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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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Long injury list hampers Redskins practice

Long injury list hampers Redskins practice

As Jay Gruden stepped to the podium to read the injury report, he warned, “This will be a while.”

He was right, as he rattled off one the longest injury reports of the season.

Out were G Spencer Long (concussion), S Will Blackmon (concussion), DE Chris Baker (ankle), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Anthony Lanier (lower leg), G Shawn Lauvao (groin), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), and S Donte Whitner (illness).

Of that group, all but Jean Francois, Lanier, and Nsekhe are starters. Between them and the limited players listed below it was difficult for the Redskin to conduct a normal practice.

“It was a challenge,” said Gruden of getting through it. “Practice was modified quite a bit today. We did more walkthrough today than we ever have on a Wednesday.”

“Sometimes you have to taper back just a hair to make it through practice, try to get the mental reps in with walkthrough and then hopefully the physical part will come maybe tomorrow. Friday we can open them up a bit.”

Limited in practice were TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), OLB Preston Smith (groin), ILB Will Compton (hip), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and TE Derek Carrier (knee).

READ MORE: FULL UPDATE ON JORDAN REED

Reed returned to practice for the first time since suffering a Grade 3 sprain to the AC joint in his left shoulder in the game against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. He missed the game in Arizona. While his limited participation was a good sign for his return it’ is way too early in the week to say with any degree of certainty that he will be playing against the Eagles.

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Robert Griffin III set to start Sunday for Browns vs. Bengals

Robert Griffin III set to start Sunday for Browns vs. Bengals

RGIII is finally getting another chance to play.

Plagued by injury after injury — most recently breaking a bone in his left shoulder in the Brown’s 29-10 loss to the Eagles in their season opener — the former Redskin is set to start for Cleveland against the Bengals on Sunday, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports.

Griffin was cleared for contact last week after missing the majority of the Browns’ 0-12 season, and the team is coming off a bye week after its last loss to the Giants over Thanksgiving weekend.

In 2015, Kirk Cousins replaced Griffin as starting quarterback, and the Redskins released him at the end of the season. He signed a two-year, $15 million contract with Cleveland in March.  

In Griffin’s absence, the Browns have relied on Cody Kessler and Josh McCown, who boast a 65.5 and 54.5 completion percentage, respectively. The two combine for just 12 touchdowns this season.

Will Griffin be the key to ending the Browns’ winless season? We’ll find out Sunday.

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