ASHBURN—Walking into a secondary room that included DeAngelo Hall, D.J. Swearinger and Josh Norman, rookie safety Montae Nicholson felt his job was to absorb more than contribute last year.
Now, he’s making his voice heard as well.
Nicholson, in his second season with the Redskins, was seen calling out formations and assignments to his fellow defensive players during Wednesday’s OTA practice, a sign he’s getting comfortable in Washington.
“I’ve tried to take that part of my game to the next level,” he said. “Last year I was a little nervous coming in—J. No., D.J., D-Hall—you come in with those guys, yeah, you’re going to learn a lot, but you’ve got to put your best foot forward. And I was fortunate enough to be put in a position where they helped me put that foot forward, which I was appreciative of.
“I wouldn’t have asked for any other veterans [to be paired with] in my first year.”
Nicholson’s stat line was a pedestrian 24 tackles in eight games played, but the coaching staff is eyeing a bigger role for him in 2018, particularly with Hall’s retirement.
“You know, last year was a great test for him,” coach Jay Gruden said. “We just got to sprinkle it in and saw him play and what we have thoughts for his athletic ability, and now it’s a matter of him learning the system and communicating.
“The comfort level you see from guys year one to year two, especially the safety position because so many things change—there’s so many different nuances to your technique that you have to learn, and the more he gets comfortable, his athleticism is as good as there is a safety in the NFL. So mentally, once he gets it down, we have great faith that he’s going to be an excellent player for us for years to come.”
Nicholson was also held back last year when he arrived with a shoulder injury he suffered before the draft. He ended up missing some of the offseason workouts, crucial development time for a young player.
He said he’s feeling appreciative of every snap this summer.
“The first worth that comes to mind is blessed, because last year I didn’t get to experience this,” he said. “I was out on the sideline, and that hurt.”
He said even in that time, he learned and absorbed from the older players, echoing his appreciation for their contributions.
“I mess up, and they’re not down on me, they’re not jumping on me,” he said. “They’re correcting me the right way, and that’s a big thing. That’s a big key in a leader, in my opinion. Those guys do that consistently.”
Now it’s Nicholson’s turn to make some noise, calling shots on a defense that will be leaning on him to make a big jump in his second season.