RICHMOND — Redskins safety Montae Nicholson has come a long way in the past year. As a rookie fourth-round pick in 2017, he entered training camp without having participated in the offseason program due to a shoulder injury. He appeared to be no better than the fourth safety on the depth chart. 

But as they went through camp, he showed that he belonged in the NFL. When Su’a Cravens, who was set to be one of the starters at safety, left the team a week before the regular season opener Nicholson quickly moved into the starting lineup. 

Nicholson’s season was good but short. He got an interception, made a few memorable hits, and the Redskins had a better defense when he was on the field. But after missing two games with a shoulder injury he returned only to suffer a season-ending concussion. 

The bottom line was eight games, the one interception, and 18 tackles. Over the offseason, Jay Gruden compared Nicholson’s impact on the defense to that of Jordan Reed on the offense. As with Reed on offense, they could do things on defense when Nicholson was on the field that they couldn’t do nearly as well without him. 

“One of the highest honors that I’ve ever gotten,” Nicholson said of the comparison to Reed. “But at the end of the day, it means nothing if I don’t back it up. So that’s where I’m at.”

When Gruden said that, any notion that Nicholson’s status as the starter might have been put in jeopardy due to his injuries was out the window. But that didn’t affect the way that Nicholson prepared for the season. He maintained the underdog mentality that helped him climb the depth chart last year. 


“I prepare like I’m the last person on the depth chart,” he said. “I’m asking questions of D.J. [Swearinger], coach [Torrian] Gray. Really, that’s just the way I’ve been. You’ve got to prepare like you’re the last one on the chart. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder.”

Speaking of shoulders, he said that he is suffering no lingering effects from his 2017 injuries. Nicholson is working to stay healthy by following the examples set by Swearinger and other veteran players. 

“I feel really good right now,” he said. "As far as what I’m doing, preparing like a pro. That’s what the older guys are telling me to do so I’m taking stuff that they’ve done and what they’re doing and making it into my own. Everybody’s different, everybody has shoulder injuries. It’s all about preparation and how to take care of your body.”

So far, Nicholson has looked good in training camp. That doesn’t mean he’s been flawless. On Friday he let Jamison Crowder get behind him to catch a long TD pass. But he is very intense out there and he’s working on his fundamentals. 

This is a big year for Nicholson. He has an opportunity to establish himself as a top safety in the league. If he stays on the field the Redskins will be a better team defensively and improvement on that side of the ball will lead to more wins. We will see if that underdog mentality pays off for him. 

Note: To hear the full interview with Nicholson, check out the edition of the Redskins Talk podcast


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