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Young Redskins defensive backs take advantage of first-team reps during Monday's OTAs

Young Redskins defensive backs take advantage of first-team reps during Monday's OTAs

Monday marked the first day of the Redskins optional Organized Team Activities, and many projected starters were absent. 

One of the most notable position groups missing key players was the secondary, as all four projected starters were either a no-show or unable to compete due to injury. Safety Landon Collins, who signed a six-year, $84 million contract with Washington in March, was present but did not participate in any drills. He's rehabbing from a shoulder injury, but head coach Jay Gruden expects him to be back for training camp.

Cornerback Quinton Dunbar was also present at Redskins Park, but he has been dealing with a nerve issue in his hamstring since last season, leading the Redskins staying cautious with him for now. He did not participate in any drills.

"He's running, he's doing very, very well," Gruden said on Dunbar. "We're just being very cautious right now. He had that nerve [last season]. We just want to make sure that thing is strengthened. He's running full speed; he feels good. We just want to make sure we take the cautionary route and make sure he's 100 percent."

Cornerback Josh Norman and safety Montae Nicholson were not present.

While OTA's can be frustrating at times for coaches since the workouts are optional, according to the current collective bargaining agreement, the absence of many starters provided the opportunity for some of the younger players to get more reps, including first-team ones. Second-year defensive backs Greg Stroman and Troy Akpe both spent time with the first unit, as well as veteran safety Deshazor Everett.

Stroman, a seventh-round pick in 2018, had the opportunity to show what he was capable of early on during his rookie season, as the Redskins' secondary was plagued by injuries for much of last season. Stroman played in 15 games for the Redskins as a rookie, starting three.

Now, with his rookie year behind him, he's ready to contribute even more in 2019, both on defense and special teams. He added weight during the offseason and was eager to hit the field on Monday.

"Getting back fully healthy, getting strong and just recovering from the season," Stroman said on how he's spent his offseason thus far. "Just getting strong, putting on some weight. Just ready to go play."

Asked what he wanted to improve most entering his sophomore season, his answer was rather simple.

"Everything," Stroman said. "I want to get better at everything. Overall, everything."

Stroman wasn't the only seventh-round pick that stood out on day one. Jimmy Moreland, who the Redskins selected this past March, had a big day as well. He recorded the first interception of OTA's, and broke up several plays when challenged one-on-one.

Toward the end of the session, Moreland was lined up on the outside against fellow rookie Kelvin Harmon with no safety help. Gruden verbally challenged Moreland to make a play before the snap, and while Harmon did catch the ball, he was well out of bounds as Moreland broke up the play.

Gruden had plenty to say about Moreland, pleased to see that the rookie stepped up to the challenge.

"Jimmy? Jimmy got the first pick of the day today," Gruden said on Moreland. "Figured it would have been him. He's got great ball skills, and he's got great confidence."  

The praise then led to Gruden cracking a joke about Moreland's size, which might have been his first smile of the day. The seventh-rounder is one of the smallest players on the roster, listed at 5'10 and 174 pounds.

"I told him this is his type of day you know?" Gruden joked. "Non-contact, Jimmy, because he is a smaller type guy. I knew he was going to shine today. Just wait, Jimmy, just wait. But he is a great competitor. I love the energy that he brings. When the pads do come on for real, I think he'll be right there in the mix with everybody."

While some veterans were missing, ninth-year linebacker Mason Foster was a full participant in Monday's activities. The linebacker is entering his fourth season with Washington, and what was expected to be a diminishing role compared to past seasons may have gotten much larger with the injury to Reuben Foster on the third play of Monday's OTAs.

Mason Foster was pleased with what he saw from the younger players.

"[OTA's] are important for everybody, but especially when [the young guys] get their opportunity," he said. "The more opportunities they get, the more chance they get to show what they've learned and if they're transferring the stuff from the classroom to the field. I think they did a great job of that."

Last week, the rookies had their own minicamp. Foster, who turned 30 in March, watched the whole thing on film. 

"I watched the rookie minicamp on my iPad, and these guys were making plays," he said. "The interesting thing for them is going to be translating the stuff in the classroom -- because we have great coaches -- onto the field. How much can they retain? I think they're doing a great job."

While Monday's OTAs will be headlined by the injury to Reuben Foster, there is a lot to like from the plethora of young defensive backs, who will all be competing all summer for the final roster spots come September.

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Derrius Guice reportedly hurt his knee again before Washington released him

Derrius Guice reportedly hurt his knee again before Washington released him

A news storm ensued after Derrius Guice was arrested on domestic violence charges and subsequently released by the Washington Football Team. Seemingly lost in the shuffle was some news about yet another knee injury for the third-year running back. 

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Guice hurt his knee again the day before he was released.

This would have been huge news for the former second-round pick, who's grappled with knee injuries throughout the first two seasons of his career. He suffered a torn ACL as a rookie, a meniscus tear at the beginning of last season and an MCL sprain later on in 2019 as well.

There was hope for Guice to become a featured back, and he certainly had the ability to become one had he been able to stay healthy. 

RELATED: RIVERA EXPLAINS DECISION TO CUT GUICE

It's unclear how much another knee injury had to do with Guice's release, though it certainly couldn't have made things easier on Guice's hopes to stay on the roster. He later went unclaimed on waivers, making him a free agent for the first time in his young career.

Washington doesn't have much time to worry about Guice now. They have to figure out how to distribute the carries between Adrian Peterson, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber, Antonio Gibson and Bryce Love without a preseason schedule to test things out.

With their first taste of game action this season set as a September 13 clash with the Eagles, Peterson figures to start off as the lead back behind Dwayne Haskins based on experience alone. Peterson has over 3,000 career carries under his belt while the other four options have combined for 639.

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Alex Smith could make 'interesting' battle for QB practice reps with Dwayne Haskins

Alex Smith could make 'interesting' battle for QB practice reps with Dwayne Haskins

Training camp should be a major opportunity for Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins to get a lot of work with new offensive coordinator Scott Turner and the new playbook, but if Alex Smith is healthy, the reps for Haskins might shrink.

"The biggest thing we’ve got to do is not make sure we’re divvying up the reps as evenly as possible, but we divvy up who they work against. This could be a very interesting challenge for us because of QB Alex Smith. If Alex is healthy and continues to get healthy and we do activate him, he’s going to be in the throes of this competition," head coach Ron Rivera said on Monday. 

The Washington Football Team drafted Haskins 15th overall last year, only after Smith suffered a broken leg in November 2018. Rivera wasn't around for either of the decisions to draft Haskins or trade for Smith, but now the new coach gets to try and solve the QB riddle in Washington. 

Haskins struggled as a rookie in part because he didn't get much practice work with the first team offense. It was obvious how little Haskins knew of the offense and his offensive teammates when he first got on the field in Week 4 last year. Some of that might have been self-inflicted, regardless, Haskins needed the work. 

Now in his second season, Haskins got exactly zero team drills in this offseason due to Coronavirus. None. 

So, with what should be the most important training camp of his young professional career, Haskins again might face another hurdle in the return of Smith. 

Smith deserves tremendous accolades for his recovery after 17 surgeries and intense infection in his leg. But is Smith getting back on the field the best thing for a young Washington team trying to rebuild?

Haskins is 23. Smith is 36.

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Haskins has tremendous potential, Smith has already proven he can produce.

Haskins has started seven NFL games. Smith has started seven NFL playoff games. 

Considering all of that, Haskins should get the most work of any Washington passer.

Take note that Rivera didn't say the reps needed to be equitable, but rather the level of competition. Haskins needs more reps than Smith or Kyle Allen.

RELATED: WHICH WASHINGTON PLAYER HAS A LOT RIDING ON THE 2020 SEASON?

Smith has been in the NFL since he was drafted first overall in 2005. Allen started 13 games for Rivera and Turner in the last two seasons. Haskins hasn't even been through a padded practice with Rivera and Turner. 

It makes total sense to get Allen reps against the first-team defense. He needs to be prepared. And should Smith get medically cleared to be back on the field against a defense, he should get some of those reps too. Washington needs to see what Smith has left if he actually gets cleared for football.

Still, Haskins should get the majority of that work. He needs it, and Rivera needs to see what he has in the former Ohio State star. 

Smith's recovery is an incredible story, but Rivera's plan in Washington is a long-term rebuild to put together a consistent playoff team. That means getting Haskins on the field as much as possible. 

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