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For starters, first team offense will play

For starters, first team offense will play

As you probably have read, Jim Zorn has decided to play the offensive starters for a series or two tonight in the Washington Redskins' preseason finale.

The players, by all reports, are all in favor of getting out there to play the kinks out of their game, even if they will be facing the Jags' second-team defense. Even Clinton Portis, who regards preseason game with great distain, showed a willingness to go out there (although not a great degree of enthusiasm.

"Being that I have to play, and it's not my choice," Portis said, "I can't do nothing but be excited about it."

Zorn's has created a minor stir out there. Mosley on the ESPN blog thinks it's a major mistake, but for the wrong reason. He thinks that Zorn is playing his first team for around a dozen plays in an effort to win the game. Of course, that's ridiculous. Zorn is playing the starters because they stunk up Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte last Saturday and what was supposed to be their final tuneup turned out to be a confidence-killing cluster, uh, bomb.

I'm not quite sure where the "tradition" of having your team's final tuneup come two weeks before the first game originated. It really doesn't make any sense when you think about it. Why get the machine running just right facing live action and then shut it down for two weeks?

In any case, those guys need to get back out there and run something resembling an NFL offense. Yes, there is a small risk of sustaining an injury to a starter during those 12 plays, but it's small enough to make it worth the risk.

I like the fact that Zorn doesn't feel bound by this "tradition".

A few other notes about tonight's game:

  • Cornerback Byron Westbrook has been a longshot to make the team all along. The odds against him are now even longer. He sat at my table at the Redskins Welcome Home Luncheon yesterday and he told me that he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Panthers and that he's unlikely to play against Jacksonville.
  • With the release of Matt Sinclair, the chances of linebacker Alfred Fincher making the team as a reserve linebacker increased greatly. However, he'll still have to prove himself tonight. The Skins could scan the waiver wire and pick up a veteran reserve if they're not wild about what they see from Fincher tonight.
  • Fincher should get plenty of action as the defensive starters are not expected to take the field. All this for $100 and more a ticket.
  • The punt-off between Derrick Frost and Durant Brooks will come down to tonight as the two will alternate kicks. It says here that a tie goes to Frost as Shaun Suisham seems to prefer the veteran as his holder.
  • Don't forget to join in on the blog tonight, live from FedEx Field. You'll have a chance to participate in the beta of the Virtual Locker Room, which will give you a chance to ask questions of the players and of Jim Zorn after the game.

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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. 


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!