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Jones changes grip, learns from Kirk to cure his fumble-itis

Jones changes grip, learns from Kirk to cure his fumble-itis

As a rookie with the 2015 Redskins, Matt Jones caught something that can be devastating for an NFL running back's job security: A case of fumble-itis. 

The third-rounder out of Florida put the ball on the ground five times in his first year in the league, with four resulting in turnovers. That type of illness, if not cured quickly, could cause Jones to fall out of favor in the future with coaches and teammates in a sport where possession is precious.

With that in mind, the 23-year-old admits he has altered the grip he uses when the pigskin is under his arms, and so far, he's encouraged by his progress.

"I feel like I was holding the ball wrong, and it was, like, loose, like how I did in college," Jones said after Wednesday's OTA session in Ashburn. "I hold it in a different kind of way now, it's like nobody can get me. I feel very confident out there.

"I got so much better at it that it's crazy," he added. "I love being out here with the ball each and every day."

For the massive back (when lined up next to teammate Chris Thompson, Jones is a full head taller), developing a close, trusting relationship with the rock is paramount. As the situation stands now, he is the primary guy at the position, meaning he'll be called on a lot in 2016 to churn up yards and make up the balance in what should be a prolific passing offense.


Interestingly enough, it's the leader of that passing offense whom Jones wants to be in the company of — and as much as possible.

"I get around Kirk, because he teaches me how to be a number one," he said. "He's out here each and every day. He's talking more. He's involved in stuff more. I really would like to be around Kirk more than I was last year. I like getting better with him."

Speaking of getting better, Jones has other facets of his game that he wants to pay attention to (one symptom of fumble-itis is that it often masks other things, both positive and negative). Also on that list includes attacking the line of scrimmage in a way that's more advantageous to him — and more harmful to those trying to stop him.

"Something I definitely could work on... I call 'leveling off,'" he said. "Getting downhill faster, not delaying runs and waiting on the cut to happen. Last year, when I was running [sideways], it was kind of easy for them to tackle me, but this year I want to get my shoulders square. I feel comfortable running that way too."

That word — comfortable — could be the word that matters most for Jones in year two: Comfortable being first on the depth chart, comfortable protecting the ball in the middle of a defense and comfortable enough to play all 16 weeks (he missed three contests a year ago).

If he can cross off those items, then the Burgundy and Gold will be equipped with a talented, more experienced threat, and one that they trust more than they did in the past. But if not, then Scot McCloughan and Jay Gruden may feel the pressure to bring in veteran help, and thus relegate him to the similar, lesser role he was featured in as a first-year pro.

To put it simply: The job is in his hands. Will he fumble it away?


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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

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


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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 18, 39 days before the NFL draft.  

Looking at next year’s free agents

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens.

Note: I’m not including Brandon Scherff here because the team has a fifth-year option on him that they surely will activate before the May 2 deadline.

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard).

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility.

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon.

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup.

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight.

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019.

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

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Regarding the reported visit of defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins with the Redskins:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 29
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 131
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 175

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