Yesterday,Rich Tandler touched on the big plays expected out of high priced free agent Pierre Garcon. The other notable receiver signee, Josh Morgan, is not 100, but has time to heal before camp. Same goes for 6-foot-3 Leonard Hankerson, who spent Thursday's OTA doing individual drills on the side as the team takes a cautious approach with the rising second-year target even though his injured hip has healed.Earlier this spring, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan rattled off the names of those three when asked about his top receivers. Obviously missing from that pass catching hierarchy, Santana Moss, who turned 33 on Friday. With football age not on his side and a 2.65 million cap number attached to him, that kind ofomission from the guy ultimately responsible for putting together the roster figures to make Moss'spot one to watch this summer.That is why it also worth noting what Shanahan said about Moss' slimmed down look this offseason.Its the best Ive seen him since Ive been here," Shanahan said following Thursday's OTA. "The first year that he came, he didnt practice. The second year we had the lockout and he got injured. But hes come in in excellent shape, and you can tell hes ready to play because of the type of shape hes come in. "Im just hoping he stays at that level that hes at right now.When I heard the quote live, it soundedalmost like the coach-speak equivalent of a bed of roses. When I went back and read the transcript, that last line's context adds a thorny element - and it was said on a day when Shanahan was hardly prickly. It also came on a day Moss was playfully heckled by defensive back coach Raheem Morris after the receiver skillfully beat Morris's secondary to the corner of the end zone and hauled in a pinpoint pass from Robert Griffin III.Garcon is transitioning into being a number one receiver (if such a thing exists in the modern NFL, but at least we can say with certainty he is being paid like one.). Both he and Morgan are new to the Redskins' system. Hankerson has started only two more NFL games than his new starting rookie quarterback.The experience Moss offers could indeed be his trump card. "We have a leader in Santana Moss," Garcon said. "You know, hes been here for a while."When it comes to Moss' future, it may simply be a numbers game, financially and roster-based. If Moss shows enough spring in his shifty step over the summer, he may eventually warrant a place at or near the top of Shanahan's depth chart. Then again, Shanahan has been grooming Hankerson and loves his new receiving toys. Well, you can see Pierre Garon, you know, hes a big time receiver," Shanahan said. "You can see his power, his strength, his quickness, his speed since hes been here. Its very, very obvious. "And Josh is very talented. He hasnt practiced full speed all the time, but he will be ready to go by the time we get to camp, once that ankle heals up and he has practiced enough to tell everybody on this football team that hes one heck of a receiver and hes going to help us this year.Plenty more weeks of reading the receiving depth chart tea leaves left to go.
It all happened for Jordan Reed in 2015. He mostly stayed healthy - able to start 14 of 16 games - and played every game with the same quarterback in Kirk Cousins. The results broke Redskins records, as Reed hauled in 87 passes for nearly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Reed put up elite numbers for the tight end position, and in early May, the team paid Reed like an elite tight end. He signed a five-year, $46.5 million extension that will run through 2021, numbers that place Reed with the third-highest annual salary in the NFL.
His Redskins teammates noticed. It's common practice around the NFL for players to congratulate a new contract, and then promptly go into razz mode. It's part of the deal with getting a large contract extension, and Reed was no exception.
Asked if he had heard about his new contract during the Redskins OTA sessions this week, Reed smiled and confessed (full video above).
"I fell down yesterday and they were talking junk, ‘We ain't pay you 50 to fall down’ and things like that," Reed said on Wednesday. "They all over me man but it’s all fun."
The "50" in reference would be $50 million, so looks like the Redskins players are rounding up on Reed's deal. Plus, saying 50 is a lot easier than 46.5. More importantly, Reed knows the extra attention is meant in a fun way, and as other players have been asked about Reed's deal, all say the young tight end deserves it all.
"With Jordan Reed, you know he was so talented last year I mean how do you build on a season where you were as successful as he was?" Cousins said. "We would love to be able to develop sustained success where it is not just a one year flash in the pan and I think that is the challenge and message not just to Jordan but a lot of people."
Cousins' statement echoed the voices of many at Redskins Park. This team wants to prove that the success of 2015 was not a fluke, from GM Scot McCloughan and head coach Jay Gruden all the way down to the bottom of the roster.
And Reed is no different. On Wednesday Reed went deep on a wheel route, at least 30 or 40 yards downfield, and Cousins threw to him. The ball was slightly out of reach, yet Reed still fully extended and dove for the ball. In May. In OTAs.
"I can’t help it," Reed said when asked if the coaches and front office would want their new highly compensated tight end laying out for a ball in the offseason.
"I see the ball in the air and my instincts take over," he said. "I'm gonna go hard in practice."
Certainly Reed's size and skill were key to his new contract, but that attitude played a large role as well.
Safety David Bruton Jr. had options on the free agent market, but he ultimately chose Washington for one big reason: with the Redskins, he'd get the opportunity to compete for a starting job.
“We definitely have some competition back there, but I am blessed enough to have the first crack at it,” Bruton said this week. “Being in my eighth year, I was definitely looking to be more than just special teams ace and defensive role player. I felt like this was the best opportunity [to start], and I’m happy to be here.“
“I’m here to make this a new home,” he added, “and make my name known here.”
Well, so far, so good.
During Wednesday’s OTA practice, DeAngelo Hall occupied one safety position with the first-team defense and Bruton lined up at the other. The other player in the mix, Duke Ihenacho, worked with the second team.
Coach Jay Gruden hinted that Hall has been penciled in as one starter and that Bruton and Ihenacho are in competition at the other spot. Gruden, though, also made it clear that it’s awfully early in the offseason and that a lot can change.
“I always say that’s the beauty of a pencil—you got an eraser,” Gruden said. “We had to start somewhere.”
Listed at 6 foot 2, 225-pounds, Bruton, who spent the past seven seasons as a backup/special teams standout in Denver, is biggest defensive back on the roster. In 104 games with the Broncos, he made eight starts, including a career-high three last season. Ihenacho, meantime, won the starting job in Washington last offseason but suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the opener. Interestingly, Bruton and Ihenacho were teammates in Denver from 2012-13.
“Bruton is doing a good job and Duke is in that mention,” Gruden added. “We [also] moved [cornerback] Will Blackmon back to safety; he’s learning, feeling his way through there. [Deshazor] Everett is doing a good job. Geno [Matias] Smith from Alabama, he’s learning it. So we’re going to have some people out there to compete. But right now, as a starting point, Bruton/Nacho are doing fine.”
For now, Bruton's got the first crack at it. But as Gruden said, there’s a lot of offseason left. This, indeed, could be a position to monitor throughout the spring and summer.
One of the more surprising developments from the first week of Redskins OTAs was Perry Riley on the sidelines wearing a walking boot.
The inside linebacker was enjoying one of the best stretches of his career late last season when he hurt his foot. The injury, which occurred in practice, was expected to sideline him for 3-6 weeks following a procedure to insert a pin into the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.
Nearly six months later, Riley is still experiencing soreness and discomfort.
He acknowledged this week that he overexerted himself in the lead-up to January’s playoff game and suffered a setback. In all, Riley missed the final five regular season games and the Wild Card loss to the Packers.
Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday that Riley is scheduled to be reexamined by a specialist.
“He has some issues with his foot; a little soreness,” Gruden said. “We’re keeping him in a boot to protect it, and then we’ll consult a doctor and hopefully get him back soon.”
An exact timeframe for Riley has not been determined, but the seventh year veteran indicated to reporters that he intends to be ready for training camp in late July, if not sooner. The Redskins have two more weeks of OTAs and a mandatory veteran minicamp in mid-June.
In the meantime, Will Compton and Mason Foster are working as the first team inside linebackers. The duo finished the 2015 campaign as the starting ‘Mike’ and ‘Mo’ starters, respectively.