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Colt McCoy: Matt Jones ready to own Redskins backfield

Colt McCoy: Matt Jones ready to own Redskins backfield

A third-round pick in 2015, Matt Jones showed flashes of immense talent as a rookie running back last year as early as Week 2. That game, a 24-10 win over the St. Louis Rams, Jones rushed 19 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns. 

The future looked very bright then, however, the results dried up after that early outburst. It wouldn't be until November before Jones broke the 100-yard barrier again in a blowout victory over the defensively challenged New Orleans Saints. Injuries - and fumble issues - slowed Jones as a rookie. 

But it's not totally fair to look at Jones' rookie year without considering that he was the clear-cut backup to veteran Alfred Morris. While Jones and Morris always said the right things about playing together and competing for carries, that kind of situation almost inherently creates an uneasy atmosphere. This fall, Morris will be playing for the Cowboys, and Jay Gruden and Scot McCloughan have made it clear they expect Jones to take over the top running back job for the 'Skins.

On Friday, backup QB Colt McCoy talked about Jones on the ESPN 980's Cooley & Kevin. McCoy was bullish about Jones for this season.

"I think Matt Jones is ready to kind of own that backfield and take charge of that position," McCoy said. 

Last season, Jones accounted for nearly 800 yards from scrimmage, showing both toughness and speed. But his average yards-per-carry was a problem at 3.4, as was the Washington run game in general. One major difference between the departed Morris and Jones was the ability to catch balls out of the backfield. Morris struggled in the pass game, Jones does not. He had 19 catches for 304 yards and two TDs through the air last season, good for 16 yards-per-catch.

"He has the ability to be a guy you want to get the ball in his hands," McCoy said of the former Florida Gator.

As for Jones, McCoy senses he's ready to take advantage of his big opportunity.

"He’s asking a lot more questions than he was as a rookie. He’s wanting to get coached more out on the field."

Much talk will be made of Kirk Cousins having an entire offseason as the cemented starting QB, and how much that will help his development. The same could be said of Jones; who split practice carries and reps as a rookie, but will get the bulk of those chances throughout this summer and fall. 

"It just seems like in the locker room he’s more open," McCoy said.

For Jones, being more confident will not just be about running the football. He needs to be better in pass blocking and understanding NFL blitz schemes. There's also the simple stuff, like putting the ball on the ground in a December win over the Bears thinking the play was over. That can't happen.

Jones made rookie mistakes in 2015, and while that's understandable, it can't be the case in his sophomore season if he and the Redskins are to find success in the run game. 

"He just feels more comfortable," McCoy said. "That's a big step, an important step, to that translating to trust on the field."

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 17, 25 days before NFL free agency starts.

The Redskin week that was

My weekly look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics on RealRedskins.com and NBCSportsWashington.com.

An offseason blueprint for the Redskins—Should the Redskins focus their free agency money on keeping their own? In addition to unrestricted free agents Zach Brown and Trent Murphy, they need to consider extensions for Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith, and Jamison Crowder. That could chew up a bunch of the approximately $31 million of cap space that they have. They may get some help on the market but most of their improvement should come from the draft and from within.

Redskins offseason will hit warp speed soon—With the exception of the Alex Smith trade, which actually hasn’t happened yet, there hasn’t been much going on with the Redskins. That is going to change soon, check out the post for the calendar and how the events matter for the Redskins.

No mixed messages from Alex Smith—In a radio interview, Alex Smith said that he was “jacked” to be a part of the Redskins. Now, the phrase often repeated here is that you shouldn’t listen to what they say, you should watch what they do. And the moment that he signs the reported four-year extension that he has negotiated with the team, a deal that likely would put him in Washington for the rest of his career, we will see his actions backing up his words. Then we will know.

What we know, and what we think, of the Su'a Cravens situation—This will be a true test of the acumen of the front office. It’s a very tricky situation. The Redskins have to decide if they want to keep Cravens. Should they decide to keep him, there will be a lot of smoothing over of ruffled feelings that would need to be done over and trust in Cravens would have to be restored. If they don’t want him around, they have to make it look like they are willing to go into the season with him in order to be able to trade him. Otherwise, teams may just wait for them to cut him and sign him as a free agent. Again, don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.

Tweet of the week

Quarterback is not the only NFL position with rising salaries. The players teams hire to try to stop opposing QBs, cornerbacks, are getting expensive, too. Bashaud Breeland is a good cornerback, not a great one. His coverage skills are solid, he’s a good team player (if a bit of a hothead at times) and his work ethic is not questioned. For a fourth-round pick who everybody thought left Clemson a year too early, he has done well for himself But he hasn’t made a Pro Bowl and he hasn’t even come close enough to be considered a snub. Breeland has eight interceptions in four years in the league with a high of three in 2016.

The price tag for good at cornerback is likely to be in the vicinity of $10 million per season. And good for him if he gets it. But with the Redskins employing Josh Norman, who has cap hits in the range of $14.5 million-$16.9 million over the next three years, it would be difficult to fit him in. Truth be told, Breeland has probably been destined to leave as a free agent ever since Norman signed his contract in April of 2016.

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 12
—NFL Draft (4/26) 68
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 204

In case you missed it

  

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Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

The Redskins might try to franchise tag quarterback Kirk Cousins to try to get some compensation for him as he leaves. But Cousins’ camp might not let that happen without a fight.

According to Albert Breer of the MMQB, Cousins might file a grievance if he is tagged, saying that the Redskins would be violating the spirit of the rules regarding the use of the franchise tag. He would be seeking to have the tag voided because the team clearly isn ’t interested in reaching a long-term deal with him given the acquisition of Alex Smith. The tag is supposed to be used to buy time to get an agreement done, not to squat on a player’s rights in order to trade him.

There is precedent for the tag being used in order to facilitate a trade. In 2009, the Patriots tagged quarterback Matt Cassel. They clearly had no intention of keeping him as they had Tom Brady on the roster. But New England pulled it off, shipping Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a second-round pick.

But it is up to the player to object to being tagged and for whatever reason Cassel and his agent went along with the tag and trade rather than fighting for free agency.

It looks like Cousins ’camp won’t go as quietly.

It’s up to the Redskins to make the first move. The window to be able to tag a player opens on Tuesday with the deadline coming on March 6. We will see how things play out after that.

MORE REDSKINS: THE EXPECTATIONS GAME

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