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Need to Know: Can Morris thrive behind Redskins' power blocking?

Need to Know: Can Morris thrive behind Redskins' power blocking?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 17, 13 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

Here are five thoughts on the state of the Redskins with less than two weeks to go until training camp starts.

—I mentioned DeAngelo Hall’s situation in a post yesterday but I though I’d bring up again here to expand on it a bit. Chris Culliver is the top cornerback. Bashaud Breeland is somewhere in the top three and it’s likely that David Amerson is as well. So that leaves Hall as the fourth cornerback. The problem with that is that he is slated to collect a $4 million salary this year. That’s a crazy amount to pay your fourth CB; it doesn’t even make much sense if he’s the third. Add to that the fact that he’s coming off of a double Achilles tear. If he steps on the practice field with that contract and gets reinjured, the Redskins are on the hook for the entire $4 million. We may not see him on the field in Richmond with that same contract still in place.

—The season can’t start soon enough. Why is a conversation that took place two and a half years ago between a fired coach and the current quarterback even remotely interesting to anybody at this point? Yes, I realize that the topic came up in a Robert Griffin III Q&A on the team produced Redskins Nation show. Regardless, the fact that Griffin and Mike Shanahan had very different versions of the same meeting is not exactly surprising. It’s a dynamic that is duplicated in workplaces thousands of times a day. There’s a disagreement and the two principals tell others vastly different versions of how it went down. One person’s contentious argument is the other’s frank and open discussion. Yawn. All that matters is what Griffin does starting in two weeks.

—One of the more under discussed storylines going into the year is how Alfred Morris will perform running behind power blocking. I’ve been reading some evaluations of him that say he’s by far at his best running behind zone blocking. The one-cut style suits him best. Morris didn’t run very well when the Redskins did use power blocking last year, but it’s not like the line gave him any gaping holes that he missed. Now you have a line that is being retooled to an emphasis on the power scheme. How will Morris do quickly hitting the hole? I tend to think he’ll be OK but I can’t dismiss the skeptics until I see it.

—Yesterday morning I saw the wall-to-wall coverage that the NFL Network and ESPN were giving to the Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas contract situations and I was close to tweeting that it was a massive waste of time. I saw very little chance that either would sign a long-term deal. Glad I didn’t hit send on that tweet. Both got deals done within just a couple of hours of the deadline. It was a perfect illustration of the saying that deadlines drive deals.

—I get asked about extensions for Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams all the time. One of the problems in getting these deals done is that there is no deadline; neither player becomes a free agent until March 15, 2016. Until there’s a deadline, the team can focus on what might happen if the player signs a big extension and gets injured or if his level of play declines. The player’s side can worry about signing a deal and then immediately becoming underpaid by having a big season right after signing. As the deadline approaches, those thoughts go away and the consequences of not getting a deal done move come into focus. That pushes the deal to completion. Some deals do get done without a dealing but they tend to be few and far between.

Timeline

—It’s been 201 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 58 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 13; Preseason opener @ Browns 27; final cuts 50

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In case you missed it

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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!