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Redskins players take different approaches to battling injury bug

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Redskins players take different approaches to battling injury bug

RICHMOND—The Redskins’ injury list is starting to grow. Fortunately, during the first four days of training camp there has been only one major injury, Bashaud Breeland’s sprained MCL. Even that injury seems unlikely to keep him out of a regular season game he’s eligible to play in. (he has been suspended for Week 1).

But there have been some nicks here and there. On Sunday DeSean Jackson watched practice with a dislocated finger. Also missing were CB Tevin Michel (shoulder) and OT Willie Smith (Achilles). RB Matt Jones left practice and watched with an ice pack on his right knee.

But a lot of the injury-related attention is going to two players who are healthy for the time being. Tight end Jordan Reed may have Pro Bowl talent but injuries have cost him a chance to display his abilities. In two years in the NFL he has missed 12 games and has been either on the injury report or on injured reserve for 17 of the 32 games he has been on the roster.

Nobody is saying that running back Chris Thompson will ever go to a Pro Bowl but he has speed, a valued commodity. He was the kick and punt returner as a rookie in 2013 but a shoulder injury landed him on injures reserve for the last 12 games of the season. Last year various nagging injuries cost him a spot on the 53-man roster but he was elevated from the practice squad for two late season games.

You could say Reed and Thompson have been unlucky but Redskins coach Jay Gruden said that injuries are about more than luck.

“Well, a lot of it is luck but a lot of it is also what you’re doing in the weight room to get yourself ready and how you’re taking care of your body off the field,” said Gruden. “A lot of it is just dumb luck. Jordan has had a couple unfortunate injuries, and same with Chris. They’re both tough guys, I like to think. And knock on wood, they look excellent out there right now.”

The old adage of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure comes into play here as well.

“Some of those guys we have got to make sure they get treatment before and after practice even if they don’t have any injuries,” said Gruden. “They have got to take care of their bodies, they’ve got to ice their bodies down and do what the trainers tell them. And so far, those guys are on the right path.”

Preventive measures are not just taking place in the trainer’s room. Here is what I observed in practice earlier this week:

Pre-practice stretching seems to be more thorough this year than it was in the past. Mike Clark has them doing precise exercises to stretch hamstrings, Achilles, cores, a about anything else that could be strained or sprained.

Reed is very conscious of the need for him to keep himself on the field. Talking to a group of reporters, Reed seemed to have injury avoidance on the top of his list of priorities.

He had a stem cell treatment to his right knee in June, a procedure that kept him out of most of OTAs and minicamp. The hope is that the treatment will help keep him on the field.

“Everything’s great right now,” he said “I’ve just got to stay on top of it . . . This past month I was full go I’ve just been strengthening and running a stuff this whole last month.”

He was asked what he needed to do to take the next step as a player.

“Stay healthy, man, that’s what I’ve got to do, man,” he said. “I think if I can stay healthy and play 16 games I can do a lot more for this offense.”

While Reed still has plenty to learn about playing tight end in the NFL, he can still be productive while he’s learning, as long as he is on the field.

Thompson comes into his third Redskins training camp healthy for the first time. He said that his shoulder was bothering him some last year and that affected his performance, particularly in pass protection. Thompson had some other nagging injuries last year that led to his release when the team cut down to 53 players. While on the practice squad he got healthy and was able to get in some snaps late in the season.

Unlike Reed, Thompson is trying not to think about potential injury problems.

“I was a little bit worried about the shoulder coming into training camp last year but now I’m not worrying about injuries because I can’t control that stuff,” he said.

So we have two different approaches by two different players. We will see how things work out for them. 

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 24, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The heat is on Jay Gruden

Jay Gruden knows that his Redskins need to win in 2018.

“This isn’t a two- or three-year process,” he said last week. “This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.” 

Jay Gruden gave this answer to a question about Alex Smith, but his words should resonate with the whole team. He’s right. This is no longer a rebuilding team. It’s time for this team to get it together and make a playoff run. 

That puts the pressure on Gruden. 

This is his fifth year as coach of the Redskins. He is well beyond the point where he can credibly point a finger of blame at his predecessor for any problems that are lingering. Only five players who were around in 2013, Mike Shanahan’s last year in Washington. It’s Gruden’s show now. 

His tenure is now the longest for a Redskins head coach since Norv Turner made it nearly seven years, from 1994 through 13 games into the 2000 season. His 49-59-1 run with the Redskins spanned three owners in Jack Kent Cooke, John Kent Cooke, and Dan Snyder. 

It should be noted that Turner’s third and fourth years at the helm closely resembled Gruden’s past two years. Turner’s team went 9-7 in 1996 and 8-7-1 the next year, narrowly missing the playoffs both years. That looks a lot like Gruden’s 8-7-1 and 7-9 records over the past two years. 

Gruden does not want this year’s team to resemble the 1998 Redskins. Turner’s fifth team started out 0-7 before winning four of their last five to finish 6-10. 

Turner kept his job in part because of the team’s uncertain ownership situation after the elder Cooke passed away in 1997. Gruden will not have a similar set of circumstances to help him out if he needs a lifeline in January. 

Gruden wants his fifth year to turn out more like Turner’s sixth season. That team went 10-6, topped the NFC East standings and won a playoff game. 

To get there, he needs a lot of his decisions to go right. While the trade for Smith was not his call, every indication is that he was on board with it. 

Last year, it was his decision to say no, thanks to Wade Phillips, who wanted to be his defensive coordinator and promote Greg Manusky into the job. The results were mixed as the Redskins were sixth in pass defense DVOA but 29thagainst the run. It was viewed as a marginal improvement on defense but the unit still seeme to be more of a liability than an asset. 

This year, the Redskins re-signed inside linebackers Zach Brown and Mason Foster and added defensive lineman Daron Payne with their first-round pick after spending their first-round pick on DE Jonathan Allen in 2017. There will be no excuses for Manusky and, by extension, Gruden if the defense does not improve. 

Joe Barry, Manusky’s predecessor who also was hired by Gruden when Phillips was an option, was out after two years of failing to significantly improve the defense. Any reasonable analysis would have to conclude that Barry did not get an infusion of talent anywhere approaching what Manusky has received in his two seasons. Manusky is getting a second year but he probably won’t get a third if the defense is still considered to be an impediment to the team’s progress. 

And if Manusky has to go, you have to wonder if Gruden will get a chance to hire a third defensive coordinator. 

I’m not sure if there is a certain number of games that the Redskins have to win for Gruden to return in 2019. It feels like he would not survive a 6-10 season or maybe not even another 7-9 finish. On the other end of the spectrum, making the playoffs and winning a game when they get there would certainly punch his ticket for a sixth season. 

Anything in between would leave Gruden in some jeopardy and the call would come down to the vague “moving in the right direction” criteria. 

There are some holes on this team, to be sure. But every team has some and the ones that are well coached figure out how to overcome them. The pressure will be on Gruden to best utilize their strengths and minimize any damage brought about by the weaker points. 

From his statement, it’s apparent that he is well aware of that. 

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

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I put out a tweet correcting the Super Bowl ring count to two.

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 32
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 60

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 77 days. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 23, 33 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins  and NBC Sports Washington.

Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense—NFL coaches and others like to tell you that competition determines who wins roster spots in the league. And that may be true to an extent. But many roster spots are predetermined by a player’s contract situation and/or draft status. It is unlikely that an undrafted player like Fish Smithson will win a roster spot over Troy Apke even if the former outperforms the latter in every way during training camp. Apke was a fourth-round pick and they aren’t going to give up on him in favor of an undrafted player. It would cost $3.2 million in dead cap to cut Stacy McGee and only $150,000 to move on from Ziggy Hood so McGee will win a “competition” that is even remotely close. (Offensive projection here)

Redskins will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor at training camp—While this is something that could add a little spice to the Jets’ visit to Richmond, don’t look for much of anything to happen. Zach Brown might give a little extra shove to Pryor here and there but he’s not going to do anything that will draw blood or even cause a deep bruise. If nothing else, a big hit on Pryor would invite retaliation by the Jets on Josh Doctson or Paul Richardson. And that might lead to more retaliation and you end up with a brawl like the Redskins and Texans had a couple of years ago.

Trent Williams very much of approves of Smith and Guice—Williams is going into his ninth NFL season and he has yet to be on the winning side of a playoff game. He thinks that Alex Smith and Derrius Guice can help change that. 

The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list—I normally greet this list with a big yawn and this year was no exception. But I do find the omission of Smith, who led the NFL in passer rating and was third in adjusted net yards per attempt, odd. In an update to this post, the NFL released the names of the top 10 players and Smith is not on it. He shouldn’t be, but he should be somewhere on the 100, perhaps in the middle of the pack. The only Redskins player to appear on the list was Trent Williams at No. 57.

The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger—It’s likely that nine players who are 25 or younger will line up as starters for the Redskins this year. I don’t have a rundown of how that compares to the rest of the league but it’s notable that in the last two years six of them have replaced players who were either approaching age 30 or over it. I’ll engage in some speculation here and say that five of the young players—Daron Payne, Derrius Guice, Preston Smith, Jonathan Allen, and Montae Nicholson—are good enough to potentially make a Pro Bowl at some point in their careers. 

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

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Timeline 

Former Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz was born on this date in 1950. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 33
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 47
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 70

The Redskins last played a game 174 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 78 days. 

In case you missed it