Rookie preview: inside linebacker D.J. Holt

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Rookie preview: inside linebacker D.J. Holt

Donnell "D. J." HoltLinebackerCalifornia6-0 34, 209The need: 37-year-old London Fletcher is as durable as they come and continues to corral anyone toting a football, but father time eventually wins all battles. The reserve options are a collection of players learning new positions, those coming off injury or special teamers who also play linebacker. The situation is hardly dire, but there is an opening for a training camp unknown to emerge, especially if the Redskins keep more than eight linebackers.The fit: An experienced and instinctive inside backer, Holt racked up 168 tackles thepast two seasons starting at Cal, 14for a loss. He also played on special teams, an area he must excel in for any shot at the opening game roster. Along with wide receiver Lance Lewis and corner Chase Minnifeld, SI.com highlighted the trio as potential undrafted free agent finds. Consistency and aggression more than skill dropped Holt in the eyes of draft evaluators. Finishing his senior season without an interception or forced fumble did not help his draft stock either.The depth chart: At one point this offseason, theslots behind starters London Fletcher and Perry Riley had a vacant sign on them. Then theRedskins shifted Lorenzo Alexander inside. Then they drafted Keenan Robinson in the fourth round. Then they signed free agents Jonathan Goff, a noted run defender who missed last season with a knee injury, and Bryan Kehl. There is a touch of uncertanty with how the reserves hierarchy shake out, but there are also enough pieces to make one think the Redskins should be passable barring the unforseen.Holt'supside: Last season the Redskins started with nine linebackers, five on the outside.If that final slot goes toone of the inside options, then Holt's chances increase. Even then,he would need to best Kehl on special teams, hopetaking more snaps in the middle than Robinson on the college level helps his causeand perhapsget lucky should theversatile Alexander get placed elsewhere on the roster. Obviously, injuries do and will crop up, so there is also that angle. Cracking the practice squad would be a good start.Pro Football Weekly on Holt: Stoutly built and thickly muscled. Secure clear-path tackler. Can drop into short zones. Football smart. Has special-teams experience. Good character...Catches too much contact and is not strong at the point of attack. Pedestrian speed and suddenness. Limited range (can be beat to the perimeter). Struggles to break down in space. Can play with more urgency. Has underachiever traits...Compact, inconsistent inside linebacker who looks the part of a thumper but does not play downhill or with a lot of strength. Intermittent violence, explosion and intensity are concerning."

Redskins teammates give Jordan Reed a hard time for new big-money contract

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Redskins teammates give Jordan Reed a hard time for new big-money contract

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. 

 

 

Redskins' David Bruton excited to get 'first crack' at starting safety job

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Redskins' David Bruton excited to get 'first crack' at starting safety job

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.

Months later, Redskins ILB Perry Riley still battling foot injury

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Months later, Redskins ILB Perry Riley still battling foot injury

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.