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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