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Observations from the second open session of Redskins OTAs, a day the defense won

Observations from the second open session of Redskins OTAs, a day the defense won

With Rich Tandler and JP Finlay both unable to make the trip to Ashburn for the second media session of Redskins OTAs, I got signed to the active roster to handle the usual notes and observations post. So, here's what I saw from the late-May practice, and no, my elevation to the active roster did not come with any pay increase.

Because we're still three-plus months away from real football, I don't want anyone to go too crazy when I say this: On Wednesday, the 'Skins defense handled the offense (you can go a little crazy, though, and then share this post with your friends so that they go crazy, too, which'll help this blog do well, which'll help my stock with JP and Tandler).

In the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11s between the starters on O and D, it was Greg Manusky's defense that was controlling things. There were numerous examples of the defensive line getting push up front, with those plays either ending in sacks/coaches blowing the whistle or Alex Smith completing checkdowns or longer passes that wouldn't be possible on Sundays. Whether it was in the red zone or the middle of the field, Smith and Co. just didn't string together a lot and the defense deserves credit for making it difficult on them.

Now that we've lost a good amount of readers who are already heading to Twitter and Facebook so they can declare the Smith trade a bust, let's get to a bunch of semi-organized bullet point notes from all that went down. And don't worry, the offense did some laudable things. Just not as many as the guys on the other side of the ball.

NOTABLE APPEARANCES AND ABSENCES

  • Morgan Moses was hanging around the practice fields at the facility and was doing so without any wraps or braces on his ankles. He did some conditioning drills on a side field during the later portion of things.
  • Jordan Reed was there, too, after not being present at the first open session. Jay Gruden said afterward "it's nice" to see him in person (enormous understatement alert) and that he looks to be on track for training camp. That gust of wind you just felt is Alex Smith fist-pumping.
  • After not showing up to last Wednesday's action, Zach Brown was again missing. Josh Harvey-Clemons was paired up with Mason Foster most often in place of No. 53.

COMMENTS ON PRACTICE

  • Gruden was fired up throughout the day, especially when working with the offense (no surprise). Find someone who loves you as much as Washington's head coach loves watching and yelling during passing drills. At one point, a full-speed Gruden tried to run with a 40-percent speed Paul Richardson on a go-route. I'll just say this about the conclusion: Richardson could've dropped down a few more gears and still toasted his new boss.
  • Speaking of Richardson, while the wideouts were warming up, someone threw him a ball that was way behind him and let out a quick "sorry" as the pass was halfway to No. 10. But the 26-year-old casually snagged it with his left hand and then responded by saying, "Nah, we good." What's it like being a world-class athlete?
  • As expected, the secondary experimented plenty with who was lining up where, particularly at corner. Orlando Scandrick was working across from Josh Norman on the outside early in team work, and Norman kicked inside to the slot for a couple of snaps, too. 
  • Let's get to some highlights: During 7-on-7, Rob Kelley darted past Harvey-Clemons and hauled in a slant, which had a lot of offensive players excited. "I think he's getting better in the passing game, without a doubt," Gruden commented at the podium after. It really looked like it on that sequence.
  • Fabian Moreau got the best of Robert Davis on a few instances, including a play in which he jumped up with Davis and deflected a Colt McCoy pass. Deshazor Everett ended up picking it off. Later, Moreau ran with Davis on a short route in the flat and again broke up the throw. Can you say second-year jump?
  • Davis did have one of the top individual plays of the two-hour practice, however, going up over Josh Holsey to catch a soft lob from McCoy. It was really sweet.
  • Greg Stroman stuck with his receivers OK when I watched him, but he didn't always finish the play or was just victimized by a perfect pass (which happened last week against Richardson as well). Brian Quick was able to catch a red zone fade in the corner just over Stroman's hands, and the Virginia Tech DB also was forced to grab Davis' arm when the second-year target got by him on a separate play. The hold was so blatant that Moses, a Virginia Cavalier always looking to hate on a Hokie, called it out from the adjacent field about 30 yards away. 
  • Maybe this is nothing, maybe it's something, and in case it's the latter, I'm going to mention it so I can say I mentioned it: While special teams took over the field to work on various special teams things, Jim Tomsula gathered D-linemen to get in a little extra work on the sideline. Also called over to join Tomsula's group: Ryan Anderson. No other linebacker took part, for what it's worth.
  • With Chris Thompson still not suiting up, Byron Marshall assumed the pass-catching running back role during a two-minute drill involving the primary offense and Smith connected with him for a chunk of yards to get the unit in scoring position. Marshall and Kelley won't be easy guys to let go.
  • If the earlier Davis catch was really sweet, Josh Doctson made a reallllllllly sweet one of his own off the right hand of Smith in 11-on-11 action. It was over one defender, and while DJ Swearinger was coming over to help deep, he wouldn't have gotten there in time to rock Doctson if they were both wearing pads. Doctson can make catches that not many WRs — in Burgundy and Gold and around the rest of the league — can't make.
  • What I also liked from Doctson on Wednesday? He held a full media scrum after practice wrapped up, answered a bunch of questions and spoke plenty, including a few comments about his confidence. He didn't do a lot of talking in 2017 at all, so perhaps now that he has a legit season of experience under his belt and feels more like himself, he's breaking out of his shell a bit. It was really good to hear him breaking down everything from Alex Smith to his offseason vacations, and I'll probably write about it as its own story soon. I hate myself for plugging my own content, by the way.
  • A few snaps after Doctson plucked that ball from his QB, that QB backpedaled away from a bunch of pressure and found Vernon Davis cutting across the goal line for a score. It capped the offense's best stretch of the day.

As a reward for making it to the bottom of this blog, here's a slow-motion video of Trey Quinn making a routine catch look super beautiful. Enjoy:

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Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

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Associated Press

Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

The sudden resignation of Barry Trotz as the coach of the Stanley Cup champion Capitals is the most stunning Washington coaching departure since Joe Gibbs retired from the Redskins about 13 months after the team won its third Super Bowl in a 10-year span. 

In the years leading up to Gibbs’ departure, there were some rumblings that he might leave. As early as 1986, John Madden said that Gibbs was a candidate to burn out of the profession early. During the 1989 season, Gibbs said that he was contemplating retirement, but he retracted his words the next day. In 1990, columnist and TV pregame panelist Will McDonough reported that Gibbs would retire after the season. Retirement rumors popped up again in early 1992, just two days before Super Bowl XXVI. Again, Gibbs denied them. The Redskins easily beat the Bills to claim their third championship in 10 years and there was no apparent reason why such a successful coach would think about leaving. 

Redskins fans had become so used to hearing the Gibbs retirement reports that many just started to tune them out. So on the morning of March 5, 1993, when reports of Gibbs’ resignation as coach started to circulate, many were in a state of denial.

That turned out to be wishful thinking. The fans were given a hard jolt of reality when the team announced a noon press conference. 

There the coach was on TV, as promised, confirming the news. He said it was a family decision. 

“Every year, we get away and talk about it,” Gibbs said. “We always reach the same conclusion. This year, it was different. The boys didn’t encourage me one way or another, but they understood when I told them what I was thinking. I think Pat’s happier than anyone. This isn’t an easy lifestyle for a coach’s wife. The coach is the guy who stands up and hears everyone tell him how great he is. The wife is the one waiting at home alone while the coach is spending every night at the office. 

“I wanted more time with my family. I wanted more time with my sons. I look at this as a window of opportunity with them and I couldn’t let it pass.” 

Although he has been diagnosed with a condition that has caused some pain and some difficulty in sleeping, Gibbs said that health was not a factor in his decision. 

Richie Petitbon, the team’s longtime defensive coordinator, was named the team’s new head coach. It had to be one of the shortest job interviews ever. 

“I get a call from Mr. Cooke who tells me Joe has retired and that he wants me to coach the Redskins,” Petitbon said. “After I picked myself up off the floor, I said yes.” 

After hearing the news, most Redskins fans had to pick themselves up as well.  

Petitbon lasted only one season as the head coach and the other eight head coaches who followed, including Gibbs himself in a four-year second stint, have been unable to get the Redskins back to the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, the Caps’ head coaching job is widely expected to go to Todd Reirden, who was Trotz’s top assistant just as Pettitbon was Gibbs’. 

Washington fans hope that the Caps have better fortune with Trotz’s successors. 

More Redskins

- 53-man roster: Roster projection--Offense
- 53-man roster: Best players 25 or younger

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

 

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents, and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices, they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 


Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

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

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 170 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

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