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Redskins OTA to-do list: Safety

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Redskins OTA to-do list: Safety

The busy portion of free agency is completed. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview. The 90-man offseason roster is full, as well. Now comes the difficult part for second-year head coach Jay Gruden: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin Tuesday, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are examining the top items on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the Redskins for training camp in Richmond later this summer.

Up today …

Redskins OTA to-do list: Safety

Tandler: It looks like Dashon Goldson, acquired from the Bucs in a trade, and former Seahawks and free agent acquisition Jeron Johnson are set as the starters. They will have to learn their responsibilities in Joe Barry’s and Perry Fewell’s new defense. Behind them, Barry and Fewell will be looking for somebody, anybody, to step up and provide some depth. This could a make or break summer for Phillip Thomas, who was injured as a rookie and appeared to be unprepared when injuries got him an opportunity to start some games last year. He needs to show improvement early. Kyshoen Jarrett and Akeem Davis might earn roster spots thanks to special teams play but they both need to learn to handle defensive snaps if they should come their way.

El-Bashir: I see one of the more intriguing battles of the offseason unfolding at safety. From the sounds of it, Goldson, Johnson and Ihenacho will enter OTAs as the Redskins’ top three safeties. That shouldn’t come as a surprise (and I don’t see it changing). Goldson and Johnson have a history with GM Scot McCloughan dating back to their days with the 49ers and Seahawks, respectively. And Ihenacho, who turns 26 next month, started 18 games in 2013 for AFC Champion Broncos. After that, you’ve got Thomas, Jarrett and special teams standouts Trenton Robinson and Akeem Davis competing for one, maybe two, spots. Thomas, to me, has the most to prove after an injury-plagued start to his career. And he’ll have to prove it to a GM that didn’t draft him, as well as a new defensive coordinator and a new secondary coach. Because of all that, it’s not really a stretch to say that the next three months could determine Thomas’ NFL future.

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How Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson is cramming for his first start in seven years

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How Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson is cramming for his first start in seven years

REDSKINS PARK The surprise has worn off now and the work has begun in earnest for Josh Johnson, who will start his first NFL game in seven years when the Redskins play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

That is not something he or the Redskins would have thought possible during the summer. Alex Smith was going to be the new starting quarterback and Colt McCoy was set to be his backup. Then Smith and McCoy sustained broken legs in a nine-day span last month and the unthinkable happened. 

Behind an offensive line decimated by injuries once again, Johnson at least moved the ball when called upon down 40-0 against the New York Giants on Sunday at FedEx Field. Redskins coach Jay Gruden immediately made the decision to give Johnson the start against Jacksonville. A career backup now on his 12th NFL organization will start for a team whose season has cratered during a four-game losing streak. 

Johnson says he’s ready and that his journey around the NFL is part of the reason why. The Redskins had an extended practice on Wednesday with scripted sessions and walk throughs at the beginning and end to get him comfortable with the offense. He’s familiar with Gruden thanks to their time together in Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, when Gruden was the offensive coordinator. But it’s a lot to cram into one week and the playbook will naturally be limited.      

"It has helped because I’ve been around a lot of different quarterbacks, a couple Super Bowl quarterbacks, a Hall of Fame quarterback, first-round picks, fifth-round picks,” Johnson said. “I’ve experienced coaching from numerous coaches and you pick up on some common traits. You pick up on different things where you can apply it when necessary whether it is preparation, performance, mental stability. Everything becomes a full circle, so it’s getting me ready for Sunday."

But prior to Sunday’s loss to the Giants, Johnson last threw a pass in a game on Dec. 11, 2011. Ironically, that came for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Jaguars in a 41-14 loss. Johnson’s last start was the week before that in a 38-19 loss to the Carolina Panthers. 

Cam Newton was a rookie. So was Redskins linebacker Mason Foster, who was Johnson’s teammate that day, too, as a starting rookie linebacker for the Buccaneers. Johnson appeared in two more games with Tampa Bay and then began his journey around the NFL. 

His stops included Cleveland, Cincinnati and San Francisco twice each, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Baltimore, New York with both the Jets and the Giants, Houston, his hometown Oakland Raiders this past offseason and now the Redskins.

“The one thing that I really respect about Josh Johnson is he is a very confident guy,” Gruden said. “He believes in his ability to be a quarterback in the National Football League despite being on [12] teams. He has a skill set that’s pretty good but hasn’t been able to stick anywhere, but still, the game's not too big for him.” 

Indeed, Johnson came on with 5:31 left in the third quarter and his team down 40-0 against New York and completed 11 of 16 passes and had seven carries for 45 yards with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown plus two two-point conversions. He didn’t look nervous. 

With Washington’s situation at both left and right guard so disastrous because of injury, there isn’t much Gruden can do to change the playbook. Johnson’s mobility allows the Redskins to use him a little differently than Mark Sanchez, who originally took over for McCoy but struggled against New York and was benched.

Johnson is still grasping the new terminology, though. He was with Gruden in Cincinnati in 2013, a backup on a team that made the playoffs, but much of that wording was changed when Gruden arrived in Washington in 2014. But Jon Gruden – Jay’s brother and the Raiders’ head coach – once told Johnson to keep a manual on what coaches across the NFL are doing when he was between jobs so he’d be prepared if a call came. It did, but this time from a familiar face. They all hope it helps. 

“To come back and kind of experience a similar culture and being in something that I've been comfortable with before, it's kind of a blessing for me,” Johnson said. “Because I don’t really have to go through the rigors of a coach trying to figure me out. It's more of just figuring me in.”

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Maryland Gov. Hogan wants new Redskins stadium, but won't use public money

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Maryland Gov. Hogan wants new Redskins stadium, but won't use public money

As attendance slumps at FedEx Field this season it's become quite clear the Redskins need a new stadium. By all accounts the team is working hard towards that end. 

News emerged last week that the Redskins are working with the Trump administration and D.C. government officials to get back to the RFK Stadium site. It's far from a done deal, but there is some progress. 

Fans remember RFK fondly, as it was the site of the team's greatest seasons. Every Super Bowl team the Redskins ever fielded called the East Capitol Street stadium home. 

Since 1997, however, the Redskins have played at FedEx Field in Maryland, and it appears Governor Larry Hogan doesn't want to lose the team either. Speaking with reporters, Hogan revealed his plans to get a new stadium adjacent to the MGM National Harbor casino in Oxon Hill. 

The Washington Post reported that Hogan has begun the process of a potential "land swap" with the federal government. Maryland would surrender lands in the western portion of the state in return for the parcel of land next to the casino to develop a new Redskins stadium. 

Nothing is official, but conversations have been ongoing between the Hogan administration and the Department of the Interior. There is one important caveat, however, that Hogan wanted to make clear. 

"We are not going to build a billionaire’s stadium, either,” ­Hogan said. “We have no interest whatsoever, and there have been no discussions, ever, about us spending one penny in construction."

The Redskins' lease at FedEx Field runs through 2027, but sources have told NBC Sports Washington that if the team builds a new stadium in Prince Georges County, those terms could change. The Oxon Cove site would be in Prince Georges County. 

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