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Practice notes: A limited RG3 still draws cheers

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Practice notes: A limited RG3 still draws cheers

RICHMOND—Here are a few observations on the Redskins’ first full training camp practice on July 25, 2013.

—Per the CBA rules, the Redskins were not in full pads today; those are not permitted until the fourth day of training camp. Some of the players wore shells (light shoulder pads) but for most it was helmets and shorts.

—Robert Griffin III ran onto the field at a pretty fast clip and, of course, the crowd cheered.

—While the players are stretching, we spotted a couple of unfamiliar jerseys. Two players were signed to replace the waived Jordan Bernstine and Devin Holland. The replacements turned out to be CB Ryan Mouton and safety Jose Gumbs. At one point during stretching someone was having Gumbs look at a stack of papers, leading to speculation that he was signing his players contract out on the field

—All quarterbacks took some work making handoffs out of the Pistol formation. It has been said that Eli Manning could run an offense out of the Pistol so there’s no reason why Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman can’t.

—Playing against no defense, Griffin pulled the ball out on a Pistol fake and took off around the left side. He looked pretty confident running and, no surprise here, the crowd cheered.

—Since Griffin is not participating in the full team drills, the individual and position drills are getting much more scrutiny from the media and the fans.

—Griffin’s knee may be hurting but his arm is in fine shape. He tossed a long rainbow to Devery Henderson, who made a nice grab over his head. The Griffin threw a dart to Pierre Garçon on the sideline.

—Chris Thompson was on the field, good news for him. He looks like he has some zip after breaking a few runs into the open.

—During team drills, Cousins tossed up a wounded duck deep. Bacarri Rambo came up with the interception. It was the kind of pass that certainly should have been picked off but the Redskins haven’t always come down with those.

—They did a lot of punting during special teams drills. Back fielding punts were Richard Crawford, Skye Dawson, Nick Williams, and DeAngelo Hall. Crawford is the clear leader to get the job at this point.

—The Redskins had someone using a handheld camera to film the returners catching the ball. The catch is an underrated aspect of the return as a clean catch can get the returner off to a quicker start. Perhaps they are studying this to try to improve technique.

—Griffin looked sharp in seven on seven drills, completing his first four passes before a drop by Garçon. His arm is a lively as ever.

—Garçon extended nicely to grab a pass over the middle and then put on a burst of speed as he turned upfield. It was just a quick glimpse of why the Redskins were 9-1 with him in the lineup.

—Update: Santana Moss joined the punt returners during the second round of punting practice.

—The second-team offensive line from left to right was Xavier Nixon, Josh LeRibeus, Kevin Matthews, Adam Gettis, and Tony Pashos. I was wondering where Tom Compton was until I saw him lining up with the first team at left tackle for a few series.

—If you come to training camp, it is likely that you will be disappointed by the running game. It just isn’t going to look sharp. That’s because the zone scheme relies on the offensive linemen throwing cut blocks on the backside. They aren’t going to do that to their teammates in practice so the pursuit is going to clog up the running game. The result is an ugly running game in practice.

—The highlight play came on a long bomb to Aldrick Robinson. DeAngelo Hall was right with him until the receiver shoved him away with two hands and made the catch. Hall was not happy but he just jogged back to the line. You have to think that there will be some retaliation coming from Hall at some point. Best served cold, as they they.

—Niles Paul knows that he has to catch the ball if he’s going to get snaps at tight end. He made a couple of lunging grabs towards the end of practice, it appears that he has been practicing.

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 24, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 41
—NFL Draft (4/26) 92
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 228

Fan questions—Surprise cuts, finding a playmaker

I put out a call for questions on social media and I got so many good ones that I’m splitting them up. Here are Facebook questions today and I’ll hit the best Twitter questions later this week.

 

Spencer Long could be gone but he is a free agent, so he could not be cut. As far as players under contract, a lot will depend on who they draft and sign in free agency. If they go heavy on the defensive line, Ziggy Hood and Terrell McClain could be in danger of being cut. An influx of defensive back might have Josh Holsey and Deshazor Everett headed out of town.

There won’t be any cuts that save a major amount of cap space. Thek players with the top 15 cap numbers per Over the Cap are all vital to the operation with the possible aforementioned exception of McClain.

The rub is that if you want an instant “bona fide” playmaker you are going to have to invest either a lot of cap dollars or high draft pick. They have invested cap dollars in Reed and, to a lesser extent, Thompson and a No. 1 draft pick in Reed. The plan needs to be to make sure that Reed stays healthy (as best you can) and hope you get 12-14 productive games out of him, get Thompson back in the swing of things, and continue to work with Doctson. Perhaps they can get a mid-round find like the Saints did with Kamara to add to the mix. But for the most part, the Redskins will have to make do with what they have.

The way things stand right now, I’m seeing Vea regarded as more of a late first-round pick than a player who should go in the top half of the round. That could change as the draft process goes on. I think the Redskins need to continue to strengthen their defensive line and if Vea moves up to a high first-round grade or slides to a second they should take a long look at him.

The player I’m keeping my eye on is Jordan Matthews, who spent three years with the Eagles before being trade to Buffalo. He had over 800 yards receiving in each of his three seasons in Philly before a knee injury hampered him last year. He’s 6-3 and still young (26 in Week 1). Sammy Watkins of the Rams is intriguing but he had just 593 receiving yards in 15 games in a Sean McVay’s very productive offense. An older but less expensive option might be Eric Decker of the Titans, who had just 30 fewer receiving yards than Watkins and would be much a much less expensive acquisition albeit as a stopgap.

I see them addressing other needs in the first round. That could change if there is someone there who is just too good to pass up.

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

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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. 

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