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Jay Gruden believes in Kendall Fuller: He's not going to be perfect

Jay Gruden believes in Kendall Fuller: He's not going to be perfect

Rookie cornerback Kendall Fuller hit the ground running for the Redskins once he finally made the active roster in Week 4. In his first NFL game, Fuller played more than 60 percent of the defensive snaps, and in eight games with Washington, Fuller has been on the field more than 70 percent of all defensive snaps.

His play early on was encouraging; a physical presence playing the slot and strong tackler in run support. Against the Bengals in London, Fuller had seven tackles.

Since the bye week, things haven't gone so well for Fuller.

Some of it was matchups - including a particularly difficult assignment in the Minnesota game against his high school teammate from Good Counsel (Md.) Stefon Diggs. In that game, Diggs had 13 catches for 164 yards, almost exclusively working out of the slot.

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The following week Fuller struggled against the Packers, but things got worse against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Dallas slot WR Cole Beasley grabbed five catches for 56 yards, but in key spots, the Cowboys offense moved Dez Bryant into the slot to match up with Fuller.

The rookie had trouble against the Pro Bowl veteran, like many corners have, and despite some down games, Washington coach Jay Gruden still has a lot of faith in his third-round rookie CB.

"As a young football player, he’s growing. And he’s not going to be perfect, nor is anyone on our football team, but I like the ways he plays," Gruden said. "He plays with great effort. He’s a smart football player."

Fuller is a valuable piece of the Redskins secondary, and with more experience, he will become a bigger asset for Washington. Only a fool would suggest otherwise. 

It will be interesting if defensive coordinator Joe Barry tweaks his defense to give other defensive backs some reps at the slot corner position against Arizona on Sunday. The Redskins have a variety of options, including moving Bashaud Breeland inside and playing Quinton Dunbar outside, or perhaps giving Greg Toler more opportunities. 

Gruden's only advice is that Fuller continue to hone his craft, and considering the rookie's pedigree and work ethic, it should work.

"He has just got to continue to work on his technique and I think that’ll come with time. Whether it’s outside leverage, inside leverage, off technique, whatever it is, zone technique, all that stuff is just repetition, repetition, repetition. The more he gets, the better he is going to be."

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PHOTOS: Alex Smith makes an appearance during the Redskins' third day of OTAs

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PHOTOS: Alex Smith makes an appearance during the Redskins' third day of OTAs

Considering how serious that November leg injury was and how difficult the subsequent surgeries were, any time you see Alex Smith out, about and smiling, it's encouraging.

On Thursday, the Redskins posted a couple of pictures of Smith helping out at the team's third day of OTAs. The QB was photographed hanging out with coaches and even tossing a football:

You can't tell in the pictures whether Smith is still wearing the external fixator on his right leg, but regardless of whether he is or not, it's still great to see him in Ashburn around the organization. 

It remains unclear what kind of role Smith will have with the 'Skins in 2019. However, if he's willing, he'd be an ideal mentor for Dwayne Haskins and overall a positive influence on the entire roster, seeing as many players don't hesitate to praise the leadership he displayed in 2018.

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VIDEO: Montae Nicholson and Vernon Davis return to Redskins OTAs

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VIDEO: Montae Nicholson and Vernon Davis return to Redskins OTAs

Montae Nicholson and Vernon Davis were among those absent at Monday's open Redskins OTAs session, and both absences were surprising considering each player's somewhat unsteady spot on the roster.

Nicholson's second year with the Redskins was a struggle both on and off the field, while Davis is often mentioned as someone who might be in line for a contract restructuring or even a release. 

However, thanks to a video that the Redskins posted on Instagram, it's now clear that the safety and the tight end have since returned to Ashburn to work with their fellow teammates:

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8️⃣5️⃣ putting in the work

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It's an especially encouraging development for Nicholson, who should be doing whatever he can to get back in the good graces of the coaching staff. Whatever the reason for his absence was on Monday, it's a good sign to see that he didn't stay away too long. 

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