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Andre Roberts welcomes increased competition from rookie Crowder

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Andre Roberts welcomes increased competition from rookie Crowder

When Andre Roberts signed with the Redskins as a free agent last year, it looked like the former Arizona Cardinals receiver would finally get the chance to be a starting wideout, the No. 2 option in the pass game to Pierre Garçon. That plan changed when the Eagles cut DeSean Jackson, and Washington quickly moved to bring Jackson to the 'Skins. From there, Roberts was again the No. 3 receiver, just as he was in Arizona behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. 

A year later, and now Roberts faces increased competition, this time from a rookie. Redskins GM Scot McCloughan did not sign Roberts, who mostly works in the slot and returns punts. But McCloughan did just spend an early fourth round draft pick on Duke's Jamison Crowder, an undersized wideout that projects as a slot receiver and punt returner.

"They're always bringing guys in every year. That's only going to help our team," Roberts said of the rookie Crowder. "Whatever he can do best to help our team and help us win is good for us."

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Roberts' numbers last year were underwhelming (36 catches, 453 yards, 2 TDs) but so was the whole Redskins offense. It did seem that Roberts dropped too many passes, particularly on third downs, but he did stabilize the Redskins punt returner position. Roberts returned 28 punts last season, and though he never broke any for a touchdown, he also limited the abhorrent mistakes in the punt return game that plagued Redskins special teams for a few years. It's almost a testament to how bad the Redskins punt return situation was for a few seasons that Roberts 7.4 yards-per-return average stands out.

"Our special teams the last couple of years have not been very good and it’s something we have to address," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said following Tuesday's session.

During punt return drills at Tuesday's OTAs, Roberts took the first reps. Behind him came Rashad Ross, then the rookie Crowder. Asked if he wanted to continue to return punts, Roberts was emphatic.

"Of course. I want to have the ball in my hands."

In college, Crowder was a dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands. His receiving numbers were impressive, 85 catches for 1,044 yards and six TDs, as were his punt return numbers (22 punt returns for a 12.7 yards-per-return average and 2 TDs). Just 5'9" and 175 lbs., Crowder will need to rely on speed and shift to make it in the NFL, though it's worth noting that smaller receivers have become increasingly effective weapons in modern NFL offenses. Wes Welker and Julian Edelman immediately come to mind.

"He’s got all the traits you want in a slot receiver, and obviously, he’s a heck of a punt returner," Gruden said of Crowder after rookie camp earlier this month.

At 5'11" and 192 lbs., Roberts has better size than Crowder. On the practice field, Roberts fits in with the receiver group where Crowder is the smallest player running wideout drills. During OTAs, both players made impressive grabs in both 11 on 11 and 7 on 7 drills. 

For his part, Roberts said all the right things about the increased competition from the rookie Crowder. McCloughan wants competition at every position, and Roberts welcomes that.

"It's good to be back to work," Roberts said walking off the field after OTAs. 

And what about the rookie at punt returner?

"That's not my decision, thats the coach's decision. Whatever is best for our team."

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Most OTAs absences don't matter, but Montae Nicholson's absence sure stands out

Most OTAs absences don't matter, but Montae Nicholson's absence sure stands out

Most of the time, if you're getting upset about an NFL player skipping voluntary OTAs, you're doing life wrong.

But if you're a Redskins fan who's a bit puzzled by Montae Nicholson not showing up to the early sessions of Washington's offseason workouts, you have a right to be.

Nicholson wasn't in Ashburn on Monday, a practice that was open to the media. There's been no indication that he's reported to the 'Skins since that day, either. 

Now, this isn't a situation worth really freaking out about. Again, OTAs are voluntary, and it's totally possible Nicholson was working out somewhere else and feels that's how he'll be best prepared for 2019. 

Still, though, assuming he had nothing else serious going on, it's a questionable choice by the defensive back. And, according to Jay Gruden, it was a questionable choice he made on his own.

"Correct," Gruden answered Monday when asked if Nicholson skipping was based on the 23-year-old's decision. Gruden said earlier in his presser that he was "not really surprised" by it.

Perhaps the coach is telling the truth and he wasn't surprised. You can bet he was definitely annoyed by it, however.

Nicholson isn't an established player like Trent Williams or Josh Norman, other guys who weren't there when the Burgundy and Gold started this phase of the NFL calendar. He's a third-year safety with 22 up-and-down games to his name.

Not only that, he's just a week or so removed from the news that December assault charges against him were dropped due to a lack of evidence. You'd think someone who just learned that would be eager to get in front of Gruden and his coaching staff and try to repair his image.

After all, much of the same coaching staff who preferred to keep Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the lineup over Nicholson, even as Clinton-Dix struggled following his arrival, remains in charge.  

The starting spot opposite of Landon Collins is wide open, and of the options on the roster, Nicholson is the most talented. He also would fit nicely next to Collins, considering he's got the speed and ability in coverage when he's healthy and mentally right.

Speaking of Collins, he attended OTAs, despite the fact that he wasn't able to participate as he continues to rehab a shoulder injury. Yet there he was, involved and roaming the sidelines, encouraging his teammates and coaching up the younger DBs on various techniques and details.

One of those DBs Collins should've been coaching up is Nicholson, yet Nicholson was nowhere to be found. Plenty more reps await Nicholson over the coming months, but the fact that he wasn't there to claim the first helping of them is not the best way to start his path back into the starting lineup.

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Redskins sign linebacker Jon Bostic to try and help make up for the loss of Reuben Foster

Redskins sign linebacker Jon Bostic to try and help make up for the loss of Reuben Foster

Two days after losing Reuben Foster for the year, the Redskins made a move to at least provide reinforcements to a weakened linebacker group.

On Wednesday, Washington announced that they have signed Jon Bostic, a six-year veteran. The 'Skins also officially placed Foster on injured reserve.

Bostic was a 2013 second-round pick of the Bears out of Florida. He's since bounced around to New England, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh, where he started 14 times for the Steelers in 2018 and posted 73 tackles. He's been traded twice in his career and missed all of 2016 with a foot injury. 

So, what does the move accomplish for the Redskins?

Well, Bostic — or any other free agent signing at this point — isn't going to have close to the level of talent and potential that Foster had. However, getting another option at linebacker was necessary for the Burgundy and Gold, and the 28-year-old has played in 30 contests over the past two years, so he's relatively established. 

Yes, he's far from a gamechanger, considering he has just one interception and 5.5 sacks as a pro. But he's regarded as a solid run defender and tackler and should at least push Mason Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton. His presence also could alleviate some of the pressure that would've been on rookie Cole Holcomb. 

Signing a defender who's been with five franchises in six years isn't exactly inspiring, but Bostic has experience as a starter and could give the Redskins useful snaps on first and second down at a minimum. Now it's on him to take advantage of the opportunity he's been given.

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