The Redskins' first two draft picks in 2015, Brandon Scherff and Preston Smith have used each other as competition and motivation during their first week in the NFL.*
When the Redskins selected offensive lineman Brandon Scherff and linebacker Preston Smith with their first two picks of this year's NFL Draft, they were achieving their goal of acquiring getting bigger, physical players and addressing two important needs.
Now, after having completed their first week in the NFL, including the weekend's rookie minicamp, both Scherff and Smith have shaken off professional jitters and renewed some confidence in their abilities, gaining a better sense of how they'll fit on the team.
The Washington Redskins held their third rookie minicamp practice of 2015 the morning of May 16, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
It wasn't too difficult to determine, with their size, after all.
If you want any indication, you just needed to have watched them compete on Saturday, when Smith lined up, in a variety of stances, against Scherff, who is learning and adapting quickly to playing right tackle. The matchup, however brief, felt exciting, in the moment and for the future.
"It's awesome," Scherff said of facing Smith. "He's a great player so I'm just trying to make him better and I know he's making me better."
Likewise, Smith said he looks forward to facing Scherff's physicality in practices for years to come.
"I know he's a guy who they picked early in the first round and he brings a lot of ability to the offensive line," Smith told reporters. "I look forward to keep on going against him to make myself better and help him get better along the way."
It's a particularly humbling way of looking at each's current situation – recognizing the other's ability, which is still maturing, and then using it to better their own.
Part of that wisdom seems linked to their coaches – particularly defensive coordinator Joe Barry and offensive line coach Bill Callahan – who, also new to the organization, have brought their distinct styles of coaching and instruction to the team.
"You've got to learn each day from Coach Callahan. He's a heck of a coach," Scherff said, sounding like a broken record as he praised Callahan's tactics on Saturday.
"It's been great. He's taught us a lot and he's put a lot on our shoulders and he expects us to know it so that's what you've got to do. You've got to come to practice, got to meetings, go back to the hotel, and study, and just complete that every day."
Smith finds Barry's approach – one in which you'll frequently hear him yelling and providing correction with individuals in the middle of drills – helpful in understanding his new identity as an outside linebacker. Smith starred as a defensive end at Mississippi State.
"He's a guy who knows who he wants and he's very forward about it," said Smith, who also acknowledged his excitement to bring his versatility to a position of need. "They teach us a lot of plays in one day so they can see how much you can retain and how well you can execute it and see what you know and how well you can pick up on a new assignment."
Before taking over as defensive coordinator for the Redskins, Barry spent the last several years as the linebackers coach with the Chargers. It seems that kind of expertise and guidance will be fruitful for Smith as he develops in his playmaking and in his own body.
"I think the thing – he, definitely, for a 270-pound man, he carries it very well. He walks in the room and you're like, 'Oh maybe he's 240, 245, maybe 250.' And then when you get him out on the field and you get him moving around, he's a very good fleet-on-his-foot athlete," Barry said last week on "Redskins Nation." "And then you put him on a scale and you're like, 'Holy crap, he's 270 pounds.' He's a big long athlete. His head's swimming. He's speaking English at Mississippi State, now he's learning advanced French. But he's working at it…I'm really liking what I see so far."
Aside from their play, and in just more than a week's time, both Scherff and Smith don't appear to take anything for granted.
They're excited, sure. They have some new freedoms, too. But when it's time to hit the field, or pick up the weights, with their new teammates, the competitiveness that propelled them into the top rounds of the draft returns.
"Everybody has dreams of going early in the first round or just going in the first round, but it doesn't matter when you go," Smith said. "The only thing that matters is what you do when you get there. And I'm just going to make sure that while I'm here no matter what round I came in I'm going to work hard and play to my ability."
Scherff echoed his practice opponent.
"I'm just going to do whatever they want me to do for this team," he said. "I'm going to do [it to] the best of my ability and whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to try to do it."