When Josh Wilson signed with the Redskins late last July, the cornerback had roughly two weeks to familiarize himself with teams defensive scheme before the preseason opener.Wilson eventually got up to speed, but it took weeks, if not months, before he was completely comfortable starting on the right side opposite DeAngelo Hall.Familiarity, though, wont be an issue in 2012 and thats the primary reason the DeMatha and University of Maryland product expects to have a breakout season.Its going to be night and day, Wilson said Thursday. Being able have an offseason, a year under my belt in this scheme, Im going to be able to have an understanding, make calls for myself. I had to learn on the fly last season, so it was definitely tough.In 16 games, Wilson recorded 62 tackles (48 solo), two interceptions and defended 15 passes. Both of the 27-year-olds interceptions came in December as he spent less time focused on his responsibilities within defensive coordinator Jim Hasletts scheme and more time reading the opposing offense.I wont be reacting and figuring out what I have to do first and then figuring out how the offense is trying to attack me, Wilson said. Now, I come out of the huddle knowing where the weaknesses are, where my strength is, where my help is, and what I need to protect myself. By the time the offense gets to the line, Im already trying to figure out what theyre trying to do.Coach Mike Shanahan said hes noticed Wilsons growing confidence.It doesnt matter what type of formation, Shanahan said. You dont have to think. You can just react, and he has been able to do that.Wilson expects big things from himself. But he also knows that his success is inextricably linked to the play outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan and, more specifically, their ability to harass opposing quarterbacks.Its everything, Wilson said. When you have a good pass rush thats coming every down, with Rak and and Ryan coming off that edge, I know that quarterback has to get the ball out of his hand. He cant double-pump it or give me a triple move. If he does that, its a sack.Thats very comforting for a defensive back, he added. Because if I can hold my guy for five or six seconds, its over, that play is dead.Away from the field, Wilsons comfort level has also increased. Not only is he near his old stomping grounds, hes playing in the same city in consecutive years for the first time since suiting up for the Seahawks from 2007 - 2009. He played one season for the Ravens before joining the Redskins, the team he grew up cheering in the suburbs of Washington.Its definitely a little more comfortable, Wilson said before making a good-natured crack about the expense of purchasing tickets for games at FedEx Field. But it costs a lot on game day.Seriously, though, Wilson called it a blessing to be surrounded by friends and family on a daily basis. But, he quickly added, its almost as comforting to look at a familiar playbook each day.It says the same thing it said last year, he said with a grin.
You know, if this whole football thing doesn't work out for DeSean Jackson, maybe he could give baseball a shot.
The Redskins wide receiver was on hand Sunday at Nationals Park to throw out the first pitch and did a pretty good job.
Jackson throws it from the mound and gets it to home plate, though just a bit outside. The throw was certainly good enough to keep Jackson off the list of other professional athletes with horrible first pitches (see John Wall).
RELATED: DON'T FORGET ABOUT NILES PAUL
The Redskins are loaded at tight end - Jordan Reed is the emerging star and Vernon Davis the veteran with a stellar track record. But don't forget about Niles Paul. Lost last season to a broken ankle, Paul looked strong throughout Washington's offseason work, and with the team heading to Richmond this week to begin training camp, the former Nebraska receiver has been clear he plans to compete for playing time despite his loaded position group.
"If you’re not out there competing to be the No. 1, I don’t know why you’re in the league," Paul said on ESPN980 earlier this summer.
Paul's mindset is admirable, but Reed is locked in as the No. 1 tight end. There's no debate there. And GM Scot McCloughan did not bring Vernon Davis to Washington without plans of playing him.
But here's the thing with Paul - he can be very good.
In the first four games of the 2014 season, Paul caught 21 balls for 313 yards and a touchdown. He was averaging nearly 80 yards receiving per game in that stretch, the best of his career. It's no surprise that Paul put up those numbers when Reed was out, as he was injured Week 1 and did not suit back up until Week 6 of that season.
Paul has proved himself a strong backup to Reed, and in Reed's three-year career, he has missed 14 games. Last year Reed stayed mostly healthy - he missed two games - but it would hardly be a surprise if the Redskins have to go one or more games without their new $50 million tight end. Davis will be expected to step up should that happen, but the team might lean on Paul more in that situation, in addition to a major role on special teams as well. There were also a few snaps this summer where Paul worked as a fullback - a role the tight end might have to take on with the departure of Darrel Young.
Jay Gruden acknowledged Paul's hard work during minicamp.
"He’s done an unbelievable job in rehab to get himself to this point," Gruden said. "We didn’t expect him back until training camp."
A 5th-round pick in 2011, Paul has already surpassed expectations with a five-year NFL career. That he outpaced his rehab schedule should not come as a shock.
Should he significantly contribute this fall, even considering Reed and Davis will be the first and second targets at tight end respectively, would not be a surprise either.
Is it crazy to give a quarterback who threw for more than 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns last season the same MVP odds as a guy who went 0-3 in three starts and tossed just four scores in 2015?
According to the sportsbook Bovada.lv, no, it's not crazy at all. So that's why, when looking at their opening odds for the 2016/17 NFL MVP, you'll find Kirk Cousins right next to Mark Sanchez, with both signal callers listed at a long 150/1.
Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Tannehill, David Johnson, Alshon Jeffrey, Le'Veon Bell and Sam Bradford also check in at 150/1. Some of those names, like Jeffrey and Bell, should makes Redskins fans feel good, since they're both premier players at their position. But others, such as Sanchez and Bradford? Yeah, not so much.
The top five guys most likely to win the award are Aaron Rodgers (4/1), Ben Roethlisberger (7/1), Cam Newton (15/2), Russell Wilson (8/1) and Tom Brady (9/1). Meanwhile, if you squint hard enough, you can see Robert Griffin III near the bottom of the list at 250/1.
Not that this reminder is necessary, but here's a reminder anyway: Anything can happen in this league, so these rankings are not the be-all and end-all. Last year, for instance, Newton had 50/1 odds of being named MVP, and then he went out and did it anyway.
So, with that in mind, while Cousins is no favorite, perhaps his loaded arsenal of targets can help him claim the valuable piece of hardware. The NFL is a wild place, after all — but still probably not wild enough for Sanchez to rise to the top of the sport, which is why him landing next to Cousins hurts more than a little bit.