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Gruden says Scherff "will have to take some lumps" while learning

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Gruden says Scherff "will have to take some lumps" while learning

Although there has been talk from the Redskins’ coaches and the general manager about there being competition at every position, it would be a major upset if top draft pick Brandon Scherff was not the starting right tackle in Week 1.

Jay Gruden would not declare Scherff as the starter at this point although he said that starting him at right tackle was the “intent”.

“But I think with Brandon, he’s a good football player, number one,” said Gruden. “He’s a good offensive linemen. We’ll find a spot for him but obviously we start him out at right tackle, but you know Morgan Moses is going to have something to say, Tom Compton is going to have something to say about that.”

Compton started most of last year at right tackle and Moses, a third-round pick in 2014, had a start at left tackle.

Scherff is working on making a transition from left tackle, where he played at Iowa, to the right side. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

“He’s going to have to take some lumps, but the good thing about Brandon is he’s a very focused individual,” said Gruden. “He studies very hard, he takes coaching extremely well and he’s got the best coach to coach him up. But I think you see the progress from yesterday morning to yesterday afternoon to today, it’s a significant change for him already. And I think he’s going to continue to get better.”

Gruden had some observations about some of the other players who participated in the minicamp:

—He has been impressed with second-round draft pick, outside linebacker Preston Smith. He is quite a physical specimen. “His length is what draws you to him initially, and then you watch him play, and he uses that leverage to his advantage,” said Gruden. “Especially in the run game, when people are at the point of attack, he does a great job of using that leverage to his advantage and then using that length in his pass rush. He can get people off of him, and then he has good hips and he can finish plays. Preston has been impressive.”

—Smith is also making a transition, having played defensive end at Mississippi State. It appears that he is still trying to get a firm grasp on that transition. ““It’s going good. It’s a matter of getting the calls and dropping when he’s supposed to drop and rushing when he’s supposed to rush, and then playing the run and then transition his run to a pass rush,” said Gruden. “I think he’s doing a good job. I talked to him today about trying to get a little bit more suddenness to him, and he’s just saying, ‘I’m getting my bearings straight. I’m getting my plays down.’”

Matt Jones was known as a big, bruising runner when he was drafted but Gruden has found that he has a good package of running back skills. “The thing about Matt is you think of him as a big power-type back, but really Matt has done some things out in space that have been very, very impressive – making moves on the second level, getting to the second level,” he said. “In the passing game, running some option routes on linebackers. He has done some good things. He has got natural hands, so we’ve been very impressed him.”

—This doesn’t automatically mean that Jones will take some carries away from Alfred Morris, the team’s leading rusher for the past three seasons. “We’ll see,” Gruden said when asked about the prospect of Jones getting carries at Morris’ expense. “That’s what training camp is for and the preseason games, and Alfred is a darn good halfback, so in order to take carries off of him, you’ve got to show a lot.”

—Gruden likes how receiver Jamison Crowder is taking what is being taught in the meeting rooms and translating it on the field. “The thing about him is that he has got great football IQ,” said Gruden. “If you’re a slot receiver, you need that, and you need to know how to run routes against different leverage points. He’s done some good things outside too, but in order to be a good, effective slot receiver, you’ve got to be able to field zones and man, inside technique, outside technique, bump, head up, outside, and then know how to set them at top of your break. Right now, he’s showing that he can take what we’re teaching him in the classroom and translate it effortlessly to the playing field.”

 

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There's a competition brewing among the Redskins defensive linemen, per Daron Payne

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Redskins Nation

There's a competition brewing among the Redskins defensive linemen, per Daron Payne

If you find yourself looking for Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis, you really just need to find one of them. Odds are, if you locate one, the other two will be close by.

The second-year pro, third-year pro, and fourth-year pro have forged quite a bond on the Redskins' defensive line, which is easily the team's most promising unit going into 2019. The three guys share an appreciation for lifting really heavy weights and dropping opposing quarterbacks. 

As it turns out, that latter love is actually part of the inspiration behind a bet Payne, Allen and Ioannidis have queued up for the 2019 campaign. Payne revealed that while with Larry Michael on a recent episode of Redskins Nation.

"Me and Jon and Matt got a little competition right now on sacks and tackles," he said with a smile, but he ultimately didn't shed any light on what the competition's compensation will be.

Whatever the trio is playing for, it should be a close race.

Ryan Kerrigan led the 'Skins in sacks in 2018, but Allen (8), Ioannidis (7.5) and Payne (5) were second, third and fourth respectively. In terms of tackles, meanwhile, it went Allen (61), Payne (56) and then Ioannidis (31). 

Allen and Payne saw a ton of snaps last year while Ioannidis was used more in a rotational role, which limited his tackles. He's an insanely productive pass rusher, though, so he can make up some ground in the sacks/tackles bet by keeping that trend going. Any of them are a solid pick if you're trying to project who'll capture their title.

Payne, for one, expects to generate better numbers in his second go-round in the league.

"Of course," he responded when Michael asked if he left some sacks out there as a rookie. "Definitely did. I want to get a couple more."

In the team's offseason practices, he's already noticed that things are "coming easier," so perhaps he'll be able to record those extra takedowns he's looking for.

As mentioned earlier, you can make an easy case for Payne, Allen or Ioannidis to win their competition, but you won't know who that winner is until late December.

One thing you can already say, however? That the QBs and running backs they'll be chasing down are the losers in this thing. That much is already known.

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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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