.m. 

Upcoming: Home opener vs. Colts (Sept. 16) 4 days; Packers @ Redskins (Sept. 23) 11; Redskins @ Saints (October 8) 26

In case you missed it

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There's a competition brewing among the Redskins defensive linemen, per Daron Payne

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Redskins Nation

There's a competition brewing among the Redskins defensive linemen, per Daron Payne

If you find yourself looking for Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis, you really just need to find one of them. Odds are, if you locate one, the other two will be close by.

The second-year pro, third-year pro, and fourth-year pro have forged quite a bond on the Redskins' defensive line, which is easily the team's most promising unit going into 2019. The three guys share an appreciation for lifting really heavy weights and dropping opposing quarterbacks. 

As it turns out, that latter love is actually part of the inspiration behind a bet Payne, Allen and Ioannidis have queued up for the 2019 campaign. Payne revealed that while with Larry Michael on a recent episode of Redskins Nation.

"Me and Jon and Matt got a little competition right now on sacks and tackles," he said with a smile, but he ultimately didn't shed any light on what the competition's compensation will be.

Whatever the trio is playing for, it should be a close race.

Ryan Kerrigan led the 'Skins in sacks in 2018, but Allen (8), Ioannidis (7.5) and Payne (5) were second, third and fourth respectively. In terms of tackles, meanwhile, it went Allen (61), Payne (56) and then Ioannidis (31). 

Allen and Payne saw a ton of snaps last year while Ioannidis was used more in a rotational role, which limited his tackles. He's an insanely productive pass rusher, though, so he can make up some ground in the sacks/tackles bet by keeping that trend going. Any of them are a solid pick if you're trying to project who'll capture their title.

Payne, for one, expects to generate better numbers in his second go-round in the league.

"Of course," he responded when Michael asked if he left some sacks out there as a rookie. "Definitely did. I want to get a couple more."

In the team's offseason practices, he's already noticed that things are "coming easier," so perhaps he'll be able to record those extra takedowns he's looking for.

As mentioned earlier, you can make an easy case for Payne, Allen or Ioannidis to win their competition, but you won't know who that winner is until late December.

One thing you can already say, however? That the QBs and running backs they'll be chasing down are the losers in this thing. That much is already known.

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Three little-known Redskins who could make things interesting at training camp

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Three little-known Redskins who could make things interesting at training camp

Ah, NFL training camps. They're where every handoff always results in a first down, safe from refs who can ruin things with one piece of yellow cloth and home to roster sleepers.

This story, though, is devoted solely to the third item on that list.

JP Finlay came up with his post-minicamp Redskins roster projection earlier this week and has said he's already extremely confident in roughly 49 of his 53 picks. What can really throw off those kinds of projections, though, is the emergence of little-known players at training camp.

Now, trying to find the next Rob Kelley or Quinton Dunbar or Cam Sims can come off as foolish, considering Washington will bring 90 players to Richmond in late July. However, using observations from offseason practices so far and clues from what coaches are saying can narrow the list of potential preseason difference makers.

So, here are three Redskins who seem like they could seriously shake things up when the Burgundy and Gold reconvene for the summer grind.

Jeremy Reaves

When he's asked to critique a certain position group, Jay Gruden often does this thing where he lists every player in that group, from starter to backup to fringe option. It's hard to discern the times when he's doing that just to be polite from the times when he's doing that because each name truly is relevant.

Jeremy Reaves' name, however, has come up twice at two very different points of the spring and early summer.

Here's Gruden from after the draft, when he was asked about what the Redskins have at safety.

"We still have Montae [Nicholson]. We obviously drafted [Troy] Apke last year, which is a pretty good option. We have [Jeremy] Reaves here in the building. He's doing some good things, did some great things at the end of the year on practice squad. And Deshazor [Everett] and Landon [Collins]. So, we have five pretty good safeties."

Here's Gruden a month and a half later, after the team's last open OTA session, again addressing that secondary spot.

"Apke is doing well. It has been good to see him get a lot of these reps and work. Obviously, last year he did not get a whole lot with his hamstring, so he is progressing nicely. Everett also has picked up the slack. He has done a very good job. Reaves, he made some big plays out there today. So, those guys are taking advantage of their time."

With Collins, Nicholson, Everett and Apke, the defense should be set on the back end. Those four all feel quite locked in.

Yet Nicholson is coming off of an unpredictable second year as a pro, while Apke couldn't get healthy at all in 2018 after a hamstring issue. Perhaps Reaves, who Gruden also called an "upcoming talent" last December, can pick up the slack if either of those DBs drop off.

Sure, the path won't be easy for Reaves, but one thing's for sure: It's better to be brought up by the head coach than not, and he's being brought up relatively frequently.

Craig Reynolds

Craig Reynolds is an undrafted rookie running back who played for the Golden Bears in college.

No, not the California Golden Bears. The Kutztown Golden Bears. Yes, that's a real school, and yes, it's fine if you've never heard of it.

Reynolds could be the longest longshot of the three players on this list, but guys like Kelley, Mack Brown and Marcus Mason have come from a similar level of anonymity to take fall snaps in the 'Skins backfield.

If you look at the RB depth chart, Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson are making the 53 barring anything crazy. Bryce Love will probably hit the PUP, but he's in the franchise's plans, too.

That means Reynolds will have to compete with the likes of the quite popular Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall, but he should see plenty of action late in preseason games. He averaged more than 150 total yards per game last year at school — indeed, it was Division II, that's a very fair counterpoint — but it feels like the chances to make impressions on Gruden and Randy Jordan in precious live action will be there. It's not like Peterson or Thompson will be used that much, anyway.

Plus, if Perine starts fumbling again or Marshall gets injured as he did in 2018, Reynolds could see those chances grow. He just has to seize every one that comes his way.

Donald Parham

Tight end feels like another position that should be simple. Jordan Reed is the star, Vernon Davis is still around despite a somewhat heavy contract and Jeremy Sprinkle is entering Year 3. If Davis or Sprinkle face any competition, you'd expect it to come from the likes of Matt Flanagan or JP Holtz.

You shouldn't ignore Daniel Parham, however. In fact, it's pretty much impossible to.

Parham signed with the 'Skins on June 7, and the 6-foot-8(!) pass catcher was on the receiving end of more than a few passes once he got going. Not surprisingly, he made the most plays in red zone situations, giving QBs like Dwayne Haskins a very appealing target to throw to. 

The Stetson product probably won't add much of anything as a blocker. Remember that Gruden doesn't like using one-dimensional tight ends, so that could hurt him. Going off that, some scouting services even think he'd be best served lining up consistently in the slot. 

Regardless, you just don't see many people at his size running downfield routes, and his potential is noticeable. A few preseason highlights on jump balls could help him stick around past August. 

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