A defensive captain in his first season in Washington, safety D.J. Swearinger is setting a tone that is rubbing off on some of the team's younger players.
It's called the "Get Right Meeting."
Many Redskins defensive players gather weekly — at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va., or at a teammate like Josh Norman's house on an off day — to watch a bit of extra film and take pointers from leaders like Norman or safety D.J. Swearinger. The purpose is self-explanatory.
"The Get Right Meeting is just to get right," rookie safety Montae Nicholson said Sunday after Washington's win against the Raiders.
Last week's Get Right Meeting featured some extra motivating from Norman and Swearinger, both of whom were irked by the national praise being heaped on the Raiders, the assumption that the Redskins had no chance and some of the trash talking from Oakland's star players. It certainly didn't hurt, as the Redskins put together one of their best performances on defense in a long time on Sunday Night Football. Nicholson, in particular, was one of the standouts.
His highlight play came early, when he intercepted Raiders quarterback Derek Carr's first pass of the evening. Nicholson played 43 of 51 defensive snaps alongside Swearinger, with Deshazor Everett getting the other eight. Everett was the "starter," but the Redskins have begun using Nicholson as their main strong safety, trusting him in a multitude of situations.
"I think Montae really has been impressive, there is no doubt about it," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Monday. "You just look at his stature coming out of the tunnel. I mean he looks the part. He is physical. He is big. He can run. I just can't say enough about what D.J. Swearinger means to Montae. As far as communication, giving him the confidence where he can play fast and free. Those two together are just a great tandem."
A week before in Los Angeles, Nicholson was used in nickel packages. That meant he was on the field the majority of the time, but still in a specific role. In just a week, it seemed that Nicholson gained enough trust from the coaching staff to line up in multiple spots in multiple packages.
That seems like a lot to ask for a rookie, but Nicholson said it actually helps him play freely.
"Most people would think 'Oh, you've got to learn all of this stuff,' but no, instead of sitting back there and waiting in the post, moving me around has given me confidence that they trust me enough to move me around and do these multiple things," Nicholson said. "And I couldn't be more grateful, I couldn't be more appreciative."
It's not just the coaching staff Nicholson appreciates. Having Swearinger around to remind him what area of the field he's responsible for, or what a particular player's tendencies are, minimizes mistakes.
"Obviously he is a rookie and playing safety there is so much change. There's change of strengths, there's change of calls that happen fast, there's no huddles and you have got to get lined up. And that's why I say playing along D.J. [Swearinger] has really made the transition smooth for Montae," Gruden said. "I think if we had another young safety back there, I don't know if he would be as productive quite frankly. But with D.J. back there leading the way, communicating, talking has made life a lot easier for Montae. I think Montae's success is really dependent on D.J., and then once he gets more reps, he won't need D.J. as much, but he needs him now."
Whether it's at the Get Right Meeting, via text throughout the week or just before an opposing center snaps the ball to the quarterback, Swearinger takes it upon himself to offer younger players pointers. He'd done that with Su'a Cravens during the offseason and training camp, but with Cravens now on reserve for the year, he's doing so with Everett and Nicholson.
"I emphasize all the small things. Sort of the small things that coaches don't cover that experience has to give you," Swearinger said. "That's what I try to give them. They're growing. Shazor, he's doing great. Montae is doing great. Those guys, I'm a young guy but I feel like I'm an old guy with these young guys. I feel like a proud big bro, especially with Montae and Shazor but I'm going to stay on those guys and they're going to continue to get better."
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