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Some positions become clear, while others get murky at Redskins OTAs

Some positions become clear, while others get murky at Redskins OTAs

As the Redskins near the end of OTAs, the positions of strength become more and more clear. On the flip side, so do the weaknesses. 

For somebody entering a new offense, Alex Smith seems to have few problems picking up Jay Gruden's terminology and scheme. In fact, it seems like Smith already has the nuts and bolts of Gruden's West Coast system under control. 

Particularly, Smith seems to be in a comfort zone with wideout Jamison Crowder. The two connected on a few routes during Wednesday's OTA session. There was plenty of other action on the field in Ashburn. 

  • Paul Richardson worked very well in misdirection schemes while in Seattle, and it seems like Washington intends to do the same thing. On one red-zone drill, Richardson went in motion toward the short side of the field, and the defense shifted to the wideout. At the snap, Derrius Guice leaked out to the opposite flat, and Smith found the rookie runner for an easy TD. 
  • Speaking of Guice, any questions about his ability catching passes are over. Gruden said of Guice after the session "it's been very exciting" watching the rookie as a pass-catcher. 
  • One more Guice note - on one catch near the sideline in a red zone drill, he quickly jumped and re-planted his feet. It looked like he was heading to the sideline, and that's where the defender went, only when Guice landed and cut inside the defender fell to the ground. Guice's quick feet caused the Ashburn grass to tear a bit, only when the linebacker on the ground tried to point to the grass as the reason he fell, one player from the offensive bench yelled out, "It's not the field."
  • As much excitement as Guice continues to create, don't sleep on Rob Kelley. He's looked good. 
  • Jeremy Sprinkle got a lot of reps with the first-team offense.
  • The Redskins offense worked A LOT with a fullback. Gruden after the session: "It’s good for our defense also to see some reps with teams with a fullback, so we are giving them a good look at lead plays and power plays and all that stuff so they can prepare for it. It was also a chance for Elijah [Wellman] to make the team whether we need a fullback or not."
  • Not everything was good news. Third-string QB Kevin Hogan had a rough day. He held the ball too long in both full team and 7v7 drills and didn't look accurate when he did throw the ball. For the small chorus of fans that thought Hogan could push Colt McCoy for the backup job, think again.
  • Speaking of Colt, he again connected on a deep pass to Robert Davis. Those two appear to have found some rhythm. 
  • Rookie Troy Apke still has a lot to learn. On consecutive plays during red zone drills, he appeared to get caught inside as plays developed in the outside corner of the end zone, and both resulted in touchdowns. 
  • A strong offseason continues for Quinton Dunbar. Challenged repeatedly, Dunbar broke up a few passes and seemed to be in good position on others.
  • At one point, Gruden flashed his temper. the third-team offense got to the line of scrimmage slow and then a tackle jumped offsides. Gruden wasn't pleased, barked at the team to get back to the huddle, and the play got run again. Having watched Gruden run through the monotony of OTAs and non-pad practices for a few years, it becomes clear he's willing to be relaxed, but will not tolerate sloppiness. Similar scenes have unfolded in Richmond in the past. 
  • Last note - there is a lot of down time during OTAs. Typically, the quarterbacks break off in their own cloister while much of the rest of the team takes part in special teams drills. On Wednesday, the QB group often had a special guest: Josh Doctson. It seemed like every chance, Doctson worked with Smith on timing routes and ball location. That's exactly the kind of stuff that should happen in June. 

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— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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Ron Rivera sees releasing Josh Norman as an opportunity for Redskins to get younger

Ron Rivera sees releasing Josh Norman as an opportunity for Redskins to get younger

On Friday the Redskins released veteran cornerback Josh Norman, and on Saturday head coach Ron Rivera explained that the decision allowed the team to get younger at a key position. 

"The big thing is it's an opportunity for us to get younger. Josh is a veteran guy and again, just looking at the young guys that we have, we got to get these guys on the football field and more exposed," Rivera said. 

Rivera spoke to reporters at a charity event in Charlotte, and while everything he said is true, it's also not the full story. Yes, Norman just turned 32 in December, but Washington's decision to cut him was not solely about age. 

Norman was set to make $15 million in 2020, and the team will save $12.5 million on the salary cap by letting him go. And his level of play no longer validated the hefty price tag and probably hasn't for the last two seasons. Norman finished the 2019 season on the bench and only played in rare situations when the other active cornerbacks were hurt. 

As for a youth movement at cornerback, it's coming, ready or not. Quinton Dunbar is in the last year of his deal and will be 28 when the season starts. Fabian Moreau will be in the last year of his rookie deal and will be 26 when the season starts. Jimmy Moreland had an up and down rookie year in 2019 and will be 25 when the season starts this fall. 

Some NFL sources also expect the Redskins to be quite active in free agency, particularly at the cornerback spot. Two names to watch are unrestricted free agents James Bradberry and Bashaud Breeland. Bradberry played for Rivera in Carolina while Breeland nearly signed with the Panthers as a free agent in 2018 before a foot injury voided his contract. 

So sure, the Redskins released Norman in part of an effort to get a younger roster. But there was plenty more involved, Rivera just decided to take the high road with his public comments. 

NOTES: Rivera also got asked about taking the Redskins job earlier this offseason: "It's going well. It's a little bit of a transition obviously as well. It's an opportunity to change things and kind of put things in the way we want to have them done. "

The coach also got asked about the difference between coaching in Charlotte and coaching in D.C. "The area is huge. Compared to here there's a lot of people," Rivera said. "It's very loud. All the restaurants are very loud." True words. 

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How much do people love Ron Rivera? Watch this video from Charlotte

How much do people love Ron Rivera? Watch this video from Charlotte

Panthers owner David Tepper fired head coach Ron Rivera after Week 12 of the 2019 season. Usually an in-season firing means that fans have turned on the coach amid a lost season.

In Carolina, that wasn't exactly the case.

When Rivera was fired, he and his wife Stephanie took out a full-page ad in The Charlotte Observer to thank a number of people and show gratitude for his nine years as head coach of the Panthers. That's unusual.

It seems that many Panthers fans were waiting to get their opportunity to thank Rivera, and on Saturday, it came.

Hundreds of Carolina fans showed up in Charlotte to say goodbye to Rivera as well as raise money for the Charlotte Humane Society. Why? Rivera decided to hold a yard sale of sorts, selling much of his Panthers gear, signed shirts and memorabilia going to the Humane Society. The event raised more than $30,000. 

The whole idea is admirable, and it appears from social media that the execution was a hit. 

Rivera's relationship with Redskins fans is just beginning, but if the crowd in Charlotte is any indication, it should be a fun ride. Winning helps too, and for most of his nine seasons in Carolina the Panthers won. That will build goodwill with any fan base, and in Washington, fans are desperate for some playoff football. 

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