After some film study and three days on the field, Robert Griffin III is in he process of learning the playbook. At this point, he knows how to call the plays better than he knows how to run them.The verbiage is a lot easier than you think, said the rookie quarterback. Im not saying anybody can go out and do it but its different when you look at 14 words on a piece of paper and you have no idea what those 14 words mean.Griffin said that after the coaches explain it it becomes a lot easier. If you forget the back half of the play you know it in your head just because youve gone over it so many times in the film room, he said. We didnt struggle much with the verbiage.Running the plays was another matter. Its different when you know what routes you have on a certain play but youve got to know where to go with the ball during certain coverage. Thats the biggest thing when it comes to playing quarterback in the NFL.In order to learn the offense, Griffin has been watching a lot of film featuring quarterbacks from the Redskins, Matt Schaub of the Texans (Kyle Shanahans old team), and the Saints' Drew Brees. Everybody that runs the same kind of concepts, he said. Its good to see those guys the way they break it down, the way they read it, the way they progress through their progressions. Theres no better way to learn than from guys who already are doing it.One person who believes that Griffin is doing just fine in learning the offense is a fellow rookie, guard Josh LeRibeus. Feels like when he came in he knew the damn playbook, he said.
Training camp opens in three days, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope. Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.
Additions: Troy Apke (drafted in the fourth round)
Departures: DeAngelo Hall (not re-signed)
Starters: D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson
Other roster locks: Apke
On the bubble: Deshazor Everett, Fish Smithson
How the safeties compare
To the rest of the NFL: The Redskins’ safeties have been a sore spot ever since the tragic loss of Sean Taylor in 2007, continually ranking as the worst units in the league year after year. That started to change last year with the signing of Swearinger and the drafting of Nicholson. They were major contributors to one of the league’s better defenses until injuries struck. Their depth is questionable as will be discussed below but the Redskins have a solid safety tandem at the top of the depth chart if they stay healthy.
To the 2017 Redskins: This depends on Nicholson’s health and how quickly Apke can get ready to contribute. The rookie’s speed could add a dimension that the defensive backfield doesn’t have but he has a lot of rough edges to smooth out. If he can round into form and play in some three-safety formations, the unit could be notably better than last year’s.
Biggest upside: By now, most of you have heard of Jay Gruden saying that Nicholson is the defensive equivalent of Jordan Reed because he changes what they can do when he is out there. His speed and tackling set him apart when he is out there. But there are legitimate concerns about his ability to stay on the field after a shoulder injury and a concussion kept him out of half of the games last year. If he can play, Nicholson has Pro Bowl potential.
Most to prove: The Redskins are Swearinger’s fourth NFL team in five years in the NFL. He was cut by the Texans and the Bucs. The Cardinals put him on their practice squad for a week during the season before promoting him to the 53-man roster. Arizona made little effort to retain him when he became a free agent last year. Swearinger played well in Washington last year but he didn’t get much recognition. He wants to take the next step and show the teams that let him go that they made a big mistake.
Rookie watch: We touched on Apke above. Some questioned the draft pick, which seemed to be based on the combine stopwatch that measured his 4.34 time in the 40. If Nicholson is healthy, Apke’s development will be an interesting side story. Should one of the starters miss multiple games, his ability to perform in the NFL will be critical.
Bottom line: There will be a lot of competition behind the starters. Apke seems safe because of his status as a fourth-round pick. The team values Everett as a special teams contributor and he started eight games last year. They also like Smithson and they brought him up to the 53-man roster late last year to make sure they could retain his rights. And Quin Blanding, an undrafted rookie who had a stellar career at Virginia, could work himself into the conversation for a roster spot if he performs in Richmond. If Nicholson plays, the outlook at safety could be much better in 2018 than it has been in over a decade.
Gruden’s quote on Nicholson’s effect on the defense:
Montae I think is really an important piece. Very similar to the way Jordan Reed is on offense, Montae is on defense. He can cover so much ground.
2018 position outlook series
- Inside linebackers
- Outside linebackers
- Defensive line
- Running backs
- Interior offensive line
- Offensive tackle
- Tight end
- Wide receiver
Pro tip: If you see new Redskins quarterback Alex Smith in a restaurant, try to sit close by.
Spotted: Four days before the start of training camp, Redskins QB Alex Smith dined at Bareburger in Dupont Circle tonight and picked up the checks for most of the tables around him.— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) July 23, 2018
Talk to teammates and media from San Francisco or Kansas City, the two cities Smith played in before coming to Washington, and stories like this emerge. His reputation for generosity and random kindness is as consistent as his ability to move the football with his legs and not throw many interceptions.
His foundation is heralded as one of the best in the NFL, where more than 90 percent of funds raised actually go towards charity, significantly higher than the national average. Once traded from Kansas City, Smith wrote a letter on The Player's Tribune thanking fans:
Thank you to the Chiefs Kingdom for being some of the craziest, most dedicated fans in the country. And thank you to the Kansas City community and all the friends my family and I have made during our time with you. To see all the farewell donations that have been made to the Alex Smith Foundation — all in increments of 11 — has been really special. It’s a tremendous gesture that my family and I have been very touched by. We appreciate you. We’re better people because we were fortunate enough to spend the last five years with you.
So what might have Smith ordered at Bareburger DC? Let's take a guess from their online menu.
The Buckaroo - Beef, aged cheddar, smoked brisket, wild mushrooms, smoke sauce, brioche bun - After spending a few years in Kansas City, Smith might have acquired the taste for brisket on burgers. Who knows.
El Matador - Beef, queso fresco, guacamole, spicy pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, green leaf, brioche bun - Smith is a SoCal kid, so maybe he needed the guac and bold flavors of his youth.
Impossible Burger - American cheese, caramelized onions, dill pickles, green leaf, special sauce, brioche bun -The Redskins mission is getting to the playoffs, and many oddsmakers view that as impossible. Maybe Alex wanted to embrace it?
So Cal - Turkey, aged cheddar, guacamole, pickled red onions, alfalfa, sprout bun - Again, Smith is from Southern California, and this burger sounds pretty healthy. You don't get to look like this picture below by eating too many Buckaroos.
Offseason workouts.. The rock and rope. pic.twitter.com/SeMHwK8aA5— Elizabeth Smith (@lizbsmith11) July 16, 2016
Here's the truth: Smith is cool and bought a bunch of random people dinner. What's cooler: He doesn't have or use social media to broadcast when he does random nice acts.
This week he and the Redskins travel to Richmond for training camp, and things will get serious about football and the 2018 season. Enjoy the fun stuff for now.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
- Redskins Training Camp Preview: Defense
- Redskins Training Camp Preview: Offense
- Preseason Coaches Ranking: Gruden shown no love
- Need to Know: Redskins week that was
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