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Three little-known Redskins who could make things interesting at training camp

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Three little-known Redskins who could make things interesting at training camp

Ah, NFL training camps. They're where every handoff always results in a first down, safe from refs who can ruin things with one piece of yellow cloth and home to roster sleepers.

This story, though, is devoted solely to the third item on that list.

JP Finlay came up with his post-minicamp Redskins roster projection earlier this week and has said he's already extremely confident in roughly 49 of his 53 picks. What can really throw off those kinds of projections, though, is the emergence of little-known players at training camp.

Now, trying to find the next Rob Kelley or Quinton Dunbar or Cam Sims can come off as foolish, considering Washington will bring 90 players to Richmond in late July. However, using observations from offseason practices so far and clues from what coaches are saying can narrow the list of potential preseason difference makers.

So, here are three Redskins who seem like they could seriously shake things up when the Burgundy and Gold reconvene for the summer grind.

Jeremy Reaves

When he's asked to critique a certain position group, Jay Gruden often does this thing where he lists every player in that group, from starter to backup to fringe option. It's hard to discern the times when he's doing that just to be polite from the times when he's doing that because each name truly is relevant.

Jeremy Reaves' name, however, has come up twice at two very different points of the spring and early summer.

Here's Gruden from after the draft, when he was asked about what the Redskins have at safety.

"We still have Montae [Nicholson]. We obviously drafted [Troy] Apke last year, which is a pretty good option. We have [Jeremy] Reaves here in the building. He's doing some good things, did some great things at the end of the year on practice squad. And Deshazor [Everett] and Landon [Collins]. So, we have five pretty good safeties."

Here's Gruden a month and a half later, after the team's last open OTA session, again addressing that secondary spot.

"Apke is doing well. It has been good to see him get a lot of these reps and work. Obviously, last year he did not get a whole lot with his hamstring, so he is progressing nicely. Everett also has picked up the slack. He has done a very good job. Reaves, he made some big plays out there today. So, those guys are taking advantage of their time."

With Collins, Nicholson, Everett and Apke, the defense should be set on the back end. Those four all feel quite locked in.

Yet Nicholson is coming off of an unpredictable second year as a pro, while Apke couldn't get healthy at all in 2018 after a hamstring issue. Perhaps Reaves, who Gruden also called an "upcoming talent" last December, can pick up the slack if either of those DBs drop off.

Sure, the path won't be easy for Reaves, but one thing's for sure: It's better to be brought up by the head coach than not, and he's being brought up relatively frequently.

Craig Reynolds

Craig Reynolds is an undrafted rookie running back who played for the Golden Bears in college.

No, not the California Golden Bears. The Kutztown Golden Bears. Yes, that's a real school, and yes, it's fine if you've never heard of it.

Reynolds could be the longest longshot of the three players on this list, but guys like Kelley, Mack Brown and Marcus Mason have come from a similar level of anonymity to take fall snaps in the 'Skins backfield.

If you look at the RB depth chart, Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson are making the 53 barring anything crazy. Bryce Love will probably hit the PUP, but he's in the franchise's plans, too.

That means Reynolds will have to compete with the likes of the quite popular Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall, but he should see plenty of action late in preseason games. He averaged more than 150 total yards per game last year at school — indeed, it was Division II, that's a very fair counterpoint — but it feels like the chances to make impressions on Gruden and Randy Jordan in precious live action will be there. It's not like Peterson or Thompson will be used that much, anyway.

Plus, if Perine starts fumbling again or Marshall gets injured as he did in 2018, Reynolds could see those chances grow. He just has to seize every one that comes his way.

Donald Parham

Tight end feels like another position that should be simple. Jordan Reed is the star, Vernon Davis is still around despite a somewhat heavy contract and Jeremy Sprinkle is entering Year 3. If Davis or Sprinkle face any competition, you'd expect it to come from the likes of Matt Flanagan or JP Holtz.

You shouldn't ignore Daniel Parham, however. In fact, it's pretty much impossible to.

Parham signed with the 'Skins on June 7, and the 6-foot-8(!) pass catcher was on the receiving end of more than a few passes once he got going. Not surprisingly, he made the most plays in red zone situations, giving QBs like Dwayne Haskins a very appealing target to throw to. 

The Stetson product probably won't add much of anything as a blocker. Remember that Gruden doesn't like using one-dimensional tight ends, so that could hurt him. Going off that, some scouting services even think he'd be best served lining up consistently in the slot. 

Regardless, you just don't see many people at his size running downfield routes, and his potential is noticeable. A few preseason highlights on jump balls could help him stick around past August. 


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Redskins VP of Payer Personnel Kyle Smith reveals inner workings of Redskins' new power structure

Redskins VP of Payer Personnel Kyle Smith reveals inner workings of Redskins' new power structure

In terms of the area's interest in its power structure, the Redskins organization is likely second only behind the White House. That's become especially true ever since Ron Rivera took over at the start of January.

Luckily, among many other topics he addressed during his time at the Combine podium on Tuesday, Redskins VP of Player Personnel Kyle Smith explained how Washington is running things these days.

Smith and Rivera are at the top, with Rivera having the most say in Dan Snyder's new "coach-centric" approach. But Smith figures to be involved in all off-field decisions, too, seeing as he's now in charge of both the college and pro aspects of the front office.

Doug Williams, meanwhile, has been shifted into the role of Senior VP of Player Development. There, he will be responsible for providing the locker room with guidance and resources in an effort to make sure they succeed in every facet of being an athlete in the NFL. 

Because of Williams' transition away from his previous job as Senior VP of Player Personnel, Alex Santos — who's been largely credited with keeping the team afloat the past few years despite major injury problems by making timely free agent decisions — will be directing the pro personnel side, according to Smith.

"That side kind of runs itself," Smith said Tuesday, which reflects well on Santos' performance and indicates the trust he has from both Smith and Rivera.

Then there's Tim Gribble, who will now be heading up the college department. He'll be a "tremendous leader" there, Smith told reporters in Indy, as Washington looks to continue its recent run of useful draft classes.

And, of course, when it comes to Sundays, there'll be new coaches like Jack Del Rio and Scott Turner as well as a different training staff, which the respected Ryan Vermillion will oversee.

Together, this group's arrivals and ascensions have changed the way many Redskins fans feel about the franchise's future. Now, it's up to them to validate that attitude adjustment.

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Five drills the NFL Combine should add to its rotation but never, ever will

Five drills the NFL Combine should add to its rotation but never, ever will

The NFL Combine does a solid job of preparing college prospects for what they'll face at the next level. However, the Indianapolis event is missing a few practical drills that would really ensure each draft class is ready for life on Sundays.

With that in mind, here are five more things future pros should be asked to do during their time in Indy. To be clear, none of this will ever, ever, ever happen, but they still should.

1) The 10-yard backwards walk

Yes, the 40-yard dash is the headline attraction at the Combine and it's certainly a valuable way to measure a player's raw speed. 

Know what happens more than 40-yard sprints at NFL stadiums, though? 10-yard backwards walks following a holding penalty on the offense.

In this drill, guys will begin their stroll following a stand-in ref's announcement of the holding infraction, and scouts will have a chance to look at their tempo, gait and how the flag affects their demeanor. With the way officials are calling the action these days, this is a relevant idea.

2) Tackling a Balloon Quarterback

Defenders are allowed to tackle offensive players in the NFL, unless that offensive player is a quarterback. In that case, defenders have to politely place the passer on the ground, make sure he has a warm glass of milk and offer them an apology hug.

So, that's why the Combine should give defensive up-and-comers a chance to take down a Balloon Quarterback. If the thing pops, they were too aggressive and they have to try again. If it stays intact, then they're ready for their first run-in with Tom Brady. 

3) Deflecting blame on long TDs

This one would be more for the back end of a defense but equally as helpful as the tackling of a Balloon QB.

As an NFL DB, it's crucial to never accept responsibility for a blown coverage. Therefore, in this scenario, safeties and corners would allow a pass catcher to race by them for a long score and then immediately point fingers at one another or shrug their shoulders to suggest they were expecting assistance.

Or, if they want to really impress talent evaluators, they'll just snap off their chinstrap, slowly shake their head and then subtly call out their teammates later in media scrums. That's a super pro-caliber move.

4) Kick return kneels

While the XFL has introduced new rules to encourage kick returns, the NFL is still touchback-heavy.

Because of that, why should kick returners waste time on anything other than kneel downs? 

The special teamers in Indy should get the opportunity to showcase how quick their knee-to-grass ability is and also fine-tune their ball tosses to the refs in the end zone, or even show off their I'm not going to catch this one arm motion when a kickoff flies out of the end zone. It's a ratings boost waiting to happen.

5) Social media skills test

Here's something NFL teams can implement when they meet a potential selection face-to-face in the meeting portion of the Combine.

Forget getting a glimpse into how a player can draw up a scheme or review his own film. Instead, franchises need to ask themselves: How is this dude on Twitter and Instagram? It's 2020 people, not 1920. The Internet isn't going anywhere, so the league has to adjust.

What kind of caption will the kid post alongside a picture of a sweet sideline grab? Can he use the eyeballs emoji in the right situations? Would he like a post from an opponent following a loss?

This addition to the Combine, plus the four above it, would no doubt lead to more well-rounded rookies. Someone grab this story's link and send it to Roger Goodell right away. Thanks in advance.