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Redskins OTA observations: RG3 sharper than last week

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Redskins OTA observations: RG3 sharper than last week

There are my observations from Wednesday’s OTA practice at Redskins Park.

11:15—Brian Baker is teaching the outside linebackers the best route to the quarterback. He has it painted on the grass, an arc that goes from the offensive tackle to the quarterback (as you can see in the picture to the right). There was one dummy set up as the tackle, another back as the QB. In between, Baker was there with some big padded arms. The onrushing linebackers needed to stay in that optimal path to the quarterback while dealing with the dummy and Baker’s attempts to knock them off stride. As one might expect, the player who was the quickest getting there was Brian Orakpo.

11:20—The defensive line is working nearby with Jacob Burney. They are practicing getting to the quarterback quickly and then stripping the ball away. I’ve seen that drill before. What was different was Burney emphasizing the recovery and securing the ball with both arms. “This is a running back,” said Burney, holding the ball as a back would in the open field. “This is how you hold it if you touch it once a year,” he said, this time with both arms wrapped around the ball.

11:50—On the first play of team drills, Robert Griffin III stepped up in the pocket and launched a deep pass that Jackson turned and caught. Now it needs to be said that Griffin probably would have been sacked and the ball hung up in the air for a long time.

A few plays later Adam Hayward was stride for stride with Logan Paulsen going down the middle. The linebacker didn’t see the ball coming but he saw when Paulsen was tracking it in a knocked it away.

The QB on that play was Kirk Cousins. Shortly after that he went down the middle again, this time to Andre Roberts on a crossing pattern. This one was good for a nice gain.

11:55—Chucky is in the house. Jon Gruden is on the sidelines talking to his former GM in Tampa, Bruce Allen, while watching his brother’s team go through OTAs.

12:00—Griffin and the offense got into the no-huddle look. There was lots of movement and pre-snap verbage but not much production. Griffin completed a few short passes and was sacked a couple of times.

12:05—The offense was more productive when they returned to huddling up after players. Jordan Reed got past both Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather and caught Griffin’s pass deep down the middle in stride.

12:10—Here is who lined up to field punts: Andre Roberts, Nick Williams, Rashad Ross, Chris Thompson, Lache Seastrunk, and Santana Moss. Richard Crawford and DeSean were in the group but he didn’t field any punts.

Trent Murphy lined up to the left of the snapper on punt coverage. There’s usually a hole in front of the snapper since the punt return team can’t line anyone up over center due to safety concerns. That could give Murphy an opportunity to sneak down field sometimes and take a straight-line route to the returner.

12:20—An hour and five minutes in we got the play of the day. Griffin zipped a throw to Jackson, who was about 15 yards past the line of scrimmage near the sideline. Rookie Bashaud Breeland was in coverage but he couldn’t quite knock the ball away. Jackson grabbed it and went down the sideline for the touchdown.

12:30—Another long TD pass for Griffin. This one went to Reed who got past both Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather. Overall, a better day for the quarterback than the one he had last week. He was much more accurate and, perhaps, more in synch with his receivers.

Clark doesn’t call the defenses—that job belongs to Mike linebacker Keenan Robinson—but he is a constant stream of chatter mixing in keys and encouragement both before and after the snap.

12:35—Rookie receiver Ryan Grant got a good number of snaps with the first unit, which may or may not mean much of anything here in early June. But he did catch the last long TD pass of the day. He beat rookie free agent corner Blake Sailors and Griffin hit him in stride.

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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