Most of the Redskins were happy to learn that the NFL and referees association had come to an agreement to end the lockout of the officials who have come to be known as the real refs.Im excited to finally get our real refs back, said defensive end Stephen Bowen.How happy? He said that the next time he saw Ed Hochuli, one of the more well-known NFL field officials, Im going to bear hug him and tell him I love him.Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander also was glad they were back. They always say you dont miss something until you go without it, he said.Alexander serves as he teams player representative and he was particularly pleased about the about the impact that the return of the referees will have on player safety.Im glad they were able to get a deal done so we can go out here and play some clean games, he said.Defensive end Kedric Golston said that the two sides were under too much pressure not to settle in the wake of the highly controversial ending of the Packers-Seahawks game on Monday night.There was a lot of other people outside of the football world who were starting to catch a hold of it, said Golston. It was starting to take off with wings.Kory Lichtensteiger is happy to have some degree of consistency as to how the games are called. Very excited to have them back, the starting left guard said. We went into games with the replacements knowing to expect the unexpected with them. Calls were going to go every which they, it was going to be sporadic.Not all of the players were all that excited to see the referees return.I didnt really care on way or another, said center Will Montgomery. Im not worried about the refs, Im not going to change the way I play based on whos reffing.Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was nonplussed by the return as well. The sum total of his reaction was, Its a new group to yell at.In any case, the players were not inclined to give the officials a break while they work off any rust that may have accumulated in the eight or nine months that have passed since any of them officiated an NFL game.Theyre professionals, said Alexander. If I miss a week because of injury I dont get a free pass.Lichtensteiger agrees. Nobodys ever patient with the referees, no matter who it is.
RICHMOND - DeSean Jackson streaked down the right sideline, Josh Norman running with him in close step. Then, suddenly, Jackson planted his feet, cut in toward the hashmarks and veered away from the Redskins new $75 million cornerback. Within seconds, Kirk Cousins fired a pass to a location that the speed receiver grabbed out of the air. It was offensive precision.
Sure, that was only a training camp drill in July, but it also served as a reminder to how dangerous Jackson can be. With arguably the NFL's best corner from 2015 covering him, D-Jax showed his unique blend of vertical speed and lateral quickness. And though he wouldn't say it, Jackson has a track record of strong performances against the NFL's best secondaries, which could mean many more spirited practice matchups against Norman.
"We're here to get better and make each other better," Jackson said Thursday of the drills against Norman. "It's always a great addition to have a guy like him."
During the 1-on-1 drills, Jackson and Norman talked back and forth, and the wideout explained that was "a little bit of fun, talking, kind of communicating, going back and forth."
Bringing in Norman could help a Redskins defense that struggled at times last season. Depending on the metric, Washington's defense ranked as mediocre (17th in points allowed) or bad (28th in yards allowed). An improved defense, to go along with an offense that looked explosive late in the 2015 season, could mean a much improved Washington squad.
"Pushing for another year to hopefully redeem the  NFC East championship. We have a lot of work to do," Jackson said. "We got a lot of good stuff started, we just got to continue to build."
Building for Jackson could mean better health, after a 2015 season where he started just nine games. Remember Jackson injured himself in training camp last year in a bizarre incident where he hit a blocking sled before a more severe hamstring injury Week 1. It's also worth noting that Jackson enters 2016 in the final year of his Redskins contract.
"You’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity you get," he said. "That's regardless of your last year or your first year."
Asked what the team can accomplish this season, Jackson explained that while last year was a good start, it was far from any ultimate goals.
"We got to the playoffs and lost the first game. No one is really happy about that," Jackson said. "We feel like we have a lot to prove still. Nobody believes in us, we don’t really care. We believe in ourselves, we're the ones putting in the work."
RICHMOND — Last year when Junior Galette went out for the season with an Achilles injury, Preston Smith, then a rookie, felt the pressure on him turn up just a little bit.
He knew that he would be relied on more but he was still a backup behind Trent Murphy. That was the same role that he had played all offseason; the Redskins had no idea that they were going to land Galette until they brought him in shortly after the start of training camp.
This year, Murphy was moved to the defensive line and Smith and Galette were going to mix and match in different packages to provide the maximum effectiveness on the pass rush. But now Smith is the unquestioned lead dog at right outside linebacker.
A year ago he may not have been prepared to take on the added responsibility. Earlier this year, defensive coordinator Joe Barry said that Smith was “young and immature”. He didn’t know how to prepare to be an NFL starter.
This prompted Barry to call the rookie in for some very blunt words. “You won’t last three years in his league if you continue to prepare and if you act the way you act,” Barry recalled telling the rookie.
It took a few talks but things clicked. He registered six sacks in the last four games including one for a safety in the playoff game against the Packers. “I think the light has come on,” said Barry. He has so much natural God-given ability. just size and length alone, that when he understands, if he plays a certain way and prepares a certain way every single day, he’s got the potential to be really special.”
The light will need to remain on this year. With Galette out after they had counted on him all offseason the pressure falls on Smith to get the job done. He thinks he’s ready.
“I've been working all offseason to start as strong as I finished this past season,” Smith said after practice on Thursday. “I've just been preparing for moments to step in there and show the team what I have.”
He thinks he is much more prepared to be then man at his position than he would have been a year ago.
“I feel like I'm 10 times more ready,” said Smith. “My body feels a whole lot greater than I did last year.”
It’s hard to figure just what to expect from Smith this year. In the first 13 games last year he had three sacks. Then he had his explosion late in the season. Continuing on that December-January pace projects to 24 sacks, which would break the single-season NFL record. He is probably not going to do that, so we can look for something in between his early-season pace and his torrid finish to the season. Ten sacks is the low end of the expectations, anything in the vicinity of 15 would quality as a pleasant surprise.
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Ryan Kerrigan's 47.5 career sacks and 17 career forced fumbles are evidence that becoming an NFL player was the right career path for him to take. But football wasn't the only sport he played back as a high schooler in Muncie, Indiana.
"Baseball, I was a baseball player," Kerrigan said when Redskins Insider J.P. Finlay asked him what his secondary endeavors were as a teenager. "I was on the basketball team, [but] I wouldn't really call myself a 'player' 'cause that would've required me getting off the bench," he added.
While it sounds like the Bearcats' bench was plenty warm thanks to the now 27-year-old, Kerrigan did get the chance to be a part of a marquee matchup against some other soon-to-be-famous guys.
"My high school team was really good," he said. "State runner-up twice, and would've been state champs, I'd imagine, if we didn't run into Greg Oden and Mike Conley."
Oden and Conley, of course, both turned into stars on a 2007 Ohio State outfit that lost to Florida in the NCAA title game that year (which must've felt like justice being served to Kerrigan). They then went on to be lottery picks in the 2007 NBA Draft, and Conley just recently became the league's highest-paid man. So you could imagine how much of a handful they were in high school.
Some quick research reveals that Lawrence North (the squad that featured the two Buckeyes) topped Muncie Central (Kerrigan's side) in 2005 and 2006. No. 91 didn't specify which one of those championship bouts he was referring to, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that his legs didn't get too sore from sitting on the pine, and he eventually ended up with the Redskins.