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Need to Know: Is Jackson's absence from some Redskins OTAs an issue?

Need to Know: Is Jackson's absence from some Redskins OTAs an issue?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 26, 63 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 137 days ago. It will be 109 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 63; Preseason opener @ Falcons 77; Final roster cut 100

Hot topic—DeSean’s absent (again)

It’s becoming an annual event around Ashburn—sorting out whether or not fans should be upset that DeSean Jackson was absent for part of voluntary OTAs.

Jackson was not present at Wednesday’s OTA session, the first one that was open to the media. According to reports he did not attend on Tuesday either and his attendance at the offseason program, which started last month, has been sporadic.

His absence did not bother the quarterback. “He knows what is best for him and what he needs to get ready for the fall,” said Kirk Cousins.

Jackson not being there did not seem to particularly rattle his head coach either. “He’s been in the league nine years, he knows what he has to do,” said Gruden.

Head coaches need to be very careful about what they say about attendance during the offseason program. As noted, showing up is voluntary and anything a coach said that can perceived as putting pressure on a player to show up can be frowned upon by the players union. So if Gruden is unhappy he probably wouldn’t say much about it.

When the Redskins signed Jackson in 2014 they knew what they were getting. He wasn’t big on showing up at offseason workout when he was with the Eagles and there was no reason to believe that he would change.

But it appears that Jackson would have some legitimate incentive to attend the workouts this year. For one thing there was a pretty strong financial incentive in the form of a $500,000 workout bonus. The past tense is used there because he already has missed too many workouts to be able to qualify for it.

There also is the fact that last year was the worst of his career. He missed six games with a hamstring injury and he had career lows in receptions (30) and receiving yards (528). The injury happened early in the first game of the season after he had spotty attendance at OTAs and was out for most of training camp and all of the preseason games with a shoulder injury.

There is no definitive link between his relatively light workload leading up to the season opener and the hamstring issue. But after the injury last fall he admitted that there may have been. So why take the chance of having another lost season due to injuries? Why not just show up in Ashburn, do the work, collect your $500K and take your vacation from mid-June until training camp starts in late July. That puts more money in your pocket and eliminates a relatively light offseason workload as a possible reason if he does get injured.

There also is the age factor. Jackson will be 30 before the season ends. As players age, they need to work harder and harder in the offseason to be able to stay on the field. He can’t maintain the same work habits he had in his twenties and expect to be a productive player in his thirties.

Jackson knows all of this and he chooses to stay away anyway. That’s fine but the caveat is that he had better be ready for the season and he had better get through it injury free. If things don’t work out then in 2017 he could find himself as a 30-year-old free agent with a reputation for being fragile and not willing to put in the work that might help keep him on the field. The workouts being voluntary wouldn’t matter a whole lot to the people writing the checks and,, fair or not, the reputation would cost him a lot of money.

Maybe the worst-case scenario will not come to pass. Maybe he'll do his thing during the offseason, catch 50 passes for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns and cash in with another big contract.

Jackson can make whatever choices he wants to. But he should be wary of the potential consequences of his choices.

In case you missed it 

 

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A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

This week in Indianapolis the NFL world will converge at the Scouting Combine to watch college football players work out, sprint and lift weights in anticipation of the upcoming draft. For the Redskins front office, this draft needs to be a win.

The 2016 Draft could still yield strong results for Washington, but overall the class did not play particularly well as rookies. This year, Scot McCloughan has nine picks at his disposal, with the extra picks late in the draft in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

It's no secret that the 'Skins need help along the defensive line, a lot of help. That should be a major area of focus for the Redskins scouts and coaches, and that will make next Sunday arguably the most important of the week in Indianapolis. 

The combine divides players into 11 position groups, but Groups 7, 8 and 9 will matter most. Groups 7 and 8 represent defensive linemen and 9 are the linebackers. That group officially arrives on Thursday but won't work out on the field until Sunday. The days in between include interviews, psychological testing and the bench press.

Obviously the Redskins won't spend all nine picks on only defensive linemen. The team will likely invest in the offensive line as well, and that group will arrive earlier in the week and work out on Friday. Cornerbacks and safeties are the last to work out on Monday, March 6. 

With the likely departure of at least one of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon, and the possible departure of both, it would make sense for the 'Skins to bring in another receiver via the draft. They work out on Saturday, and should the Redskins decide to take a quarterback in the draft, the passers will work out that day too. 

Running back could be another spot the 'Skins invest. Jay Gruden said that Robert Kelley is locked into the RB1 role, but still the team might want increased competition at the position. The backs will work out Friday.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

The NFL has released the official schedule of when NFL coaches and executives will take the podium and address the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. You can find it right here but I’ll save you a click—nobody from the Redskins is scheduled to talk.

NFL teams are not required to have a representative speak at the combine but most do. This year only the Saints and Patriots are joining the Redskins in avoiding the media.

Bill Belichick never talks at the combine and I believe that the Saints have bypassed the opportunity to do so in the past. However, the Redskins head coach traditionally has gone to the podium in the past. Joe Gibbs spoke when he was in his second stint as the head coach. Mike Shanahan, as tight lipped as anyone, met with the press in Indy each of his four years as head coach. Jay Gruden has spoken during each of the three years that he has been head coach.

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And last year Scot McCloughan held a small media gaggle with local reporters in his hotel in Indianapolis.

This year the Redskins are going somewhat dark. McCloughan did not speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl (Gruden held a brief availability in Mobile), a departure from his first two years with the team. And now no Redskins representatives at the combine.

One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.

So why aren’t they talking? The best bet is that they are in a delicate stage when it comes to dealing with the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is a pending free agent who is likely to be hit with the franchise tag on Wednesday, the day before the combine starts. At that point, the clock will be ticking on Cousins either signing a long-term contract or getting traded to a team that is willing to meet his asking price. It’s my guess that Jay Gruden does not want to face questions about Cousins’ future.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Gruden is not a very good liar; his poker face needs a lot of work. Perhaps that is a good quality for a human being but not a very good attribute for someone who would need to go out and talk about Cousins as the long-term quarterback for the team, or at least the QB for the coming season, when his status may be very much in doubt.

This is not to say that there is definitely going to be a trade of Cousins worked out at the combine. But it is very possible that a deal will be discussed with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers and any number of other quarterback-needy teams. And perhaps there is concern that Gruden will let something slip or, more likely, say a lot on the subject of Cousins by not saying anything.

Again, this is just reading the tea leaves on my part. But by going silent the Redskins are sending an invitation for people to fill in the blanks. I am just taking them up on it.

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.