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Redskins position preview: Strong safety

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Redskins position preview: Strong safety

Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ depth chart now that the team’s offseason program has concluded.

Some battles are straightforward. Others could get complicated. This much, however, cannot be debated: A player is not on the 53-man roster until it's finalized Sept. 5.

So who’s in? And who’s in jeopardy? Up today …

Position: Strong safety.

On the roster: Jeron Johnson, Duke Ihenacho, Kyshoen Jarrett, Phillip Thomas and Akeem Davis.

Likely to make the 53: Johnson, Ihenacho and Jarrett.

Comment: Like the competition at right outside linebacker (which we discussed earlier this week here), the battle at strong safety will take center stage when the Redskins report to Richmond next month.

When the Redskins signed Johnson, a former Legion of Boom backup in Seattle, the immediate speculation was that he’d be Brandon Meriweather’s replacement. That’s still a possibility, but he’s going to face more competition for the job than originally anticipated.

During the majority of the offseason practices that were open to reporters, Ihenacho worked ahead of Johnson in 11 on 11 drills. Johnson, though, worked as the starter on June 17—the final day of mandatory minicamp.

Ihenacho, who was sidelined almost all of last season with a foot injury, has the edge in experience, having started 17 games for Denver in 2013 as the Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl. Johnson, meanwhile, has just one start on his resume, but he did appear in 46 games as a backup to perennial Pro Bowler Kam Chancellor and was targeted early in free agency by new GM Scot McCloughan. It should also be noted that Johnson was a standout special teamer with the Seahawks and his tenure in Seattle overlapped with McCloughan’s.

Both Johnson and Ihenacho are going to make the roster. And both are versatile enough to see some snaps at free safety, as well. But only one of them will start Week 1 alongside hard-hitting free safety Dashon Goldson.

Battling for a job: Jarrett, Thomas and Davis.

Comment: Assuming Goldson, Johnson and Ihenacho will occupy three of the five safety spots on the 53-man roster, that means the others will find themselves in a tight competition for backup roles later this summer.

They’ll all need to be flexible enough to play both free and strong. And, just as important, they’ll need to be valuable on special teams (like Trenton Robinson and Akeem Davis were last season).

The backups at the end of last season were Robinson, a free safety, Thomas and Davis. Now you’ve got to add to the mix versatile rookie Kyshoen Jarrett, who impressed Coach Jay Gruden this offseason with his tenaciousness on special teams.

“Kyshoen has done an excellent job, man,” Gruden said. “He’s fast. He’s flying around. He’s making his presence known on special teams. I mentioned that the late-round picks are going to have to make their mark on special teams, and Kyshoen has done that.”

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As for Thomas, defensive backs Coach Perry Fewell indicated that he'll need to show continued progress in Richmond after he appeared to do a fair amount of spectating from the sideline this offseason.

“He’s a knowledgeable guy,” Fewell said of the 2013 fourth rounder. “He has ability to break on the ball. He’s a mentally tough guy, because [when] we’re in the classroom and we throw a lot at him, he can regurgitate it. If we can get him to do that on the field, as quickly as he regurgitates it in the classroom, then we’ve got something.”

So, yeah, it's going to be a battle to watch.

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Why Dwayne Haskins could be the first Ohio State QB to find real success in the NFL

Why Dwayne Haskins could be the first Ohio State QB to find real success in the NFL

The Ohio State University has one of the most prestigious football programs in all of college football.

Year in and year out, the Buckeyes are National Championship contenders, and also produce some of the best NFL players of any school. Ohio State has produced 81 first-round NFL Draft picks in their program history, tied with the University of Southern California for the most of any school.

But for whatever reason, quarterbacks that hail from the Columbus-based university don't tend to usually find success at the next level. The Redskins need this trend to end now. The Burgundy and Gold invested a first-round pick on former Buckeye Dwayne Haskins, who they expect to be their franchise quarterback for the next several years.

The Redskins Talk podcast sat down with Ohio State football beat reporter Bill Rabinowitz last week to discuss Haskins' lone season as the Buckeyes' starter, his leadership qualities, how he's different from past Ohio State quarterbacks and why he might be the first former Buckeye QB to experience real NFL success.

Despite only spending one year as the Buckeyes starter, Haskins turned in the best statistical season of any Ohio State quarterback in program history.  

He shattered the Big Ten record for most passing yards in a season, throwing for more than 1,000 yards more than the previous record holder. He also broke Drew Brees' Big Ten record for most passing touchdowns in a single-season, tossing 50 in 2018, compared to Brees' 39.

"Maybe the most impressive single season by any Ohio State quarterback," Rabinowitz said on Haskins' 2018 season.

Over the past couple of decades, the Buckeyes have had some very successful college quarterbacks, they just were unable to translate it to the next level.

"Ohio State's history at every other position is pretty impressive in the NFL," Rabinowitz said. "Probably the best quarterback they've every produced is Mike Tomzack in terms of a pro career. He was undrafted. Troy Smith looked like he had the chance to do that, but never really panned out in the pros."

Before Haskins, the previous two Buckeye quarterbacks, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, combined to win a National Championship for Ohio State. Neither one has been able to establish themselves in the NFL. Other recent examples include Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller, who both had spectacular careers as Buckeye QBs before switching to wide receiver in the NFL.

But Rabinowitz says Haskins is "on a different level than those guys as a passer." Unlike many of the past Ohio State quarterbacks, Haskins relies on his arm a lot more than his legs. 

Some draft experts were skeptical of Haskins because of the type of offense Ohio State ran, which included a lot of short, quick passes. But Rabinowitz believes Haskins' arm will allow him to be successful in the NFL.

"Sure there were some shovel passes, but [Haskins] made some deep throws that were just spot on," he said. "Just beautiful, majestic throws. Even from high in the press box, you just went 'wow.' There should be no question about Dwayne Haskins ability to make every throw."

Of course, Rabinowitz was asked by the podcast crew the question that will dominate training camp headlines: Should Haskins start Week 1?

While Rabinowitz admitted that he was not too familiar with the Redskins' QB situation, he did say that because of Haskins' lack of experience, "it may be best not to throw him in with the wolves right away."

"I covered Tim Couch with the Browns in 1999, we saw what happened with him," Rabinowitz said. "Carson Palmer with the Bengals, he didn't play at all his first year, and he was a Heisman Trophy winner. I see the benefits. I know it's tempting to have a first-round pick and want to play him, and if he's their best option, maybe he should play. [Haskins] will do everything in his power to be as ready as he can be, but the NFL is different than the college game."

Training camp and the preseason will be telling for Haskins as to how soon Redskins' fans can expect him to be on the field.

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Dwayne Haskins sees parallels between himself, Lion King's Simba

Dwayne Haskins sees parallels between himself, Lion King's Simba


The story of the Lion King is one that takes many of us to our childhood, a feel-good story about a young cub going through adversity to become  King.

It's a story Redskins new quarterback, Dwayne Haskins Junior, has related to since he was a child himself, having taken on the moniker Simba. 
 
Disney first came out with the movie in 1994 and just released a photorealistic live-action re-make.  Haskins made sure he was there for the world premiere in Los Angeles walking the red carpet with his girlfriend Savhana Cousin earlier this month.

"The new Lion King brought so many great old memories!" he tweeted. "A blessing to be a part of. "


 
Haskins sees many parallels in Simba. He told me before the draft that the nickname first came from when his aunt was combing out his hair saying he looked like a lion.  

Beyond that, he liked the story of the young cub going through adversity to become King.

"The story behind him growing to king, going through adversity, and having to fall to get up and that's just something that resonates with my story. Everyone sees the highs of everything but not what it takes to get there," he said.

He has even used the story for his own clothing brand as well, Kingdom of Pride. 

Haskins fell in the draft to number 15 and the Redskins but has every intention of proving he is worthy of the pick and one day winning what he declares will be multiple Super Bowls.  

That would certainly fall in line with the story of Simba taking back the kingdom.  

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