Landon Collins didn’t have to be at Redskins Park this week. The spring organized team activities are voluntary leaguewide, but many accomplished veterans are more comfortable with their own workout routines elsewhere — particularly those coming off an injury.
But Collins, a three-time Pro Bowler recovering from a torn labrum in his shoulder who signed an $84 million free agent contract with the Redskins this offseason, made his debut Tuesday after sitting out the first stretch of OTAs last week.
“I can’t take no time off,” said Collins, who played the first four years of his career with the New York Giants. “That’s just me. I can’t sit around. I’ve been sitting around the past three [offseasons] I’ve been hurt. Just getting out here getting the reps, getting the guys underneath my belt and stuff like that. Just getting hand-to-hand combat, it helps a lot.”
Collins isn’t completely unfamiliar with the Redskins’ scheme after facing them twice a year for the past four seasons, but the coaching staff is happy to have him at OTAs as the safety position goes through a transition. Former starter D.J. Swearinger was cut before the final game of the 2018 season, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix signed with the Bears in free agency.
The status of Montae Nicholson was uncertain until recently, but Nicholson was on the field Wednesday after not participating in last week’s session that was open to media. Coach Jay Gruden said Nicholson is good to go after misdemeanor assault charges stemming from a fight outside a bar were dropped two weeks ago. Collins, Nicholson and Deshazor Everett, who had an interception Wednesday, seemed to share the first-team reps.
Gruden is still being careful with Collins, who said he has a full range of motion in his shoulder, and held him out of team practice periods. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky praised Collins’ preparation in meetings and in the film room, and his ability to pick up the nuances of the scheme.
“We’re still very cautious with the shoulder,” Gruden said. “But he feels good and we’re trying to get him in some 7-on-7 drills. I want to get him lined up when we have walk-throughs so he can communicate the defense and get lined up. Then at his own discretion, and the trainers’ discretion, he’ll do some team periods every now and then just making sure he’s careful.
“He understands his importance to this football team. It’s fun to look at him over there instead of playing against him with the Giants all the time. He’s a good guy to have out there. He’s a communicator. It’s hard to tell what presence is felt in shorts, but when the pads are on, that’s when you feel Landon.”
Whereas Collins is a known entity slowly working in with his new team, Jimmy Moreland is a little-known rookie lighting up OTAs. The seventh-round pick had three interceptions Wednesday, two off tipped balls and one in the end zone from first-round rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. He also had one during last week’s session. Moreland has quickly grown into a favorite among teammates for his energy and gift of the gab. Gruden has playfully challenged the rookie, and teammates erupted with each of his interceptions Wednesday.
Manusky said he’s never seen someone have a three-interception day in practice throughout his career, and compared Moreland to former Redskins nickelback Kendall Fuller. That’s high praise considering Fuller is one of the better slot corners in the NFL and was a key part of the deal that brought quarterback Alex Smith from Kansas City Chiefs. The Redskins have lined Moreland up in the slot corner position as well as at outside cornerback.
“He’s a fun guy to watch,” Gruden said. “He’s got excellent ball skills, which is what drew us to him. He’s proven to be quite the athlete. ... He’s made his presence, without a doubt.”
The outspoken Moreland said he’s not surprised by the fast start.
“Nah, I expect me to make plays,” Moreland said. “Whatever play comes to me, I’ve got to do my job. ... My defensive coordinator always told us, if you run to the ball, good things will happen. You never know what could happen. ... I know what I’m capable of doing. I know I can bring the energy up. I can get the guys laughing and things like that. And I also can make a lot of good plays. Just staying focused and just being in the film room helps a lot.”
Among the Redskins players absent from Wednesday’s OTAs were quarterback Alex Smith, wide receiver Paul Richardson, running back Adrian Peterson, left tackle Trent Williams, tight end Jordan Reed and cornerback Josh Norman. Outside linebacker Ryan Anderson was not present, and Manusky wasn’t sure if it was a medical issue. Rookie Montez Sweat took first-team reps with Anderson gone.
Quarterback Colt McCoy returned and worked out in the rehab area along with running back Derrius Guice, receiver Robert Davis, cornerback Quinton Dunbar and offensive linemen Tyler Catalina and Chase Roullier. Rookie running back Bryce Love, linebacker B.J. Blunt, linebacker Cassanova McKinzy and offensive tackle Geron Christian also did not practice.