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Reed could help Redskins spring upset

Reed could help Redskins spring upset

Here are five things to watch in the Washington Redskins-Dallas Cowboys matchup plus a prediction.

1. We’ve seen Jordan Reed make some catches (he’s tied for fourth on the team with 13) and score a touchdown (a nice grab in the end zone against the Packers). But we haven’t yet seen the Reed that played at Florida, a tight end who was a threat to take it to the house whenever he got his hands on the ball in space. Given the success that Broncos tight end Julius Thomas had against the Cowboys (9 rec., 122 yds., 2 TD) last Sunday we could see the Redskins try to get Reed untracked by hitting him with some quick slants on the move or with routes down the seam.

2. Prior to last Sunday Tony Romo had passed for over 400 yards four times in his career. The next week he has averaged 265 yards passing with a high of 321 and a low of 218. In those week-after games he threw for an average of two touchdowns and 1.25 interceptions. Dallas went 0-4 in his 400-plus-yard games and 1-3 the game after them. We will see how he follows up his first game with over 500 yards.

3. I’m not going to predict a “breakout” game for Robert Griffin III but someone whose opinion I respect thinks he’s headed in that direction. Evan Silva of Rotoworld posted the following in his fantasy preview of the game:
The Week 5 bye came at a perfect time for Robert Griffin III, a film junkie who undoubtedly pored over his shoddy early-season mechanics during the open date while simultaneously getting further removed from January's knee reconstruction. He's a candidate to take off statistically over the Redskins' final 12 games.
4. Will we see more of Roy Helu Jr.? He played quite a few snaps in the first three games but he only got six touches. That changed against the Raiders when he carried the ball 13 times and had two receptions. And, by the way, the Redskins won. Kyle Shanahan said that he wanted to get Helu the ball more but it’s unlikely that he will want to cut into Alfred Morris’ touches (Morris left the Oakland game early with a rib injury). The key for Helu to get more touches is that the offense needs to sustain drives and then get the ball to Helu in some of the “extra” plays.

5. The defense should vary the looks and the pressure it send on Romo. One snap rush four, the next rush three and drop eight into coverage, and occasionally bring the house and run a cover zero. It’s not like they’re going to confuse the veteran Romo but they could create doubt in the minds of the offensive line. They’re not going to sack Romo a lot but they can keep him off balance enough to force him into some turnovers and other mistakes.

Prediction: I think the Redskins have a real shot at winning this game. They should come in with confidence after beating the Cowboys twice last year. Griffin should come in playing better than he has all year. Still, it’s hard for me to see the Redskins winning this one. I’ll believe their offense can get into gear and score the 30+ point is it likely to take to win this one when they do it.

Cowboys 30, Redskins 27

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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!