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Need to Know: Around Redskins Park—If Reed is out, others must step up

Need to Know: Around Redskins Park—If Reed is out, others must step up

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, October 13, three days before the Washington Redskins host the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Joe Barry press conference 12:40; Practice 1:00; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3 p.m.

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 3; Redskins @ Lions 10; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 17

Around Redskins Park

—One thing I’ve learned while covering the NFL is that players don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about injured teammates. They certainly have sympathy for them and want them to get better but they compartmentalize those thoughts. For one thing they don’t like to ponder the possibility of getting injured themselves; that could affect their play. And they don’t tend to ponder things they can’t control. Jordan Reed might play Sunday as he gets checked out after suffering concussion-like symptoms and he might not. But there’s nothing they can do about it. Here is what Kirk Cousins had to say about the possibility of not having his favorite target available:
“We’d love to have him out there. He’s obviously a great player for us. We’ve talked about it all year long how depth is going to be important and we’re going to need other players to step up. It’s a part of the way the NFL season works and how long of a year it is and how much of a grind.”
Related: Breeland "very confident" he'll play on Sunday

—If most coaches had their way we would live in a world without social media. Their days are long enough without having to deal with things like the Su’a Cravens social media glasses flap from Tuesday. Here is how Jay Gruden explained it.
“Those glasses are just part of his rehabilitation. He’s coming along pretty good, so we understand. He’s still in the program and we’re hoping to get positive results here shortly. As far as his Snapchat is concerned, I think he deleted his account, hopefully, for a week or so, I guess.”
—Gruden drew a laugh when he talked about what lengths DeSean Jackson is willing to go to in order get the ball in his hands more often. On a more serious note, he did say that even when he isn’t getting targeted he helps the offense.
“Yeah, we have to. We have to try to get our playmakers the ball a little bit more, there’s no question about it. But, we can’t force the issue either, you know? But when I wake up at 5:30 in the morning or 4:00 and he is standing outside my garage with a baseball bat, I think I better get him the ball, you know [laughter]. He deserves the ball a little bit more, but I’ll tell you what, he does do, he dictates a lot of the coverage, which does open it up for other people. And even against Cleveland, I mentioned those two pass interference calls that don’t hit the stat line, those are big plays.”
—The targeting of passes also is up to the quarterback, at least in part. I think that most fans these days understand that what is called in the huddle and the play that unfolds when the ball is snapped can be very different things. Jackson may be the primary receiver in the huddle but if they go up to the line and Cousins sees that the cornerback is getting safety help in covering Jackson the first read will be elsewhere. I asked Cousins about getting Jackson more targets.
“I just go where my reads take me . . . You go back and you say based on the coverage and the concept and the way we’re coached to read it out, that’s where the ball needed to go. I think there were times in the previous games where you say my reads took me to him, but we didn’t connect. That’s the plays where you say you want those back.”
Related: Will Phillips retake his slot corner job from Fuller?

—Cousins is lower in most of the key stats than he was last year—completion percentage, passer rating, yards per attempt, among others. I asked him how he thinks he is performing compared to last year.
“I don’t know. I guess I don’t really look to try to tell a story until the end of the season when it’s all said and done. But we’re just going to continue to try and play. Each game brings its own challenges and own situations. There’s certainly a lot of times or places where I can be better, but I think I’m always going to say that, regardless of what the game was or the final outcome. We’ll just keep taking it one game at a time and try to stack up as many wins as we can.”
Tandler on Twitter

In case you missed it 

https://audioboom.com/boos/5156356-episode-10-catching-up-with-fred-smoot-and-looking-ahead-to-philly?t=0

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After 4 teams in 4 years, D.J. Swearinger knows what it takes to make the Redskins home

After 4 teams in 4 years, D.J. Swearinger knows what it takes to make the Redskins home

It's never been a talent issue for D.J. Swearinger. In college he made big plays and earned all conference honors playing in the SEC at South Carolina. He was drafted high by Houston, second round in 2013, and started 10 games his rookie season. 

In his first two seasons with the Texans, Swearinger started 22 games and proved to be a playmaker. He logged three interceptions and more than 100 tackles. He looked like a possible long-term answer at safety, until he was uncermoniously cut after his second year.

Reports showed Swearinger bucked at playing special teams. And over time, a reputation as a big - sometimes dirty - hitter emerged. 

None of it helped Swearinger, who was signed by Tampa in 2015. He played seven games for the Bucs but was cut mid-season. Arizona signed him late in the 2015 season, and kept him for 2016.

Last year, playing on a defense with strong leaders like Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson, Swearinger excelled. He played all over the Cardinals secondary, starting 12 games and making plays like he did early in his career in Houston.

He finished the 2016 season with three interceptions, two sacks and eight passes defensed. He made more than 50 tackles. Pro Football Focus rated Swearinger with a +15.3 grade, by far the highest of his career and good for the 8th best rating of any safety in the NFL.

The Redskins haven't had solid safety play in years. In 2016, the team tried to address the position on the cheap, converting cornerbacks to safeties and signing low tier free agents. It didn't work.

So, finally, in 2017 the Redskins front office addressed the safety position by signing Swearinger to a three-year deal. And it sounds like the 25-year-old has grown up a lot after four years of bouncing around the league.

"I've been on a lot of teams. I want to make this home," Swearinger said (full video above). "I feel like I’m experienced enough to know what to do as a pro, know what to do to stay on top of things and be a pro. As long as I be a pro every day and make the plays I’m capable of, I’ll be a Redskin."

Swearinger's deal will keep him with the Redskins through the 2019 season, but already, head coach Jay Gruden seems excited about the new safety. Earlier this offseason, Gruden said watching film of Swearinger revealed a player hitting the highest levels of safety play in the NFL. In OTAs, seeing Swearinger in person, Gruden was impressed.

"Watching him the first two days really excites me. He just looks like a safety back there," Gruden said. "No offense to the previous safeties we’ve had before, but I just think D.J. is to a level in his career right now where he’s got a lot of confidence. He has got a lot of talent."

There was some question if Swearinger can play the free safety role in Washington. More to the point, if he has the speed to play a true center field, with second-year man Su'a Cravens moving from linebacker to strong safety. Swearinger has zero concerns.

"I'm a free safety, I think that fits my body well," he said. "As a free safety you got to have the confidence in yourself that you can run with those guys and make plays on those guys."

Swearinger doesn't lack for confidence, and he shouldn't. Combined with Cravens, along with Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland at cornerback, the Redskins secondary could be a strength in 2017.

"We have a lot of talent. If we work day in and day out, I think this group can be one of the best," Swearinger said. "We just got to keep working, keep gelling to get everybody on the same page, the sky’s the limit."

It's normal for players to be excited in May. There supposed to be. 

Coaches, however, tend to be more hesitant with praise. Not optimism, but actual praise, though when it comes to Swearinger, Gruden isn't shy about his expectations.

"We know that he’s a physical guy, but as far as coverages and breaking up things, he’s got a lot of confidence and I think he’s going to really, really emerge as a top safety not only for this team but in this league," the coach said of his new free safety.

It's been a long journey for Swearinger. From four teams in four years to five teams in five years. He's hoping this one sticks. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Redskins Playbook: 3 quotes that stood out during OTAs

Redskins Playbook: 3 quotes that stood out during OTAs

With Memorial Day weekend between now and the Redskins next batch of OTAs, let's look at the three best quotes from the first organized team session. For Redskins fans, the biggest looming issue remains the contract negotiations between Kirk Cousins and the organization, but there are plenty of other spots worth watching. 

1) Bad recruiting - A long-term deal might not get done, but that doesn't mean the talks aren't moving along. Cousins sounded almost optimistic but also knows that football is never a sure thing. To explain, he told a story from his high school days:

I’ve just kind of learned from previous experiences and if you know my story going back to high school, I played my senior year of high school with no scholarship offers, in fact there was a coach here from Northwestern today who was my recruiting coach at Northwestern, he’s still the running backs coach 10 years later at Northwestern and I was getting recruited by Northwestern, wanted a scholarship, they didn’t offer me, and it was just a reminder that you never know what’s going to happen. 

2) Sky's the limit - Despite the high-cost addition of Josh Norman, the Redskins secondary in 2016 was hardly a strength. Much of that came from poor safety play, where the team had few experienced options and spent little. This offseason, Washington invested in the position, bringing in D.J. Swearinger from the Arizona Cardinals. The new safety thinks the secondary can become a strength, quickly.

We have a lot of talent. If we work day in and day out I think this group can be one of the best. We just got to keep working, keep gelling to get everybody on the same page, the sky’s the limit.

3) Does it even matter - The NFL gives out a lot of awards, but at least publicly, there is no hardware for the funniest head coach. If there was a trophy, Jay Gruden should win it. Earlier this week the league announced a number of rule changes, most noticeably a change to stodgy TD celebration penalties. Another rule change: Overtime will shrink from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. Gruden wasn't impressed when asked about it. 

Who cares?

Bonus - Who you calling fat? Gruden is too funny to only make the list once. Asked about second-year running back Robert Kelley, the coach made sure people know the difference between a nickname and reality.

That was just a nickname, he wasn’t actually fat. I think when you’re a 22-year-old kid, 21-year-old guy out of Tulane and you understand the wear and tear that the NFL is going to give you, you better get yourself into shape if you want to maintain a career in the NFL as a running back.

Always something on social 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back