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Could the Redskins land DL Robert Nkemdiche in the second round (or later)?

Could the Redskins land DL Robert Nkemdiche in the second round (or later)?

It’s not a secret that the Redskins would like to land a big defensive lineman, maybe two of them, in the upcoming NFL draft. One of the linemen they interviewed during the scouting combine was Ole Miss tackle Robert Nkemdiche. We don’t know how that particular interview went but Nkemdiche did not impress every general manager he talked to.

You didn’t need to be in one of the private interview rooms in Indianapolis to hear him say some alarming things; he said plenty during his scheduled session at the podium with the media. One was about his play on the field:

“There are times I didn’t finish,” he said to the media at the combine. “I was lazy on some plays at times, but I told them I’m going to keep growing as a player.”

The honesty was refreshing but admission was startling. He’s not the first college player who underutilized great physical tools; indeed, the player with a “high motor” is more the exception rather than the rule. But Nkemdiche’s low level of production at Mississippi was suspect given his native ability so the open admission of the “lazy” characteristic is a red flag.

Nkemdiche’s account of an incident in an Atlanta hotel last December raised some eyebrows as well. He was arrested for marijuana possession after he fell out of a window in the hotel. That prompted the Rebels to suspend him for their bowl game.

He did take some responsibility for what happened, saying he was drunk when he fell out of the window. But he denied that the marijuana in the hotel room was his.

“There were more people in my room,” he said. “The hotel was under my name. Nobody wanted to take the fall. It had to go under my name. It just happened to play out like that.”

He even named names, saying that Ole Miss teammate Laremy Tunsil, the offensive tackle who is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick, was in the room when it happened.

The performance at the podium, along with the game tape, did not impress NFL scouts and general managers. There is talk that Nkemdiche could take another fall, this one perhaps worse than the one he took in Atlanta. He could start to fall in the draft.

Here is where things could get interesting for McCloughan and the Redskins. Suppose Nkemdiche is still there when their pick rolls around in the second round? Or even the third? While the organization stayed away from players with character questions in the draft last year, at some point the upside of the talent could outweigh the character risk.

For McCloughan, events like the incident in the Atlanta hotel and the player’s performance on the podium in Indianapolis won’t decide whether or not he will consider Nkemdiche at any point in the draft. That decision will be made by the game tape and by a deeper look into Nkemdiche’s background.

If he is somewhere on the Redskins’ board, there could come a point in the draft where the talent of the player and the need at the position makes him too much of a value to pass up.

Sometimes teams are rewarded for taking character risks in the draft. The Bengals have gotten good play, including a Pro Bowl appearance, out of Vontaze Burfict, who went undrafted out of Arizona State due to numerous red flags. But the Cowboys took a chance on Randy Gregory last year and he is going to be suspended for the first four games of 2016 due to multiple failed drug tests.

I suspect that the Redskins aren’t in the position to gamble with a pick in the first three rounds of the draft. But at some point, a player’s talent could make the risk worth the reward.

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was 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. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!