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Need to Know: Five Redskins who could have breakout seasons

Need to Know: Five Redskins who could have breakout seasons

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, July 21, 7 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

With the start of training camp a week away, much of the focus is on the newcomers to the Redskins’ roster. But let’s take a look at some players who were around last year but have a chance to break out and perform at a high level in 2015.

DE Chris Baker—This could be a rare case of a player getting moved out of the starting lineup but having his impact grow. The acquisitions of Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea will have Baker starting most games on the bench after he started 12 games last year. But he should still play something close to the 500 snaps he played last year. Joe Barry’s defensive scheme features linemen attacking gaps rather than containing them much of the time. This suits Baker’s style of play much better than a two-gap system.

LG Shawn Lauvao—Just like the one gap will help Baker, power blocking will help Lauvao. That's the scheme he played for four years in Cleveland before coming to the Redskins. He also needs to upgrade his pass protection skills, something that Bill Callahan should be able to help him with. This is probably a make or break year for Lauvao, who is slated to see a salary increase to $4 million next year. If he doesn’t break out this year the Redskins could well go younger and cheaper at right guard in 2016.

CB David Amerson—Was last year a look at the real Amerson or was it just a sophomore slump? I think it’s the latter. The word is that he is taking preparation much more seriously this year and he has the physical tools to be a good cornerback. He will have to battle DeAngelo Hall for playing time but if he spends enough time in the film room he will find his way onto the field.

RB Chris Thompson—There is no doubt that the coaches are intrigued by his speed. They are also wary of his history of problems with staying on the field, stretching back to his days at Florida State. If he stays healthy he will get plenty of chances to show he can be a home run threat. For all the talk of Matt Jones serving as the third-down back Thompson is much more the prototype for that role. He could be all or nothing. If he stays healthy, he should have an impact. If not, the team will gladly keep Silas Redd and Thompson's future would be in doubt.

TE Jordan Reed—He already broke out once, with 45 receptions for 499 yards in nine games as a rookie. Than the injuries hit and he has been struggling to stay on the field and be productive when he is in the lineup. If he learns how to stay healthy—and that is something that can be learned—he become a go-to weapon in the Redskins offense. As with Thompson, it’s all about staying on the field.

Timeline

—It’s been 207 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 52 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 7; Preseason opener @ Browns 21; final cuts 44

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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!