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Preston Smith impressed Redskins with combine results


Preston Smith impressed Redskins with combine results

A day after addressing right tackle, the Redskins went after another position where they desperately need help: outside linebacker. 

With the team’s second round selection, new general manager Scot McCloughan picked Mississippi State’s Preston Smith, a 6-foot-5, 271-pound defensive end who is expected to convert to linebacker in the Redskins’ 3-4 scheme.   

Smith joins a Redskins’ corps of outside linebackers that includes starters Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy, as well as reserves Jackson Jeffcoat and Trevardo Williams. Three-time Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo departed via free agency.

Smith first got a sense that he might end up in Washington after a productive meeting with the Redskins’ coaching staff at the Scouting Combine in February.

“They liked me a lot,” he said on a conference call with local reporters Friday night. “We watched film, reviewed it and talked about a lot of things. I believe that I was on the radar then.”

Smith joked that he was so excited when his phone rang that he blanked out. 

“I can’t even remember,” he said when asked which member of the Redskins’ front office called him. “My mind went blank as soon as they said, ‘This is the Redskins.’ I just got excited. Everything before and kinda after that, I kinda forgot just that quick.”  

As a senior at Mississippi State, Smith recorded 48 tackles, including 15 for a loss, to go along with nine sacks and two interceptions. 

Solid stats, indeed, but Smith suspects that it was his performance in Indianapolis that propelled him toward the top of the second round. At the combine, the Stone Mountain, Ga. native clocked a 4.74-second 40-yard dash, a 121-inch broad jump and 7.07-second three-cone drill -- all of which ranked among the best numbers posted by defensive ends.

“I think it helped me a lot because a lot of [scouts] didn’t believe that I could move the way I move at my size from the film,” Smith said. “From a lot of the film they reviewed, they felt like I looked slower than what I seemed. I feel like the combine was a great chance to go out and show them that I’m faster than what they say, and I move better than they think I move.”

Smith, who counts his versatility is among his strengths, said he isn’t concerned about transitioning to outside linebacker.

“I feel like it will go well because we used a lot of different looks for my defense in college, playing standup at outside linebacker, doing a lot of drops and doing a lot of different looks,” he said. “I feel like it will be a great transition, something I’m used to, something I’m familiar with. It will be nothing new to me. Won’t be hard for me to adjust.” 

Smith may have to lose a few pounds as he makes the switch. He said he’s already down about five pounds from his playing weight ... though that wasn’t necessarily intended. 

“This process has caused me to be a little nervous and stressed out,” he cracked. “You might not eat. Now that it’s over -- I’m not going to pig out -- but I’m going to start to eat.” 

MORE REDSKINS: Smith a good combination of size and agility

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Need to Know: The forecast for Redskins Park today is a media circus

Need to Know: The forecast for Redskins Park today is a media circus

Here is what you need to know on Tuesday, August 21, three days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

Looking at a few different topics this morning:

—What was going to be a normal, ho-hum Tuesday preseason practice at Redskins Park will now be on hyperdrive thanks to the addition of Adrian Peterson. After mostly ignoring the Redskins for most of the offseason the national media will turn out in force to chronicle the arrival of AD. Yes, it’s AD as in All Day as I was reminded by several Sooners on Twitter in the past few days. I suppose that now that he’s here I’d better get it right. 

Derrius Guice underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL yesterday (see his tweet below). I haven’t heard but I assume that someone will say that the surgery was a success. Looking at a recovery time of about nine months, Guice could be ready for the start of OTAs in mid-May. But given how cautious this organization tends to be with injuries during the offseason program, we may not see him on the field until training camp. 

—Speaking of injuries, there were over a dozen players who were not participating in practice on both Saturday and Sunday. As I noted here a couple of days ago Jay Gruden has become very tight-lipped when it comes to giving out information on injuries. And teams are not required to give out any injury information at all during the preseason. So it’s hard to sort out veterans’ days from players with minor injuries that are being rested because the game isn’t until Friday from injuries that are reasons for legitimate concern. The first injury report will come out two weeks from tomorrow, so we are mostly in the dark until then. 

—I’m hearing from fans and some in the media that undrafted free agent Cam Sims is a lock to make the 53-man roster. I would suggest pumping the brakes. He has a great opportunity and I have him on the 53 in my last prediction. But he has been erratic. The Jets preseason game, where he made a big-time error when he had a pass bounce out of his arms, turning a completion into an interception then made some key, acrobatic catches was essentially a microcosm of his training camp. He needs a strong finish both in practice and in the two remaining preseason games to get locked into a spot. A few plays like the botched reception and he could be on the outside looking in. 

—Montae Nicholson quietly had a good camp and he has played well in two preseason games (he was one of the few starters to play against the Patriots). He struggled in coverage in the early part of camp. The Redskins are changing their scheme to play left- and right-side safeties instead of free and strong. That means that Nicholson, who played free last year, had to learn the coverage responsibilities for both positions on both sides of the field. It took him some time to get up to speed and during that time it was not unusual to see Nicholson trailing behind a receiver who had a couple of steps on him. He is not immune to making mistakes or just getting beaten on occasion (news flash: NFL rules are set up for DBs to get burned). But he should get the job done most of the time and be the player the Redskins hope he will be. 

Bureau of statistics

Nicholson’s 40 time at the NFL Combine in 2017 was 4.42, the third fastest among safeties and tenth fastest Amon all defensive backs. 

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The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:00; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 3 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 11 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 19 days

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler


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Is Adrian Peterson a good fit with the Redskins?

Is Adrian Peterson a good fit with the Redskins?

Adrian Peterson is one of the best running backs in NFL history.

But is he the best running back for the Redskins right now?

The Redskins signed Peterson, 33 years old and a 12-year NFL veteran, to a one-year contract. They have been hit with injuries at the running back position, most notably the loss of second-round pick Derrius Guice for the season with a torn ACL. They didn’t make any moves when that diagnosis was announced a week and a half ago. But they lost two more backs to short-term injuries last Thursday and they decided that now is the time to go out and get somebody.

Is the need for a running back really there? Rob Kelley was the starter for the last half of the 2016 season and for seven games last year before a variety of ailments sent him to injured reserve. Samaje Perine became the starter after that and while he struggled at time he also showed growth potential.

Kelley is 25 and Perine is 22. In the absence of Guice, they could develop and when Guice returns next year the team would have a good stable of young running backs.

But now, Peterson is in the picture. We don’t yet know what his role will be, but they did not sign him to be the back who is inactive on game days. He will get some carries and that will take work away from Perine and Kelley.

Now, if Peterson is more productive than either of the two younger backs then that is a worthwhile swap. But what does he have left in the tank at age 33?

Last year, playing for the Saints and Cardinals he gained 529 yards on 156 carries, a very pedestrian average of 3.4 years per carry. That is very similar to the production of Perine, who had 175 carries for 603 yards, a 3.4 average. In his two years in the NFL, Kelley has averaged 3.9 yards per carry.

By signing Peterson, however, the Redskins are hoping that Peterson has one more big year, or at least a medium year by his standards, left in him. After all, it was just in 2015 that he led the NFL in rushing for the third time in his career as he ran for 1,485 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. The Redskins would be delighted if he could get half of that total.

Any free agent signing can only be evaluated when the contract details are available. We only know that it’s a one-year deal and according to some reports he did not get any money guaranteed at signing. That seems to be a team friendly deal, but we will have to see what might kick in if he is on the Week 1 roster.

As with everything else, time will tell if this move works out. If the money is right, it’s a low risk transaction with some possible upside for Washington.

Back during minicamp while talking about how quickly Alex Smith would have to get up to speed with the offense, Jay Gruden said that the Redskins are not in a rebuilding mode and that they need to win now. After the trade for Smith, the Peterson signing is another indication that patience may be wearing thin.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler