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Comfort level the key for Redskins' Smith as he looks for a big season

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Comfort level the key for Redskins' Smith as he looks for a big season

Preston Smith was all over the place during the 24 snaps he played in the Redskins’ preseason game against the Bills. He had two tackles, one for a five-years loss. The second-year outside linebacker nearly got a sack of Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor but Taylor was able to get rid of the ball just before Smith hit him from the blindside.

The Redskins are looking for big things out of their 2015 second-round draft pick this year and it looks like they might get them. They are looking for him to come at the offense from more places than he did last year, when he led all NFL rookies with eight sacks.

The key for Smith? Comfort.

“I’m getting a lot more comfortable in my role this year,” said Smith. “My role is building up from last year. I'm comfortable in the playbook and I'm comfortable with what I've got to do. I just go out there and play the best I can.”

Among the new roles he is being asked to assume this year is dropping back in coverage from his outside linebacker spot more often. Most pass rushers would rather move forward but Smith seems to relish the opportunity to learn more and contribute more.

“I got a pick six this week in practice,” he said proudly. “I'm getting a lot more comfortable in my role dropping back. I've been working on it a lot more with Coach Manusky, what angles to take to take away a lot of good throws and increase the chance of getting interceptions.”

Smith’s interception came during a portion of practice that was closed to the media. Like a good teammate he wouldn’t say who threw it, other than to say it wasn’t starter Kirk Cousins.

Head coach Jay Gruden is always quick to praise Smith but he was particularly enthusiastic after the Bills game.

“So far he’s looked excellent. I felt him today on the sideline. I felt him on the edge. I felt in the backfield disrupting plays. He’s physical at the point of attack. He can drop in coverage which he hasn’t done a whole lot in his life. He’s been effective. We haven’t used him in all the areas we’re going to use him yet. I think there’s more things he can do. He’s a big, physical kid. He is more comfortable and more confident. Another one that is from year one to year two. That’s a big step and we expect big improvement.”

There’s that concept of being comfortable again.

“I’m trying my best to make my presence felt when I'm out there on the field,” said Smith when told of Gruden’s comments. “They know what side I'm they recognize where I am whether I'm standing up on the left side, on the right side in a three-point stance, or standing up in the middle, I want them to recognize my presence.”

It appears that as long as Smith stays comfortable we will all recognize his presence once the regular season starts.

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Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

The Redskins’ offseason starts to move into high gear today as organized team activities, better known as OTAs, get underway at Redskins Park.

Players have been participating in workouts at Redskins Park since April 17. The first phase of those session consisted of strength and conditioning. In the second phase, they were permitted to run plays but not with the offense lined up against the defense. Finally, in OTAs, they will go offense vs. defense.

RELATED: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

The practices, however, will not resemble an August scrimmage in Richmond. The players wear helmets but no pads and contact is not permitted. While players do block other players and there are collisions between players going after passes, the action is more like pushing and shoving that it is hitting.  

The part about no contact should be taken seriously. Seattle ran afoul of the no-contact rule last year and it cost them. The Seahawks were fined $400,000, lost their fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and they will not be permitted to hold their first week of OTAs this year. The Redskins will be very careful to keep within the rules.

MORE REDSKINS: Allen says new stadium ahead of schedule 

OTAs will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in each of the next three weeks. The sessions will be open to the media on Wednesday of each week. While player attendance is strongly encouraged the practices are voluntary.

The week after OTAs end the team will hold its minicamp on June 13-14. Minicamp is essentially a continuation of OTAs but player attendance is mandatory.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

Need to Know: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, May 23, 21 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on May 22.

Timeline

It’s been 142 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 110 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 21
—Training camp starts (7/27) 65
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 79

Who will surprise in 2017?

As OTAs start today, all 90 players on the roster have something to work for. But few dozen of them don’t have to work for a job. These are players who either because of their contracts or draft status or importance to the team who are locks to make the 53-man roster. Here are the 2017 roster locks.

Offense (18)

Backs: QB’s Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, and Nate Sudfeld; RB’s Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, and Samaje Perine.

I’ve had Sudfeld on the bubble ever since the Redskins drafted him but he’s past the point where they are going to give up on him and risk putting him on the practice squad. A year ago, Kelley was on the outside of the bubble and now he is a mortal lock.

WR/TE: WR’s Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder; TEs Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis

Receivers Maurice Harris and Robert Davis are close to being locks but there is a lot of competition going on in the bottom of the depth chart. Jeremy Sprinkle is likely to make it as a tight end but he may have to beat out special teams stalwart Niles Paul.

O-line: OT’s Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, G’s Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio; C Spencer Long

You can argue about Lauvao but the fact that the team did not draft or sign serious competition for him tells me he is safe. Someone who can back up a center is a lock to make the roster. That could be sixth-round pick Chase Roullier or a veteran plucked off waivers.

Defense (18)

D-line: Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee, Jonathan Allen, Anthony Lanier, Ziggy Hood

Lanier will still be a project but after keeping him last year the Redskins will hang on to him again to see if he can develop into a pass-rushing threat. Matt Ioannidis could be the sixth defensive lineman but he could get beaten out.

Linebackers: OLB’s Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Junior Galette, Ryan Anderson; ILB’s Will Compton, Zach Brown, Mason Foster

Trent Murphy will be suspended for the first four games so he won’t be on the initial 53. Martrell Spaight is close to being a lock but competition will be fierce for that last inside linebacker spot.

Backs: CB’s Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller, Quinton Dunbar; Safeties Su’a Cravens, D.J. Swearinger

Five or possibly six positions are up for grabs here. Third-round pick Fabian Moreau is a lock to be with the organization but he could be on the PUP list.  

Specialists (3): LS Nick Sundberg, P Tress Way, K Dustin Hopkins

It would be very surprising if they brought in competition for Hopkins.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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