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Need to Know: Long break underway for Redskins

Associated Press

Need to Know: Long break underway for Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, June 15, 41 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The offseason sets in

In a move that surprised no one, Jay Gruden canceled the final day of minicamp, which had been scheduled for yesterday.

Even though Gruden has canceled Day 3 of minicamp in each of the previous four seasons he was in Washington, some fans and analysts were grumbling about a team that hasn’t been good enough to win a playoff game since 2005 not taking advantage of a permitted day of practice time. But most NFL teams do it, saying it’s a reward for the players for working hard during the previous phases of the offseason program. I see the point of those who say they should practice the third day, but I don’t think that subtracting a day in helmets and shorts in June is going to add any more wins starting in September. 

The cancellation did add a day to the real news vacuum that happens between now and the start of training camp. Not much will happen regarding the Redskins as the players will be on vacation and the coaches aren’t going to be at Redskins Park. Some players who live in the area will work out at the facility, but other than that, there won’t be much traffic on Redskins Park Drive. 

There is very little on the NFL calendar between now and July 26, which is when camp opens. The rookie symposium, which used to take place in late June, isn’t held anymore. 

There are a couple of interesting prospects in the NFL supplemental draft, which will take place in mid-July. That might be worth keeping an eye on as it approaches as the Redskins have 11 draft picks in 2019 and you can’t rule out them spending one of them on a supplemental pick. 

July 16 is the deadline for players who got the franchise tag to agree to long-term deals with their teams. That day has been of great interest around these parts the past couple of years with the Kirk Cousins drama swirling around. But that is gone, and July 16 will be just another Monday. 

The CBA allows a team to require its rookies and first-year players to report to camp early but the Redskins have not done that in the past (cue the grumbling about not taking advantage of permitted practice time). In any case, training camp will start on July 26 and run through August 14. The Jets will be there for joint practices the last three days, August 12-14. 

Some publications will have their Redskins writers going on a hiatus, taking some vacation, or going on other assignments. Not here. JP Finlay and I, along with the rest of the NBC Sports Washington team, will be cranking out Redskins content every day, seven days a week. It’s a good time for some in-depth analysis, some reasoned speculation, and giving you everything you need to know to get ready for the 2018 season.

See you tomorrow!

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 41
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 55
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 78

The Redskins last played a game 164 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 86 days. 

In case you missed it

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When asked about the defensive decline, DJ Swearinger gives response 'they want' him to give

When asked about the defensive decline, DJ Swearinger gives response 'they want' him to give

A frequent question Redskins players have had to face this past month is, in some form or another, "What's wrong with the defense, and what's changed?"

Washington's defense was, for the most part, effective and at times dominant during the team's 6-3 start.

But in this losing streak that extended to four games after the disgraceful performance against the Giants, the unit has been a trainwreck on top of a dumpster fire. 

DJ Swearinger was the latest 'Skin to be asked the increasingly common question in the FedEx Field locker room postgame. His response was noteworthy.

"We just didn't execute, we just didn't get the job done," he said. "That's the answer they want me to give."

Swearinger attracts some of the largest media crowds when he speaks because he's passionate and never holds back with his quotes.

However, some recent comments from No. 36 about the Redskins' practice habits caught Jay Gruden's attention to the point where the coach explained in one of his weekly pressers he'd prefer the safety keep those thoughts in-house.

So, is Gruden or another coach or front office person the "they" that Swearinger referred to following the Giants blowout? You'd have to assume so.

Regardless, it's obvious that he wanted to say more, but instead, he kept his full, unfiltered opinion to himself — this time. If things continue to trend downward and his frustration continues to trend upward, though, don't expect him to keep giving the answers "they want."


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Basketball court to the NFL: Inside quarterback Josh Johnson's wild week with Redskins

Basketball court to the NFL: Inside quarterback Josh Johnson's wild week with Redskins

FEDEX FIELD — A week ago, Josh Johnson was playing in a charity basketball tournament in his hometown of Oakland. Five-on-five, full court, twenty-minute halves and four games, if you want to know the truth. His squad won the title. 

That’s a pretty good day. It had been a while since Johnson played that much ball. He couldn’t have realized what the next week had in store. Signed and cut by 11 NFL teams, now 32 years old and with his hopes of another chance remote at best, circumstances changed dramatically for Johnson. 

Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy broke his leg in last Monday’s game at Philadelphia. By Tuesday night Johnson was on a red-eye flight to Washington. By Wednesday, he was at practice. By Sunday he was on the field in the second half, replacing ineffective starter Mark Sanchez with Washington down 40-0 to the New York Giants. 

“It’s really something I’ve been doing the last six years. I’ve been cut so much, been picked up one time the day of a game,” Johnson said. “The poise was there within myself because I just had to remember what I did before. Everybody probably would have expected me to go out and not do anything so I really had nothing to lose.”

At this point the 6-7 Redskins probably have nothing to lose, either. Their top two quarterbacks (Alex Smith, McCoy) are lost to broken legs, the offensive line is decimated by injuries again, the defense is fading. Johnson’s presence is the perfect metaphor as a once-promising season slips away during a four-game losing streak. 

Sanchez, who signed himself just last month after Smith’s gruesome leg injury, struggled in the pocket against New York and doesn’t have the mobility to escape when protection breaks down. 

At 5:31 of the third quarter, coach Jay Gruden turned to Johnson. He still has the athleticism to escape trouble and his legs can stress a defense. Gruden used to tease Johnson about his ugly spirals when they were together with the Cincinnati Bengals. Gruden was the offensive coordinator then, Johnson just a reserve.  

It’s fair to point out that Johnson was playing during garbage time against a 4-8 team that had long ago gave up on its own season and was ahead 40-0 and ready to kill the clock and get out of Washington with a win. But he did complete 11 of 16 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. He was not sacked. He ran for 45 yards on seven carries, including a touchdown. 

“The guy has been around the league for a while and has been with Jay before. To see him put that on tape was great,” Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses said. “He told us he’d communicate and make sure we’re on the same page - even if we’ve got to go on the same snap count. If we’ve got to dummy it down and make it simple for guys to get the ball out, that’s what it takes.”

That Johnson produced as much as he did was shocking given that he hardly knew anyone’s name other than tight end Vernon Davis, who he played with in San Francisco, running back Adrian Peterson, tight end Jordan Reed and wide receiver Jamison Crowder.  Johnson ran scout team reps in practice as the Redskins scrambled to get Sanchez ready to start. He did not get his own package of plays.  

Teammates didn’t know much about Johnson, either. He spent all week holed up in meetings trying to learn the playbook as fast as he could. It’s an impossible task. He even took to playing Madden football to learn his own teammates’ names. He laughed that it came to that, but wasn’t surprised. You do what you have to when given an unexpected chance.

“Felt fun. It felt fun. I was just really embracing the opportunity,” Johnson said. “When you don’t get to play this game and you love this game then you really appreciate every opportunity that you get. And so I just wanted to enjoy it. And that’s how I’m taking it every day. Come to work. Practice. Weight room. Whatever. Just enjoy it. I’m 32. I’m 32. Just enjoy it.   

And Johnson ultimately gave Gruden what he needed in that moment. The final score was still a brutal 40-16 after a pair of two-point conversions. But Johnson will start next Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars - though it is probably too late for the Redskins who look less and less competitive every week.

"The bright spot we had to today was Josh Johnson,” cornerback Josh Norman said. “The rest of it, it is what it is."

For some players, that’s enough to start thinking about the offseason. For Johnson, cut by the Giants at the end of training camp in 2017, the Houston Texans last December, the Oakland Raiders, his hometown team, in May, every minute in the NFL is a gift. He could be back in Oakland, working with cousin Marshawn Lynch and their Family1st Foundation, which helps provide, mentoring, skills, sports and business opportunities and training to kids in inner-city Oakland and beyond. 

Johnson was at a local hospital visiting one of his foundation’s kids, who had a broken leg, when he got the call from the Redskins. He was ready for a chance no one saw coming except himself. Maybe that lesson will stick with the kids back home, too.   

“We’re just trying to do what we do for our community and then spread it to other communities,” Johnson said. “We grew up like a lot of these inner-city kids. If we can be an example of how to keep pushing, stay motivated within yourself, be able to take the good with the bad - that’s how life is. It’s overcoming.”