One day after Coach Mike Shanahan said Tim Hightower is nearing a returning to practice, the Redskins starting tailback confirmed that his surgically repaired knee is fine, ready.People ask me what percent I am all the time, Hightower said Wednesday morning. I dont know. Ive never been through this. But I know I feel good.I can make every cut, he added. I can run. I dont feel any restrictions or limitations. At this point, its just a matter of going out there and getting repetitions. The only way to get better a football is by playing football. Thats the next step for me.On Tuesday, Shanahan said Hightower, who missed the final 11 games last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in October, could begin taking reps in team drills as soon as Friday. Shanahan also hinted the Hightower could suit up for the third or fourth preseason game.When they feel comfortable putting me out there, then theyll do that and Ill be ready to go, said Hightower, who added that he hasnt been told when exactly hell be cleared to participate fully in practice. But the knee is fine.Hightower is listed on the depth chart as the Redskins starting tailback. Hes also the teams top pass-catcher out of the backfield, best blocker and most experienced running back. But hes also aware that hes competing for playing time with second-year players Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr., as well as emerging rookie Alfred Morris.For me, I get excited when I see guys like that doing well, Hightower said of the crowded backfield. It pushes me and encourages me to stay on top of my stuff.Whenever Hightower does return, he said his goal is to be more prominent on and off the field than he was before the injury.I dont want to be the player I was; I want to be better, he said. This team needs me to be better. I need to be more vocal, be a better leader, to be more productive. I want to be better for this team. If everybody on this team is as good as they were last year, we wont be good enough.
Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 28, 1 day before the March 1 NFL franchise tag deadline.
—NFL Combine (3/2) 2
—Start of NFL free agency (3/9) 9
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 48
—NFL Draft (4/27) 58
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 194
Comments on five first-round Redskins mock draft picks
—Derek Barnett, OLB, Tennessee, Chris Burke, SI.com
Burke says: There is more of a need in Washington for help between the tackles than another edge presence. Barnett, though, is strong enough and active enough to play hand in the dirt up front at times, which would max out how many athletes the Redskins can get on the field in their front seven.
Tandler says: I get that you can’t have too much pass rush but the Redskins have four legit edge rushers with Kerrigan, Smith, Murphy, and Galette. Even given that Galette’s injury status makes him a question mark and Smith’s inconsistency, you need to have something up front to make the edge rushers effective.
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—Forrest Lamp, G Western Kentucky, Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com
Jeremiah says: Lamp could play either guard or center for the Redskins.
Tandler says: That’s great but the Redskins are set at center and at one guard spot. They could stand to upgrade at left guard but I think that if the Redskins go guard in the first round for the second time in three years Jay Gruden’s head just might explode.
—Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford, Charley Casserly, NFL.com
Casserly says: Thomas is a solid run defender who can give you an inside pass rush as well.
Tandler says: Thomas has a heck of a motor and he plays the game as it should be played. His pre-combine weight is listed at 273. That would make him another edge player, see the issue with Barnett above. But if he weighs in around 290 in Indianapolis and the Redskins think he could put on a few more pounds he could be in play.
—DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State, Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com
Norris says: Scot McCloughan had a target in last year’s draft. Many believe it was Ryan Kelly. I doubt the NFL views a center in this class worthy of the No. 17 overall pick. McDowell would really help Washington’s defensive front.
Tandler says: Not sure why Norris takes a walk down memory lane to last year’s draft but McDowell could be the guy the Redskins need to shore up the interior D-line. There are questions about his consistency but if those are straightened out he’s a real possibility.
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—Budda Baker, S, Washington, Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com
Prisco says: They had real shaky play from their safeties last season. This is a kid who can step in and give them range and the ability to tackle in the run game.
Apparently Prisco isn’t familiar with the history of the safety position in Washington or he would have talked of issues during “the past decade” rather than “last season”. At 180 lb. Baker is on the small side but he hustles, hits, and has coverage skills good enough to cover slot receivers. He would be a great first-round pick but perhaps they could trade down lower, somewhere into the mid-20’s, and still get him there.
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It seems likely the Redskins stand to lose one or both of receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon in free agency. That could mean more than 2,000 yards receiving exiting the offense, a significant blow.
Could Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery come to Washington and cushion the blow?
Multiple reports say that Chicago will not put the franchise tag on Jeffery, which means the 6-foot-4 receiver will hit the open market when free agency opens in a little more than a week. Coming off consectuive injury-marred seasons, still expect the market to be ripe for the former South Carolina star.
A five-year veteran that will turn 28 in August, Jeffery posted more than 2,500 receiving yards in the 2013 and 2014 seasons to go with 17 touchdowns. An extremely gifted red zone receiver, Jeffery is one of the best in the league at high-pointing the football and coming down with circus catches. His last two seasons, however, the Bears wideout only played in 21 of 32 games and his numbers dipped dramatically: just over 1,600 yards and six TDs combined.
Though Washington will likely lose at least one of Garçon or Jackson, and very possibly both, that does not necessarily make Jeffery a prime target.
Expect cost to be a major factor as the Chicago receiver will likely command the top free agent payout at the position. And his recent injury history could be a factor as well.
Further, the Redskins must believe they have a No. 1 receiver already in house in Josh Doctson. The No. 22 overall pick in 2016, Doctson hardly played as a rookie due to an Achilles injury but appears to be progressing well in his rehab. At 6-foot-2 and extremely athletic, Doctson was drafted to be a prime red zone target with the ability to go up and get TDs.
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