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Need to Know: How significant is Redskins rookie camp?

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Need to Know: How significant is Redskins rookie camp?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 15, nine days before the Washington Redskins start OTAs.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 126 days ago. It will be 120 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: OTAs start 9; Redskins training camp starts 74; Preseason opener @ Falcons 89

Hot topics

—I enjoyed having a discussion with JP and Tarik about the Redskins the other day. One of the things we hit on was the popular perception that Kirk Cousins was bad in the first half of the season. I say it was more like six and a half games, up until halftime of the Bucs game in Week 7. And even during his “bad” stretch he completed 85 percent of his passes against the Rams and led a late drive for a comeback win over the Eagles. He’s far from elite but 75% of the QBs in the league would love to have the numbers Cousins put up in, say, the Jets game as their worst performance of the year.

—Cousins’ passer rating in that game was 57.9, his lowest of the season. In the 2015 regular and post season quarterbacks threw at least 20 passes in a game and had a passer rating of lower than 57.9 a total of 41 times. Among them were Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Joe Flacco. Passer rating is not the end all of rating quarterbacks' performances but it is at least an indicator.

—I enjoy watching rookie minicamp but it’s hard to determine a whole lot from practices like these. It’s not so much that they are rookies, although the presence of the tryout players can muddle what things look like. It more that they are practicing in helmets and shorts. In case you’re wondering, that’s not football. It’s particularly hard to figure out what the capabilities of linemen are on both sides of the ball. And, really, how much can you tell about a running back if you can’t see how he reacts to contact? You get the idea. I was there, I observed and passed along some of my observations but don’t look for any sort of lasting significance.

—So you get down to stuff like this at rookie minicamp. I’m not taking a shot at my CSN Philly colleague John Clark here because four years ago I was there along with the rest of the DC media, hyperventilating over virtually every move made by the new rookie QB, also the second overall pick in the draft. But there is really nothing remarkable about Carson Wentz dodging “pressure” from one assistant coach and throwing to another assistant coach who is standing still.

Again, I'm not taking a shot here. I could well post a video of Josh Doctson making a nice catch against a defender who has zero chance of making the roster even for training camp. It's fun, it's harmless, but don't read too much into it.

—How good can Morgan Moses be? Perhaps he can be a test case for the importance of the offseason program. Last year he didn’t participate at all after suffering a Lisfranc injury near the end of his rookie 2014 season. A week into camp he was inserted into the starting job when they moved Brandon Scherff to guard. Moses was solid in run blocking, although like everyone on that unit he needs to get better. Per Pro Football Focus nobody on the team gave up more than the five sacks Moses was charged with. He did improve as the year went on, however, giving up four in the first 10 games and only one in the last six. Will he be better in 2016 after a full, healthy offseason? We will find out.

 

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!