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Redskins practice report, Day 9: Scrambling at cornerback

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Redskins practice report, Day 9: Scrambling at cornerback

RICHMOND—Rain was a constant threat as the Texans returned for the second of three practice sessions against the Redskins. Here are my observations from the practice:

—There were officials present again today, the crew led by referee Walt Coleman. I’m not sure why teams don’t bring in refs for every day of training camp, at least a small crew and even college refs could help call offside, catch/no catch, etc.

—The teams started off with a long session of special teams work. Although it’s boring to watch since they only go about 70 percent to practice the kicking game, the Redskins certainly need the work.

—Matt Jones is a north-south runner. He’ll go at an angle to get to the hole and once he does it’s straight towards the goal line. The rookie went around left end on one play and as soon as he got in the clear he immediately headed straight up the field.

—Brandon Scherff had some tough moments going up against J.J. Watt. But on one play Scherff got proper position on the defender and cleared him out of the hole. That is how you have to try to control a player like Watt. You aren’t going to out muscle him.

—Rookie wide receiver Quinton Dunbar changed from a white jersey to a burgundy jersey, indicating a switch from offense to defense. He lined up there all day and did a credible job. At 6-2, he has the length they like at the position but at 201 pounds he look a bit fragile out there. But they needed the help and Dunbar stepped up and provided it. He’s still a long shot to make the team but the more he can do, the better his chances will be of eventually hanging on.

—The Redskins’ top four cornerbacks were out so Dunbar and others had to try to hang on against the Texans passing attack. On one play Houston wide receiver E. Z. Nwachukwu easily beat Deshazor Everett deep but quarterback Ryan Mallett overthrew him.

—Among others working at cornerback were Tajh Hasson, Dunbar, Trey Wolfe, Justin Rogers, and DreQuan Hoskey.

—With the Redskins’ weakened secondary, the Houston offense looked pretty good. It resembles the scheme used by the Patriots, where Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was the offensive coordinator. It’s about quick, accurate passing. The pass rush is going to be the strength of the Redskins’ pass defense and the quick throws help to negate that. Of course, when it’s Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett executing the offense and not Tom Brady, it doesn’t work with quite the same devastating precision.

—Mallett and Hoyer are splitting first-team snaps and competing for the starting quarterback job. Based on the limited snaps I’ve seen, I think Hoyer would be the better choice. But unlike some in the New England media did last year, I’m not going to declare who the starter should be based on a very limited sample size of what they have done during the offseason.

—Working off to the side at the beginning of practice were Logan Paulsen (toe), Preston Smith (groin), Trevardo Williams (hamstring) and David Amerson (shoulder). During the course of practice, Stephen Paea (groin) and Frank Kearse (knee) joined them on the sideline.

—Robert Griffin III was up and down during the course of the day. He had a rough time on one particular series when nearly every snap he either was pressure or didn’t have anyone open. The good thing was that he didn’t panic and try to force the ball into too small a space. He threw it away when he had issues.

—Hoyer went back to pass and quickly was swarmed by the defense. The defense didn’t hit him, of course, and he managed to flip a pass to a back. He turned and looked at O’Brien, seemingly pleading with the coach to count the completion. O’Brien was having none of it. “There’s no [expletive] way you got that off,” he said.

—Safety DaMon Cromartie-Smith was playing deep middle when third-string quarterback Tom Savage either severely overthrew a pass or threw it into a deep area thinking a receiver was going to be there. Cromartie-Smith ran up and made a diving interception.

—The second team offensive line was, from left to right, Willie Smith, Arie Kouandjio, Josh LeRibeus, Spencer Long, and Tom Compton.

—Kirk Cousins started off a series with a fumbled snap and then had a pass batted away.

—The play of the day from the Redskins standpoint came when rookie running back Matt Jones took a handoff and headed down the left sideline. Texans rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson tried to get in his way. But Jones is about three inches taller and 45 pounds heavier than Johnson. Jones easily won the collision and mowed over the cornerback. That drew hoots and hollers from the players on the sideline, both offensive and defensive.

—In goal to go sets just before the end of practice, both the Redskins’ first- and second-team offenses scored touchdowns. Griffin threw a nice fade to Pierre Garçon in the corner and the official on the spot signaled a completion and a touchdown. Then Colt McCoy mishandled a shotgun snap but recovered, scrambled, and threw to Evan Spencer just over the goal line.

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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!