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Need to Know: Around Redskins Park—No more Davis doubters

Need to Know: Around Redskins Park—No more Davis doubters

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, November 18, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Green Bay Packers at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05 p.m.; Jay Gruden press conference and player availability after practice, approx. 2 p.m.

Days until: Redskins @ Cowboys on Thanksgiving 6; Redskins @ Cardinals 16; Redskins @ Eagles 23

Injuries of note
Out:
LS Sundberg (back)
Limited practice: WR Jackson (shoulder)
Full: OT Moses (ankle)
Thursday injury report

Redskins vs. Packers
NBC 8:30 p.m., Mike Tirico and Chris Collinsworth
Line: Redskins -3

Around Redskins Park

—There were some Vernon Davis doubters at Redskins Park when the team signed the veteran tight end. “It has been surprising quite frankly,” said Jay Gruden said of Davis’ effectiveness. “I wasn’t sure what we were going to get with Vernon.” Kirk Cousins also had his doubts. “I guess I wondered how much he had left in the tank, didn’t know,” said the quarterback. Davis wiped out those doubts quickly; he has been a productive player at age 32 with and without Jordan Reed in the lineup.

Su’a Cravens is playing more snaps and in more positions as the season goes on. He got a season-high 37 snaps against the Vikings. The rookie told me that he played Sam linebacker, Will linebacker, inside linebacker, rush end, and even a snap or two as a three technique, lined up over the guard. Some snaps at safety could be coming soon. The effectiveness of the defense down the stretch here could depend on the playmaking abilities of Cravens and Preston Smith, who had a breakout game on Sunday.

RELATED: REDSKINS WORK TO STEER CLEAR OF RODGERS’ TRICKS

—Things seem to be going smoothly for DeSean Jackson as he tries to get back in the lineup. He looked like his normal self on Wednesday and Thursday. Jay Gruden is being very noncommittal which I read is one part uncertainty about the possibility of a relapse and four parts gamesmanship. Jackson declined to talk about it in the locker room after practice.

—The Redskins are going to have to expend some draft and free agent resources on their defensive line next year. But they may have a couple of young players on the roster now who could turn out to be useful rotational pass rushers. Anthony Lanier has played a combined 30 snaps in the last two games. Joe Barry said he’s “raw” but he has “so much natural ability, natural instincts” that he’s “scary”. Former Seahawks third-round pick Jordan Hill is explosive and he has the ideal size for a rush defensive end. The two of them could contribute a play or two down the stretch but the organization is looking for more out of both of them in 2017. It should be noted that Hill may not be around; he will be an unrestricted free agent. Lanier is under team control through 2019.

MORE REDSKINS: TEAM COULD SCRAMBLE FOR A SNAPPER

—This isn’t a must-win game but a victory would give the Redskins a much easier path to the playoffs. Sizing up things right now and knowing that things could change in a heartbeat it looks like a record of 9-6-1 will be good enough to qualify for the NFC playoffs. If they win and are 6-3-1 they would just have to split their remaining six games to get to nine wins. They’d like to do better, of course, but they would have some margin for error. If they lose they need to go 4-2 to get where they need to be. That’s not drawing to an inside straight and the Redskins are capable of doing it but it would be much tougher.

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NFL revamping players' pain management and prevention programs

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USA TODAY Sports Imahes

NFL revamping players' pain management and prevention programs

NEW YORK -- The NFL and the players' union have two new agreements to address player health in the areas of pain management/prescription medications, and behavior well-being.

The joint agreements, announced Monday, are designed to lead to advancement and understanding of dealing with pain and to improve potential treatments. The league and union also will add to programs already established in education, prevention, and overall behavioral health throughout the league.

"I was hired two years ago and when I was hired I was asked about areas of concern," said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's medical chief. "And I said these were two areas I saw from my knowledge of someone taking care of athletes for over two decades. I felt a real need there."

"We've been working together with the players' union to come up with something that would work proactively for both. We have the same goal, to take care of the whole player and in a holistic way, and to focus on prevention."

Among the stipulations in the pain management area will be formation of a committee of medical experts appointed by the league and union that will establish uniform standards for club practices and policies in pain management and the use of prescription medication by players. The committee also will conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies.

That committee will receive periodic reports from a newly developed prescription drug monitoring program that will monitor all prescriptions issued to NFL players by club physicians and unaffiliated physicians.

Each NFL club must appoint and pay for a pain management specialist before next season.

All this builds on the programs in place.

"We've had an electronically submitted health record for each club in place for a number of years," Sills said. "Medical providers enter the prescriptions they have given to the players. Periodically, our medical advisory committee and the NFL Physicians Society would issue white paper guidelines around strategies. The important change here is obviously it creates a committee tasked with overseeing our educational efforts -- the best practices around pain management."

All 32 teams now must retain by the start of training camp a behavioral health team clinician focused on supporting players' emotional and mental health and well-being. The old bromide of "toughing it out" when someone has such issues has long been discarded, Sills said.

"This is not novel to the NFL or to sports," Sills added. "It applies across all levels of society at all age groups and walks of life, and we know these are issues we need to address."

While the NFL and NFLPA have had previous joint programs in these health areas, Sills and NFLPA President Eric Winston note these initiatives are a major step forward in medical care.

"These agreements are positive developments for our membership as they will provide new and important resources to help players and their families," Winston said. "Our union has always advocated for advancements in health and safety and we think this work with the NFL is another important step to improve care for NFL players."

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Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

The Redskins might be just in the beginning of a quarterback battle, but at Monday's OTA session, it seemed pretty clear which player would eventually win. 

Dwayne Haskins made a number of impressive throws while he was on the field, and while Case Keenum had his share of good passes too, the rookie shined. Even on the surface: Haskins looks the part of a franchise quarterback, standing 6-foot-3 and 230 lbs. Keenum is listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs, but that seems fairly generous. 

When Haskins throws the ball, it zips through the air. He can go deep and has touch on his underneath routes. Keenum gets the ball where it needs to be, but there's a difference in velocity. 

Let's be crystal clear, however, that one OTA session in May will not determine the starting quarterback job. While Keenum and Haskins are both learning the Redskins offense, Keenum has proved he can stand in the pocket of an NFL game and make plays. Haskins has never seen the size or speed of NFL defensive linemen. 

"It’s a long process and I think they both handled it well today," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth and I’m sure it will be a good, lengthy competition with some great players going at it."

A few, unexpected things stood out with Haskins.

Though he has a long windup on his throws, the ball gets out plenty fast. He also seemed quicker in the pocket than some of his NFL Scouting Combine numbers would suggest. Haskins certainly isn't fast, but he's not a plodder either. That said, Keenum does seem to have the advantage in squirting through the line of scrimmage and keeping plays alive. That's something Gruden really likes in his passers.

Both of the QBs seemed comfortable with their role in the competition. 

"It’s normal. I compete every day whether I’m playing football, playing ping pong, playing golf, I’m competing. I’m competing against myself. I’m competing against the defense. In the quarterback room, we’re always competing," Keenum said. "Competition makes you better and that’s what the spring is about."

Haskins sounded very tactful in his responses; respectful of the veterans already on the team in Keenum and Colt McCoy, yet also eager to get more work.

"I want to be with the best, be around the best, and compete with the best. All season I’ll be around working out with the best quarterbacks on my team," the rookie said. 

Planned or not, Haskins also seemed modest in his goals for the OTA session. 

"I didn’t have any expectations for today, I just wanted to execute. The biggest thing for me was going to play right in the huddle."

That stands out in stark contrast to the Redskins last first-round rookie passer, Robert Griffin III. Expectations for RG3 were out of control, almost immediately, and while parts of his rookie season actually lived up to the hype, that situation was not healthy or sustainable. It's smart for Haskins to set reasonable goals at this stage of his career. Calling plays correctly in the huddle will get him on the field more, and that will give him more chances to make big plays.

It's a learning process, and at OTAs, Haskins showed a willingness to start on the ground floor. In a world of egos and branding, that's a sage move. 

While McCoy was not present on the field at OTAs, he is in Ashburn. He will be a part of this competition, but he needs to get healthy soon. Gruden didn't provide much of an update when asked about McCoy, though the coach did say the quarterback should be back on the field for training camp.

McCoy knows the Redskins offense backward and forward, but without him on the field, Keenum and Haskins are learning the Redskins plays at the same time. And that means while Gruden is looking at a rookie and a veteran, neither player has much of a leg up on his playbook. 

"I think we have to grade them based on production out here every day. Every day is a new grade, every day you see how they’re developing, see how they’re getting better, see if they’re making the same mistakes over and over. But it’s a process, this is the first time Dwyane has had a chance to call plays in a live huddle and go after a live defense and this is the first time Case has had a chance to do that with the Redskins terminology. So, we don’t expect perfection on the day one, but we do expect the guys to know what they’re doing when we go out to the practice field, execute and then continue to get better each and every day."

Get better each day. Compete. That's the cornerstone of success in the NFL, and for the Redskins, how QB1 will find his spot.

"Somebody is going to rise I would think," the coach said. "The cream always rises to the top and we’re hoping that’s the case.”

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