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Jansen at Center a problem of altitude

Jansen at Center a problem of altitude

During last week's OTA's, Joe Bugel said that, as of now, Jon Jansen is the Washington Redskins' #2 center behind Casey Rabach.

"Jon has been a back-up center in college and we have him working at back-up center," Bugel said. "We always want to get the five best guys on the field, so if Rabach got hurt who do you plug in? Right now I'd have to say Jon Jansen."

Casey Rabach had better stay healthy. At best, this is a dubious move, or experiment.

Jansen's college career ended in 1998. He started 50 consecutive games at tackle for Michigan. In his junior and senior years he was the team co-captain. It's possible that he occasionally moved over a couple of slots from time to time and made some snaps in practice. But it's hard to believe that Lloyd Carr couldn't comb through his roster of 85 scholarship players and find a second-string center that would allow his star tackle to focus on playing tackle.

OK, so it may be a stretch to put "college backup center" on Jansen's resume. But he's a pro's pro, right? He can learn a new position, can't he?

Well, nobody has ever accused Todd Wade of being a slacker and he was unable to make the transition from tackle to guard last year. The problem wasn't one of attitude; it was one of altitude. Wade is 6-8 and he literally couldn't fit into the position. His height prevented him from getting the proper leverage to deal with the massive bodies at defensive tackle and it was a hindrance when he attempted to pull.

Jansen is 6-6 and I took a look around to see how his height compares to that of other centers in the league. In the NFC East, Rabach listed at 6-4, the same as Jamaal Jackson of the Eagles and Andre Gurode of Dallas. Shaun O'Hara of the Giants checked in at 6-3.

I kept on checking around the entire NFL. Of the 32 centers who were listed as first string as of the end of last season on NFL.com's depth charts, 28 of them were between 6-2 and 6-4. One, Dominic Raiola of the Lions, is shorter than the standard at 6-1. Three others, Mike Flanagan of the Texans, Jeremy Newberry of the Raiders and John Wade of Tampa Bay, are 6-5.

It can't be a coincidence that 87.5% of the starting centers in the league are within that 3-inch range in height. Obviously, that's the ideal height for working in the middle of the line. It doesn't mean that anyone outside of that range can't perform there, but it tells me that it would be considerably more difficult, especially if one is playing the position on a part-time basis.

What is making Buges and the Redskins consider this option is the numbers game. The team probably will carry nine offensive linemen. The five starters are Jansen, Rabach, Chris Samuels, Pete Kendall, and Randy Thomas. Stephon Heyer, who presumably would step in at right tackle should Jansen have to go snap the ball, is safe. Wade isn't quite as secure, but there are no other tackles on the roster right now.

On the inside, Chad Reinhart, the Redskins' third-round draft pick, would have to fall flat on his face to be left off of the roster. There was talk of him being the backup center, but it seems that they have decided to let him focus on playing guard in hopes that he will be able to step in for Kendall in 2009.

Jason Fabini, who filled in for Thomas at right guard most of last year, is the pre-camp favorite to snag the last OL spot. He is a converted tackle and at 6-7 he's not a good candidate to work at center either.

Rookie free agents Andrew Crummey and Kerry Brown are long shots to make the team. But as 6-5 guards, one or both could make the practice squad and play center on the scout team.

The Redskins could pluck an experienced center off of the waiver wire but that would mean that they would lose depth at other positions.

They could keep 10 offensive linemen but that would hinder depth at other positions. Keep in mind that many teams utilize their long snappers as their backup centers, but Ethan Albright is very much the specialist and he won't be snapping to Jason Campbell.

You would think that the Bugel would have learned from the Wade experiment and that he would shy away from trying to squeeze a tall peg into a short hole.

Again, Redskins fans should be hoping for good health for Casey Rabach.

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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!