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NFL Draft: Combine questions continue to come in all shapes and sizes

NFL Draft: Combine questions continue to come in all shapes and sizes

INDIANAPOLIS -- At the NFL Combine, there are nothing but questions.

Some come from feature-writing reporters during public media sessions seeking interesting angles. The professionally important ones primarily come from team officials during private chats.

They are football-centric and off-the-field related. They are focused on football measurements from size (Hi, Kyler Murray) to speed. They are designed to help learn more about the athletic talent and the person behind the physical gifts two months out of the 2019 NFL Draft.

They involve comparisons. Multiple NFL teams asked Oklahoma offensive lineman Cody Ford which of his Heisman Trophy-winning teammates, quarterbacks Kyler Murray or Baker Mayfield, he prefers.

“That's the main question I keep getting a lot,” the projected first-round pick said. Ford answered the teams but left reporters guessing. “I'm going to keep that (answer) to myself right now."

They involve self-evaluation. “One of the best things I do is I’m able to make plays out of the pocket,” Missouri quarterback Drew Lock said when asked about what separates him from the other standouts in his positional group. Murray, the event's headliner, was asked what parts of his game need improving. "Everything," he said modestly. 

They are silly. One team asked Northern Illinois’ Max Scharping if he had to go to dinner with one person, dead or alive that he didn’t know personally know who would it be. “I said Abe Lincoln,” said the offensive lineman. “I’m kind of a history buff. I would love to sit down with him.”

Regardless of the setting, the Q&A purpose of the involves learning more about the players before those three life and franchise-altering days that comprise the annual NFL Draft.

“We ask them questions based on the history of their life,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of the team’s formal meetings with prospects. “What they (majored in), personal questions here and there, but for the most part I make a tape on each guy. Like a 25-30 play-tape and we go through about five of them, and we just talk some ball.

“I want to hear what they remember about their last season and their knowledge of the game of the football.”

Teams also want to know the last book players read.

“My dad told me somebody is going to ask me that and I said no they’re not,”The University of Washington running back and “The Alchemist” reader Myles Gaskin said. “That was one of the first questions I got.”

Questions are local like whether Ohio State quarterback and D.C. area high school product Dwayne Haskins (Bullis) would like to play for the Redskins, who certainly have a QB need.

“Actually (Redskins owner Dan) Snyder’s son went to my high school (Bullis). So I’m pretty good friends with him. … So going back home to the Redskins would be a lot of fun.”

They are relative by nature, like Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien asked how his Redskins’ Super Bowl-winning uncle, Mark, helps is development or Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield seeking a legacy separate from his Boxing Hall of Fame father, Evander.

“It just the passion that I have for football,” Holyfield said. “It just continues to drive me.”

Some are non-verbal. Despite ample game tape to analyze, running, lifting, catching are on the menu depending on the personnel group.

The 5-foot-10 Murray, who definitely stated Friday that he is choosing football over baseball, won't solidify his wildly impressive athleticism since he's passing on running or throwing at the Combine. Scouts must trek to his pro day instead. Meanwhile, chiseled Mississippi receiver DK Metcalf powered his way into recognition with 27 bench press reps.

The answers to the questions, whether carefully-planned or athletically spontaneous, are designed to show one’s nature.

“Do you love to win or hate to lose?” Washington tackle Kaleb McGary said of the most interesting question he received from a team at the Combine. “I had to think about that for a second. I chose hate to lose because my mind losing is everything bad in life. Losing is not getting the job promotion, not getting the date with the pretty girl, losing the game obviously. Losing just represents negativity. It represents failure. … It's something to avoid.”

One question McGary received from a reporter about his back-story led the projected Day 2 selection to offer a warning.

“It's basically a country song, so get ready.”

He explained that the recession earlier this century led to the foreclosure of the family farm. His father was involved in a work accident and then learned he had Multiple Sclerosis. Then Kaleb's "girlfriend broke up with me, my dog died, and then we had to move into an RV at my grandfather's front yard because we couldn't afford to rent an apartment.”

Early in 2018 a “wire combusted and the RV actually burned to the ground and caught half the house on fire,” McGary said.

“I got a phone call from my neighbor at 5:00 a.m. saying, ‘Hey, you know your house on fire?' (I said) "No, no I did not. I do now, though. … That was quite an interesting wake-up call on a Friday morning.”

Now the 6-foot-7, 317-pounder with a surprisingly upbeat nature despite those rough times is on the verge of achieving his dream of playing in the NFL.

“More than anything [those struggles] give you perspective that someone who hasn't had these experiences just doesn't or can't have. Because, experiences is experience. You have to have it to have it. It's something that I've taken from a lot of that is perspective and resilience.”

Gauging perspective and resilience along with football IQ and general personality is what the behind-closed-doors questions from teams are all about before making critical draft-day investments. Te on-field work helps shape the evaluation. Maybe teams find some good players and a book recommendation along the way.


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These 3 younger, lesser-known Redskins should see more playing time down the stretch

These 3 younger, lesser-known Redskins should see more playing time down the stretch

By turning to Dwayne Haskins before the Bills game, the Redskins signaled their commitment to positioning themselves for a better future as opposed to trying to succeed in the present.

And in their loss to the Jets, Washington made additional in-game changes that showed they're interested in evaluating other younger players on their roster. Nothing was as major as switching QBs, but the adjustments versus New York were still eye-catching.

So, as the Burgundy and Gold continues to shift its focus way down the road as opposed to what's coming up at the next intersection, who will see their playing time increase?

Here are three lesser-known Redskins that stand to see more action in these final six contests.

Kelvin Harmon

Much has been made about the connection between Haskins and Terry McLaurin, but Haskins and Harmon seem to be building a solid understanding of each other, too.

Against the Jets in Week 11, the sixth-round wideout brought in a career-high five balls for 53 yards. Before that matchup, Harmon had just eight catches in eight appearances.

"He brings a physical presence to the receiver position," Haskins said of Harmon on Wednesday. "Kelvin does a great job high-pointing the ball, does a great job being physical at the catch point."

Part of Harmon's increased production certainly had to do with Paul Richardson being out, and when Richardson returns, he may see fewer targets. However, the two rookies have actually known each other well before getting to the NFL, and as Haskins explained, Harmon's physicality is something that the other pass-catchers can't match. 

In McLaurin, Washington knows it has one tremendous playmaker to count on for years. Let's see if Harmon can continue to push for snaps and looks as he aims to demonstrate he can be a legit option as well. 

Geron Christian

Donald Penn is a 36-year-old who was brought in during training camp to help the Redskins survive without Trent Williams. He's performed better than many expected, but he's clearly not someone who's long for the franchise.

In fact, this past Sunday, Bill Callahan opted to pull Penn in favor of Christian in the second half on a couple of series. 

"We're going to continue to mix and match our personnel," the interim coach told the media Monday.

Now, the team has to walk a delicate line when it comes to Penn and Christian at left tackle. It needs to start figuring out what Christian can be in this league — is there starter potential, or is he just a rotational guy? — because he's a former third-round pick they haven't used much to this point. That said, the Redskins do have a first-round signal caller they need to protect as best they can.

As long as Christian isn't a giant liability, though, the coaches may and probably should opt to keep giving him more and more chances. Either he's promising or he's disappointing, but regardless, it's time to get an answer.

Jimmy Moreland

Penn wasn't the only one who was subbed out at FedEx Field in Week 11. Callahan also put corners like Josh Norman and Fabian Moreau on the bench to give others a "chance to get some exposure on film." If Callahan is willing to remain flexible at that spot, Moreland will benefit.

Out of Harmon, Christian and Moreland, Moreland has by far seen the most snaps in 2019. Unfortunately, the offseason hype that surrounded him hasn't carried over to the regular season, as he's yet to intercept a pass and has had some crucial errors in coverage.

But hey, you know who else has had some crucial errors in coverage? More experienced corners than Moreland on the defense, such as Norman and Moreau. And with all signs pointing to Norman not returning in 2020 and Moreau potentially sliding down the depth chart, why not turn to Moreland even more and see if he can develop?

It's easy for fans to say money or draft status shouldn't factor in to who plays and who doesn't, but those things do often matter. Yet, in a season as dreadful as this one and when the record is as awful as it is, those variables should weigh less, meaning Moreland should see the field more. 


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Alex Smith at Redskins practice working with Dwayne Haskins (VIDEO)

Alex Smith at Redskins practice working with Dwayne Haskins (VIDEO)

Monday marked the one-year anniversary of Alex Smith's greusome leg injury, and in the 12 months since, the veteran quarterback has made tremendous strides. He's also become a helpful force for rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

On Wednesday, Haskins explained that he meets with Smith nearly every day and that he's "been a really great voice" as the rookie tries to learn how to handle the on-field and off-field demands of life in the NFL.

"I realy appreciate since him since he's been here with me trying to help me," Haskins said of Smith. 

When the Redskins players got on the practice field Wednesday, some of that relationship was on display. Smith worked with Haskins, and the other Redskins quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Case Keenum, going through individual drills.

It's important to note that next season Haskins and Smith are the only quarterbacks under contract with the Redskins. While it's far from a certainty Smith can get back on the field, he's obviously working hard towards that goal. It's a good thing both players are close, because next summer, they also could be competing.