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Redskins 2017 roster battles: Depth at safety will be critical as Cravens, Swearinger adapt

Redskins 2017 roster battles: Depth at safety will be critical as Cravens, Swearinger adapt

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

ROSTER BATTLES:  Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back  | Wide receiver

Safety

The contenders:

This is a different kind of competition. It seems that both starters are set with D.J. Swearinger at free safety and Su’a Cravens at strong. The issue is, neither one of the safeties has played his position full time in the NFL. Swearinger was a strong safety for the first three years of his NFL career before playing some free in certain situations with the Cardinals last year. Cravens was a nickel linebacker as a rookie in 2016.

The depth behind the starters will be critical. There may have to be a lot of situational substitution if Swearinger and Cravens struggle in their new roles. At free safety, veterans DeAngelo Hall and Will Blackmon both return. Blackmon started six games at free last year while Hall, the starter going into the season, went out after three games with a torn ACL. Josh Evans, who was on the roster for a few games last year but didn’t play a defensive snap, started 36 games at free and strong safety for the Jaguars. Fourth-round rookie Montae Nicholson could be of some help here but it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to contribute much in 2017.

There aren’t as many options at strong safety. As noted, Evans is versatile as is Swearinger. Deshazor Everett appeared to be on the verge of earning some significant playing time last year but he ended up with just 40 snaps.

And the winner is . . .

Tandler: If you gave truth serum to Greg Manusky and defensive backs coach Torian Gray, both probably would tell you that they have major concerns here. It’s one thing to project that a player can handle a position switch or a major change in responsibilities. But you don’t know how it will work out until the games start.

I think that the uncertainty here helps veterans Hall and Blackmon. Although Hall had just converted to safety after a long career at cornerback he can handle free safety. Blackmon was solid during his starts at safety and his ability to fill in at any cornerback spot is a huge plus.

They kept five safeties last year so who gets the last slot? Everett is very valuable on special teams but Evans’ experience may give him an edge.

Finlay: Like Tandler said, the plan is for Swearinger and Cravens to be the starting safeties. Hall will need to rework his deal, he's due more than $4 million this season and has been hurt more than he's played in the last two years. Former GM Scot McCloughan used to describe Blackmon as a "Swiss Army knife" and his versatily will earn him a roster spot in the last year of his contract.

Everett has far more upside than Evans, and last season Everett forced his way onto the Redskins roster and played in all 16 games. Remember, too, that Everett will have a new DBs coach and a new D-coordinator. That could mean new opportunities for the hard-hitter. The wildcard in this roster battle will be the rookie Nicholson. He has good size and speed for the NFL, but questionable tackling ability. His injury could land him on the PUP list, which would give the Redskins some roster flexibility early in the 2017 season. Eventually, though, the 'Skins will have more safeties than roster spots, assuming no major injuries. 

Cravens and Swearinger are roster locks. That much is certain. After that, there will be a lot to watch in Richmond at the safety spot. 

RELATED: Should Redskins fans concerned there is no GM yet?

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Falcons safety Keanu Neal says no 'ill intent' for big hit on Jordan Reed

Falcons safety Keanu Neal says no 'ill intent' for big hit on Jordan Reed

Jordan Reed took a major blow to the head in the Redskins third preseason game in Atlanta, and the blow eventually landed Washington's stud tight end in the NFL's concussion protocol. 

Falcons safety Keanu Neal delivered the hit, and while it was clearly illegal and resulted in a penalty on the field, he took to Twitter to defend his play. 

It's hard to judge intent under the incredible speed that plays happen during pro football. When a player goes in for a tackle, ball carriers can also move, and plays that look dirty in slow motion can look reasonable in full speed. Still, it's undeniable that Reed took a major shot in the helmet from Neal, and it definitely seemed unnecessary. And it's not a secret that Reed has dealt with serious head injuries throughout his NFL career. 

There has been no update on Reed's condition beyond that he's in the NFL concussion protocol. Reed also stayed in the game after the big hit from Neal before his concussion symptoms showed up at halftime. 

Neal is a fifth-year safety out of the University of Florida. He missed most of the 2018 season with an ACL injury. Reed also attended the University of Florida.

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If you never got to see Sonny Jurgensen throw the football, you must watch this video

If you never got to see Sonny Jurgensen throw the football, you must watch this video

Many younger Washington fans know Sonny Jurgensen for his wit and wisdom, shared every Sunday in the fall for decades via the Redskins radio broadcast.

For plenty of other fans, however, Jurgensen is arguably the best passer to ever wear Burgundy and Gold. Even though he played more than 40 years ago in a very different version of the NFL, Sonny still holds a number of team passing records, including most touchdowns in a season (31).

Saturday marks Jurgensen’s 85th birthday, and to celebrate, this highlight video popped up on Twitter. For the fans that never saw Sonny, this will be a lot of fun.

Jurgensen was known for incredible arm strength and touch, and that’s on display in the video. Another Redskins Hall of Famer looked pretty great too - No. 42 wide receiver Charley Taylor.

The most ridiculous throw? At the 1:30 mark when deep in the back of his own end zone, Jurgensen uncorks a throw between the goal posts (then located on the goal line) and deep down field for a TD.

It’s important for Washington fans that never got to see Jurgensen play to watch the video, as this fall, he stepped down from his role as the lead analyst during Redskins games. It’s a sad moment for the fan base, but understandable for an 85-year-old man.

Happy Birthday Sonny.

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