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Need to Know: Five Redskins to watch vs. Panthers

Need to Know: Five Redskins to watch vs. Panthers

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, October 10, three days before the Washington Redskins host the Carolina Panthers.

Talking points

After a bad loss in New Orleans, a number of Redskins will be in the spotlight on Sunday. Here are five players to watch during Redskins vs. Panthers.

QB Alex Smith

Against the Saints, Smith posted a passer rating of 69.9, his worst since he had a 56.1 rating for the Chiefs in a December 2016 game against the Titans. Usually, Smith is on this list just because he is the quarterback and he doesn’t play well the Redskins are unlikely to win. But after a performance like he had against the Saints he will be under the microscope much more than usual. A few poor performances in a row and chatter about his age and his fit in the offense will grow. 

G Brandon Scherff

The offensive line has been inconsistent, and Scherff has been part of their problems. In the last two games, he has allowed a sack, a QB hit, and two hurries. Those aren’t bad numbers for your average NFL guard but typically Scherff doesn’t allow the quarterback to get bothered that often in a month’s worth of games. Scherff going to get paid $12.5 million under his fifth-year option next year and he’s going to be looking for a long-term deal that pays him at least that much annually. He needs to be much better.

TE Jordan Reed

Reed was getting on a roll before Monday night. He averaged 4.6 receptions and 56 yards before getting just one for 21 yards in New Orleans. Since the start of the season, Reed’s workload has remained on the light side, around 40 snaps per game as he continues to work his way back from toe surgery that limited his offseason conditioning program. He will get worked into the lineup more and more often over the next few weeks and any game he could explode with a 100-yard, multi-touchdown game. 

OLB Preston Smith

Ryan Kerrigan got out of the zero-sack club against the Saints and now it’s Smith’s turn. At this point last year Smith had four sacks. And he finished with eight. He also got off to a slow start in 2016 with no sacks through his first five games and he finished the year with 4.5. A similar performance this year would not look good on his resume and it won’t help his ability to collect big money as a free agent when the season is over. 

CB Josh Norman

I don’t think you need much elaboration here. He was bad enough against the Saints to get benched for a series after halftime. Former teammate DeAngelo Hall said that Norman is more focused on being a celebrity than he is about being a good player. His first interception since Christmas Eve in 2016 would go a long way towards quieting the noise. 

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The agenda

Today: Practice 1:00; Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky press conferences and open locker room after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Panthers @ Redskins 3 days; Cowboys @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Giants 17

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Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders ready to kick off an updated XFL

Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders ready to kick off an updated XFL

The reboot is almost here. 

The second edition of the XFL, the infamous football league brought to you by WWE founder Vince McMahon for a memorable, combustible one-year run in 2001, begins play in February. It is a second chance for the league and for the players who’ve joined, including former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones.

Jones is the quarterback for the DC Defenders, Washington’s newest pro franchise that will play its home games at D.C. United’s Audi Field. The first game isn’t until February 8 after the NFL’s season concludes with the Super Bowl, but the organization opened its offseason camp at the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House indoor facility on Thursday. The debut is just over two months away. 

“I love it. It’s pretty cool to be part of something that’s going to be a first, a historical moment of the return [of the XFL] and to be in [the D.C.] area,” Jones said. “Hopefully not just me, but this team can leave a lasting impression.”

It remains to be seen how much of an impact the Defenders will make on a crowded winter sports scene with the NHL’s Capitals and NBA’s Wizards playing and the World Series champion Nationals starting their title defense just across the street from Audi Field in April just as the XFL plays its final two games and its two playoff rounds. 

Jones, of course, led Ohio State to the national championship in 2014 when he came off the bench to replace two injured starters and led the Buckeyes to wins in the Big 10 championship game and two more in the college football playoffs. He started seven games in 2015 as a redshirt junior, but lost his job and turned pro after that season. 

Part of the appeal of the XFL is to get another shot at an NFL opportunity. Jones was drafted in the fourth round by the Buffalo Bills in 2016 and made his debut in a game late that season. He was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018 and spent that year on the practice squad. Jones was with the Seattle Seahawks this summer and again cut from the practice squad in September.  

“My focus is strictly on the XFL and the DC Defenders, nothing more, nothing less,” Jones said. “I do have long-term goals and aspirations, but all of them consist of being a better player and teammate to this franchise and this organization.”

Pep Hamilton is the head coach and general manager of the Defenders. Quarterback at Howard in the early 1990s, Hamilton has spent 10 years coaching in the NFL and was most recently the assistant head coach and passing game coordinator at Michigan. 

That drew a laugh from Jones, who was going back and forth with Hamilton to set up a meeting after the Defenders’ roster was announced. Hamilton still has a home in Ann Arbor so that’s where Jones, the ultimate Ohio State guy, had to go. 

“Right around the corner from the University,” Jones cracked. “So I had to drive past the Big House every freakin’ time I’d go up there. Monday through Wednesday I’d have to go past there.”

Jones laughed and said he was driving through campus one day and saw some players he recognized wearing Michigan gear. He yelled out the car window “O-H!” and sped past them cackling. Every workout Jones makes sure he has his Ohio State cleats on and Hamilton wears his Michigan shoes. 

Jones, Hamilton and the rest are all on the same team now, though, and it will take lots of repetitions throughout the offseason for players from colleges all over the country to come together and form a cohesive group. There isn’t much time. Walk throughs and team meetings began this week and continue into next week. Then come OTAs next weekend and finally a two-day minicamp on Dec. 16-17. 

“This is going to be interesting,” Jones said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I sense a great buzz. We did a couple of appearances and some meet-and-greets with the fans and I was shocked by the response that we got and how excited people are around the city. It’s football all year round.” 

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Nate Orchard was installing windows prior to signing with the Redskins

Nate Orchard was installing windows prior to signing with the Redskins

A week ago, many Redskins fans were not familiar with the name Nate Orchard. But after No. 54's exceptional performance in the Redskins' Week 13 victory over Carolina, he's turned into a feel-good story in an otherwise tough season in Washington.

As many Redskins fans know by now, Orchard was signed just days before the Week 13 game. Due to injuries to linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat, as well as Ryan Anderson being ejected, Orchard was forced to play meaningful snaps towards the end of Sunday's victory. He finished with a sack, recovering a fumble, and two tackles for loss in the win.

The former star on HBO's Hard Knocks while he was with the Cleveland Browns had worked out for 10 (!!) teams this season, but none chose to sign Orchard until Washington did last week. It makes sense why he was so emotional postgame.

So, how was Orchard spending his time before joining the Burgundy and Gold? 

Orchard, who spent most Mondays and Tuesdays this season working out for NFL teams, was installing windows in Utah a few days during the week, according to 106.7 The Fan.

"A typical week for me, I would leave for a workout Monday, get back Tuesday night," Orchard said on 106.7's Grant and Danny"Wednesday morning, I'd hit the gym early, then go and install windows from 7 [o'clock] until about 3 [o'clock], then come back to my family and rest up. [I would] repeat that Thursday and Friday."

Orchard admitted that he questioned whether he should continue to train and wait for a call, but says his wife encouraged him to stay motivated and continue to workout.

They say hard work pays off, and Orchard's whirlwind of a season thus far ended up being very rewarding for him this past Sunday.

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