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Need to Know: Redskins seem confident in Matt Jones as the No. 1 back

Need to Know: Redskins seem confident in Matt Jones as the No. 1 back

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 21, 38 days before the NFL Draft.

Offseason thoughts: Redskins seem confident in Matt Jones as the No. 1 back

—There seems to be a lot of confidence in Matt Jones to be the replacement for Morris as the “lead dog” running back. Scot McCloughan allowed the top backs like Matt Forte and Lamar Miller (and their high price tags) to fly off of the board early and he has yet to do any serious bargain hunting among the ones who are left. They aren’t going to hand Jones the job but Jay Gruden and McCloughan believe that he can earn. That doesn’t mean that if a running back is the best player available in the first two rounds that McCloughan won’t pull the trigger. But for right now it looks like a later-round pick and/or a veteran picked up just before or just after the draft will provide the competition.

—Something that Chris Cooley said about a departing Redskin didn’t get the attention that what he said about Robert Griffin III got. However, what he said about Alfred Morris on ESPN 980 was pretty harsh as well. “He played in 2015 so hesitant, so tentatively, and without confidence and without the burst he had in the past . . . that you had to say ‘he’s not our guy’” said the former tight end. This jibes with the observations of many, including me. Morris just didn’t have the ability to make the first tackler miss and without that he is a very ordinary running back.

—Yesterday I wrote about the key Redskins who will be free agents in 2017 and WR Pierre Garçon was one of them. It is still possible that he could sign an extension sometime before the season starts, a move that could reduce his cap number this year and keep him in the building for 2017 and possibly 2018. They could create some cap room by reducing his $10.2 million charge in the process although as noted in the same post they don’t seem very anxious. It’s really a question of if they want to ensure that he will be around and if he wants to stay.

—They could also keep DeSean Jackson, also a free agent in 2017, beyond this season but I don’t see a contract being done prior to next year. If Jackson, who turns 30 late in the season, becomes more serious about preparing for the grind of 16 games they might consider keeping him around. Receivers who remain effective into their 30’s are the ones who spend their offseasons preparing. If we see a repeat of last year, with Jackson skipping OTAs and then missing a big chunk of training camp and all of the preseason games with a mild shoulder injury, the interest in bringing him back will be low.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 71 days ago. It will be about 174 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 28; 2016 NFL draft 38; Redskins training camp starts 129

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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!