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Need to Know: Redskins start free agency on a slow roll

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Need to Know: Redskins start free agency on a slow roll

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 11, 50 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Redskins are slow rolling free agency

When free agency opened in the past the Redskins were frequently among the first to dive into the pool with a big transaction or two. That was not the case on Tuesday.

With trades and huge signings going on all over the league, the Redskins just dipped a foot into the shallow end and tested out the water a bit. They finalized what they had nailed down on Monday when they had agreed to terms with Bears defensive lineman Stephen Paea. But while they stayed on the phone and lined up some visits they were in no rush to hand out huge contracts to players who might sell a few jerseys but would not help the Redskins achieve their goal of becoming a perennial playoff contender.

It’s apparent that there is a new sheriff in town. Scot McCloughan does this differently from how Bruce Allen, Mike Shanahan, Vinny Cerrato, and his other predecessors.

Here’s a look at what happened yesterday:

Paea formally agreed to terms, although the team has not yet announced the signing. He will play all over the line, at 3-4 end, nose tackle and at tackle when they go into a four-man front. There were other teams in pursuit and he said he left some money on the table for a better fit in Washington. “Other teams were offering me a little bit more, but the way Washington would use me in their defense was the reason I chose Washington,” he said via John Keim of ESPN. “But whatever they feel that I would fit best, they’ll put me in there. I’m there to help, not only playing the run but the pass. I’m all for that.”

—They are continuing to look for help on the defensive line. Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton is set to come in for a visit according to multiple reports including the Twitter account of his good friend Chris Baker, who has be lobbying for Knighton to come to the Redskins.

—They aren’t ignoring the secondary. Perrish Cox, 49ers cornerback, is set to visit on Wednesday as well. He became a starter for the first time in his career in 2014 and he picked off five passes and knocked down 18. Cox could start alongside Bashaud Breeland, pushing David Amerson to a nickel role or possibly to free safety. The team needs to be very wary of Cox’s past which has a record of some very serious sexual assault charges in 2010 (he was acquitted).

—The Redskins re-signed safety Trenton Robinson, who could have been a restricted free agent but he wasn’t likely to get the $1.5 million RFA tender. He may not contribute much on defense but he is a key special teams player; last year he led the team with 15 tackles on coverage units.

—They could be picking up the phone to find a running back as news came out that third-down back Roy Helu Jr. had agreed to terms with the Raiders. The Redskins’ second-leading rusher in the past two seasons signed for a reported two years and $4 million. That’s not a huge contract by any means and an indication that the Redskins did not make keeping Helu a priority. Washington could try to replace Helu in free agency (they have been connected to former Ravens running back Justin Forsett), in a draft that is deep at the running back position, or from within with Chris Thompson and Silas Redd.

—Don’t be surprised if they lose another member of that fast-disappearing draft class of 2011 today. Leonard Hankerson is set to pay a visit to the Falcons and their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. If Hankerson leaves only Ryan Kerrigan and Niles Paul would be left from the 11 players to Redskins picked in 2011. Jarvis Jenkins, the second-round pick in that draft, remains an unrestricted free agent who could return.

—Brian Orakpo isn’t completely out of the picture for the Redskins but he is off visiting other teams. First stop is in Tennessee and if nothing is finalized there he will head to Arizona.

Timeline

—It’s been 73 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 186 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 40; 2015 NFL Draft 50; Redskins training camp starts 141

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Should the Redskins hit more in practice? Doug Williams explains the situation

Should the Redskins hit more in practice? Doug Williams explains the situation

The Redskins do not hold live tackling drills in training camp. In fact, they don't do it all season. Head coach Jay Gruden has been clear that he doesn't think his players need that additional contact in the middle of a grueling season that stretches from late July to the beginning of January.

Doug Williams, promoted to the Redskins head of personnel this offseason, played for the organization in the days when all teams did was live hitting and tackling. In the 1970s and 1980s practices were much tougher, and Williams was asked to compare that era when he played to the current era. 

The former Super Bowl MVP explained that there was no comparison between the eras, but also dispelled any notion that the Redskins run a soft camp. The franchise simply operates within the rules of the agreement between the NFL and the NFL Player's Association.

"I think we have got to be fair because the same rules apply to every team in this league. So, we can’t use that as an excuse and I’m certainly not going to compare it to the days when I played," Williams said last week in Richmond. 

His comments came in the days after the Redskins lost the physical battle to the Ravens in the preseason opener. The tenacity of camp was not the problem in that game, Williams said. 

"The excuse of not being able to do some of the things that we haven’t done, we can’t make that excuse as far as the rules are concerned because every team has to play up under the same rules. We just have got to be cognizant of it and train the guys, ‘Hey, this is what has to happen.’ We don’t get a chance to ‘hit hit’ and practice [tackling]. In a game time, your mindset should be, ‘tackle.’"

Could the Redskins hit more in practice? Yes. There is more room for hitting and tackling in the CBA than what the Redskins do. And yes, the 'Skins did miss a lot of tackles last season. Some of the worst offenders of missed tackles are gone now though, guys like Duke Ihenacho and David Bruton. 

By the time players make the NFL, they know how to tackle. Williams used Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger as his example. 

"I watch D.J. Swearinger, who I feel like has brought a lot of swag to this defense. There’s no doubt in my mind you don’t have to tell him that when the game starts that you have got to tackle, that this is tackle football. And I think once he gets out there, you’re going to get a lot of guys that are probably going to follow D.J. and I think that’s what we need and he’s here hopefully to lead us down that path."

Football practices have changed. That doesn't mean their soft. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

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Redskins rookie report card: Who performed well in training camp

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Redskins rookie report card: Who performed well in training camp

Training camp presents an opportunity for a lot of players to make impressions on coaches, but none more so than rookies. For the Redskins first-year players, Richmond gave the opportunity to show they were ready for the NFL, or in some cases, they weren't quite there.

Starting with the drafted guys, and including some of the undrafted, here's a letter grade pertaining to performance through three weeks of training camp practices and the first preseason game. Starting at the top:

  • Jonathan Allen: A- The first round rookie from Alabama came on strong over the last week of practices in Richmond. Once the pads came on, Allen showed his strength and quickness as he slowly started to get time with the first string defense. In the Redskins preseason opening loss to Baltimore, Allen flashed his top-end talent in the second quarter, shedding blockers with force and technique while displaying a high motor that netted him a sack. Allen is the real deal, and any Redskins coach will tell you that.
  • Ryan Anderson: B The second round rookie from Alabama is very good at a few things. The top of that list is playing against the run. Anderson's stout toughness sets the edge with ferocity, and that skill immediately translates to the NFL game. Anderson's pass rush can use work, though his intensity will keep him in plays that others might give up on. Like many of the Redskins outside linebackers, coverage will be a problem, but that should be something coaches know and scheme around. 
  • Fabian Moreau: Incomplete The third rounder out of UCLA only practiced twice in team drills while working back from a torn pectoral muscle. Just not enough to make a judgement. 
  • Samae Perine: C Fans got excited quickly about the potential of the fourth round running back out of Oklahoma, and had this grade been given before the Ravens game, it would have been a letter grade higher. But Perine did not look ready for prime time in Baltimore, logging a fumble and dropping a pass while rushing 6 times for 15 yards. Perine has talent, but learning the intricacies of the NFL offense after spending four years in a spread offense in the Big 12 is a major jump. Perine is willing and able to block, but needs to know where blitzers are coming from. Most importantly, however, Perine needs to hit holes hard. He has the strength to be an excellent short yardage runner, but he cannot hesitate in the backfield.
  • Montae Nicholson: Incomplete Similar to Moreau, Nicholson only had two team practices as he came back from shoulder surgery. Not enough to make a judgement. 
  • Jeremy Sprinkle: C+ A fifth round tight end from Arkansas, Sprinkle came to the Redskins with a reputation as a tough blocker. That didn't seem to show up early in camp, though the second week Sprinkle started to use his big body much more effectively. Even better for Sprinkle, he showed late in Richmond that he can be more than a blocker, as some soft hands got on display. Sprinkle is the player that might force Jay Gruden to keep four tight ends. 
  • Chase Roullier: B It's odd to say, but the sixth round pick out of Wyoming is the most certain of roster locks of all the Redskins third-day draft picks. Gruden has openly talked about his desire to have a backup center he can trust, and in short order, Roullier must be that guy. If the coach wasn't comfortable with the rook, the team would have brought a veteran in to compete to backup Spencer Long. That Roullier can also play the guard spot if the team gets desperate helps. He's been fine in practice, and has gotten a few reps with the first team offense. 
  • Robert Davis: B- Fairly non-existent early in camp, the sixth round rookie WR Davis is raw. He does have serious size and speed, but this grade leans on a strong performance, er, one explosive play in Baltimore. Davis won't be relied on for much from the Redskins this season, if he makes the team, and he needs to make a big impact on special teams. Working as a gunner in drills during camp, Davis showed the fight needed to effectively play on the outside of punt coverage. That will help. This grade would probably be a C+ if not for the catch in Baltimore. 
  • Josh Harvey-Clemons: C A seventh round pick out of Louisville, Harvey-Clemons doesn't seem to have a natural fit on the roster. He's big, and maybe best suited for a dime linebacker role. Hard to imagine a roster spot for Harvey-Clemons with the team's depth at both safety and inside linebacker, but with his size and instincts, the Redskins would probably like the chance to get him to the practice squad. 
  • Josh Holsey: B For a seventh round rookie cornerback, Holsey has been impressive. A capable player in the SEC, health has been Holsey's trouble, not ability. He has a real chance at a roster spot, and the feisty attitude coaches love from small corners. Has to stay healthy, has to produce on specials. 
  • Nico Marley: B Outside of Jonathan Allen, no rookie has garnered more attention than the undrafted Marley. It started out as a bit of a gimmick, Marley is the grandson of music icon Bob Marley. He's also incredibly small for an NFL linebacker at 5-foot-8 and 200 lbs. Despite the size limitations, Marley just keeps making plays. Against the Ravens he registered a sack and was named to the Pro Football Focus Preseason Week 1 Team of the Week. Marley works as hard as anybody on the Redskins, and has earned the respect of his teammates. It's hard to imagine a roster spot for Marley; he's certainly behind Will Compton, Mason Foster, Zach Brown and Martrell Spaight at the inside linebacker spot. Would Washington love to get Marley onto their practice squad? Seems very likely. 
  • Fish Smithson: C+ An undrafted rookie safety out of Kansas, Smithson has made some plays in camp. Another practice squad candidate that needs to prove his ability on specials. 
  • Tevin Homer: C Great size for a corner, but needs to work on his technique. Many rookies have trouble turning their heads in coverave once they get to the NFL, and Homer is no different. 
  • Zach Pascal: C With Kendal Thompson off the Redskins, there is a spot on the practice squad for a wideout. Pascal has size and decent hands. 
  • Kyle Kalis, Tyler Catalina: C- Both of these guys have been getting beat in Richmond, often. I watched Kalis at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, and didn't think he had the quickness needed to play guard in the NFL. That opinion hasn't changed. Catalina has the size but needs to stay lower in his stance. 
  • James Quick: C Undrafted wideout from Louisville, Quick's built to be a slot receiver in the NFL. Needs to be quicker and work on route running.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

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!