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CB Eli Apple has the right stuff to be a key piece in the Redskins secondary

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CB Eli Apple has the right stuff to be a key piece in the Redskins secondary

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 43 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players Scot McCloughan will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how he might fit in Washington.

Eli Apple
Cornerback
Ohio State

Height: 6-1
Weight: 199
40-yard dash: 4.40

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying
Apple possesses several traits for the cornerback position that translate well to the next level with his size, length and athleticism. Apple isn't afraid to be physical and contest at the top of routes, but he's still learning what he can get away with and what will draw flags - desired length for the position, but NFL teams will be forced to live and die with his hands-on contact while he figures it out.

He is also an aggressive run defender, but needs to be more measured with his break down mechanics as a tackler. Apple is still very young and with that comes discipline issues, but he consistently stays in phase in press or off-man coverage and has upside.
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports

How he fits the Redskins: As of now, the Redskins have only one cornerback, Bashaud Breeland who is likely to be a key part of the defense in 2017. Breeland will be going into the final year of his rookie contract. Beyond him the picture is murky. Chris Culliver will count over $9 million against the salary cap and he will be 29 with two serious knee injuries in his past. Will Blackmon will be 32 and Quinton Dunbar is currently a project who may or may not develop into a front-line player.

The Redskins need another long-term solution at cornerback and Apple could be it. In a division with physical wide receivers like Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham you need physical corners. Apple fills the bill there with good length and a willingness to mix it up with the receivers he is defending.

He has been in some big-time games. As a redshirt freshman Apple was the starter during the Buckeyes’ run to the 2014 national title. His interception of Marcus Mariota’s last collegiate pass put the final seal in the title game against Oregon.

Potential issues: He came out of Ohio State after his redshirt freshman season so he is still quite green. Sometimes Apple being physical with receivers turned into him grabbing their jerseys, a tactic that will draw plenty of yellow flags in the NFL.

Bottom line: Apple is clearly a first-round talent in the eyes of many. He has the length that Scot McCloughan likes in defensive backs and he seems to be plenty fast enough to keep up with almost any receiver.

If McCloughan drafts Apple and they get Breeland signed to a long-term extension before his rookie deal expires the Redskins could have a pair of corners equipped to deal with the best receivers in the division and around the league for the next five years.

In his own words

On what about his game best translates to the NFL:
Just my press man cover skills. That's something in the NFL that's really important, to be a physical guy at the line of scrimmage and be able to take receivers off their path. And that's something I do better than anybody, in my opinion. My press technique is to me better than everybody out there. That's the main thing I do. I'm a physical guy and I get up on receivers and impact that.
Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, January 20, 53 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 45
—NFL Draft (4/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 232

The Redskins week that was

Jags big win could spell bad news for Kirk Cousins—If the Jaguars’ accomplishment of getting to the AFC championship game does indeed make Blake Bortles’ job safe, the laws of economics say that the amount of money that Cousins can command in a free agent contract should go down. It’s the demand part of supply and demand and if demand goes down, prices should, too. But the NFL quarterback market doesn’t follow the laws. If the Lions see fit to pay Matthew Stafford, a quarterback under whom they have had very limited success, a contract with an average annual value of $27 million without any team bidding against them, that sets the price.

Setting the odds on what happens with Kirk Cousins—Despite his happy talk at the 106.7 The Fan event earlier this month, the possibility that Cousins will play in a Redskins uniform in 2018 does not warrant a large bet of imaginary casino chips. If you missed the post, take a look and let me know what you think of my assessment.

Don't freak out about latest Zach Brown tweet—It’s that time of year. A player sends out a tweet with no context and fans assign the worst possible meaning to it. In Brown’s case, a tweet about not getting respect was interpreted as a sign that contract negotiations with the Redskins were not going well. But JP Finlay found out that the tweet was about Brown being upset that another alternate getting selected to the Pro Bowl and not him. It still is unclear if Brown will return to the Redskins but at least there are no indications of rocky negotiations at this point.

Bang for the free agent bucks for the Redskins? Brown was a solid free agent acquisition for the Redskins last year. Terrelle Pryor, not so much. Take a look at the post for the other hits and misses in free agency.

Tweet of the week

Even though the draft is over three months away there are plenty of opinions out there as this tweet drew a ton of reaction. On the offensive side of the ball, the suggestions ran towards quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield although some want a running back. It will be interesting to see how those two non-conventional quarterbacks look after they spend the next few months under the microscope of the NFL draft process. The defensive name that kept coming up was Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea, a large specimen who could play the nose in base defense and move to three-technique in nickel.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

In case you missed it

 

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Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Redskins fans were frenzied when Scot McCloughan said that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but not a special one. The #KirkHive shuddered and the Kirk Haters celebrated.

McCloughan, the former Redskins GM who's wildly popular with fans, explained what few people will say publicly: Cousins is a skilled player but probably not deserving of the money he might make in free agency. 

Let's start with the obvious: Cousins is good.

He's a durable passer in a league that doesn't have enough of them. He's started the last 49 games for the Redskins and thrown for more than 4,000 yards each of the past three seasons. 

Now more obvious: He isn't great.

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Bleacher Report's Chris Simms, speaking on the #RedskinsTalk podcast, said Cousins ranks about 12th among NFL passers. It's top half of the league, but it's not Top 5 or even Top 10. 

Cousins has had tremendous games with the Redskins, like a near perfect performance against Oakland in 2017 or a dominant performance against Green Bay in 2016. 

Cousins has also been awful, as recently as Week 17 in New York a few weeks ago, or an equally stinky Week 17 game against the Giants two seasons ago. 

While some might view McCloughan's statement as controversial — "He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special," he told Denver radio station 104.3 the Fan — it's not. 

Plenty of people agree with McCloughan, including some in Redskins Park. Last year, a source told NBC Sports Washington that the team believed they could get nearly as much production from Colt McCoy as Cousins provided. 

Even this year, Washington head coach Jay Gruden offered lukewarm praise of his quarterback.

When the season ended, asked to evaluate Cousins' play, the coach said, "When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ There’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent [Williams] when he played was a Pro Bowl-type and Brandon [Scherff] when he was healthy was a Pro Bowl-type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know, we’re 7-9."

That quote made headlines when Gruden said it, much like McCloughan's comments now are circulating faster than Beltway traffic. 

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Truth is, it's not new. And it's not news.

There are coaches that think Cousins is only scratching the surface of his capabilities. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay come to mind, but both of those coaches have other QBs likely for the long-term future. 

Cousins might end up being paid like a Top 3 quarterback in the NFL, and that might be the right move given the demand at the position. Will that make him a special passer?

Not if special is defined as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Even Cousins wouldn't argue with that.