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Redskins' RG3 & Cousins grow as rookie QB tandem

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Redskins' RG3 & Cousins grow as rookie QB tandem

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Not-so-breaking news: A rookie will start at quarterback for the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

Be it Robert Griffin III or Kirk Cousins, it will be a rookie who's been a part of a unique situation, part of a tandem that has learned the NFL through an offseason program and training camp specially designed by a coaching staff prepping two quarterbacks new to the league.

All along, the other rookie has been there by his side, at practices and meetings. Someone in the same situation. Someone to bounce ideas off of. Someone to grow with.

``I see him more than I see most anybody in my life,'' Cousins said. ``Because of how many hours we're here, because we're both rookies.''

If two is better than one, then the Redskins (7-6) should be in better shape than most teams turning to a first-year backup should Cousins have to start in place of Griffin against the Cleveland Browns (5-8).

``We've both had to learn a lot when it comes to living the NFL life, so we have done that together,'' Cousins said. ``They've had to install plays with both of us there, rather than being by myself if I was on another team with a veteran quarterback. You don't see it a lot - two rookie quarterbacks at one and two on the depth chart.''

The Redskins traded up to select Griffin at No. 2 overall and anointed him the starter shortly thereafter, while Cousins was chosen in the fourth round - a highly debated pick for a team coming off of a 5-11 season with needs elsewhere.

Yet, even if he does nothing else in 2012, Cousins surely validated the wisdom of his selection with his performance after Griffin was injured in the fourth quarter of the overtime win against the Baltimore Ravens.

Cousins stepped in and went 2 for 2 and ran in the game-tying 2-point conversion in the final minute of regulation of the 31-28 victory.

``It worked out like Coach wanted it to,'' Griffin said. ``You've got two guys coming in, so we're both having to learn the system.''

Griffin sprained a ligament in his right knee in the game and has been limited in practice this week. If he's not ready to go by Sunday, the Redskins like what they have in Cousins.

``You knew exactly how we felt about Robert when we made him the starting quarterback and gave up what we gave up,'' coach Mike Shanahan said. ``You have the opportunity to get a guy like Kirk, we thought that was the best thing for the organization - and I think that's proven out already.''

Cousins beat out veteran Rex Grossman for the No. 2 job during training camp - Grossman has been inactive for every game this season - and saw regular season action for the first time when Griffin suffered a concussion in Week 5. Cousins threw one touchdown pass but also had two fourth-quarter interceptions in the 24-17 loss.

But against the Ravens, Cousins stepped into a high-pressure situation and delivered, rolling right to buy time before hitting Pierre Garcon for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

``I said after the Atlanta game that as much as I hate the result, I would learn from it,'' Cousins said. ``And I think results this past Sunday prove that. I think part of the reason I left the pocket on the touchdown pass was the mistake I made against the Falcons in the second interception.''

Cousins said he received some 140 text messages after the Ravens win and responded to maybe two or three, saying to his brother: ``I went 2 for 2. Let's not get carried away.''

``It's a tough position,'' Cousins said. ``You go 2 for 2 and everybody loves you. If you go 0 for 2, everybody hates you. You say, `It's only two passes. That's not really much of a body of work to make a decision either way.'

``But the position that I'm in, being where I was drafted and the role I have, I'm not going to get a whole season or two seasons to show the NFL what I can do. I'm going to get a half of a game and a preseason game. I'm going to get two throws at the end of a Ravens game, so I have to be willing to accept that.

``It's not ideal. I would have loved to have been the 10th overall pick and have two or three seasons to see what I can or what I can't do, but that's not the luxury I have.''

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."

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Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

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USA TODAY Sports

Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

Ravens football is back and so is Joe Cool.

The team’s first training camp practice took place Thursday afternoon, and Joe Flacco’s teammates – from offensive to defensive players – mentioned how laser focused the 10-year veteran is.

"Joe always has a lot of personality,” running back Alex Collins said via SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown.

“He is a good guy. He’s a real funny guy, but definitely coming into this year, he has a lot of fire behind him. And it does a lot motivating us especially early when we first reported back. Just seeing him work hard and just seeing him get better every day. He’s definitely got a lot of fire behind him this year.”

Flacco is entering the final year of his contract with a lot on the line following a disappointing start to the 2017 season. But a huge factor that is different for the 33-year old coming into this preseason opposed to last is his health.

“Most definitely,” Collins said on whether he can tell if Flacco is healthier this year. “He’s a lot faster as well, by the way, guys.”

And when it comes to the “Is Joe Flacco elite” debate, linebacker C.J. Mosley knows the consensus within the Under Armour Performance Center.

“I think every year [Joe Flacco] comes in with his mindset that he wants to be great,” Mosley said.

“Mainly because everybody outside of this building does not think he is elite and inside the building, everybody does think that way. Since Joe has been here, you know he is one of those players that never gets rattled. You never see his emotions too high, too low. He’s been our quarterback that kinda stays in the middle to make sure everything goes smooth. That’s kinda how he has been this offseason too. He’s come in looking strong, body looking good.”

Flacco’s health is up to speed as well as his mentality. Flacco organized private workouts with his wide receivers and tight ends at a local park across from the Ravens’ facility last week. This is the first time he has done so since 2011. When asked if he initiated the session, Michael Crabtree gave all the credit to his new quarterback.

“No, that’s all Flac [Flacco], man,” Crabtree said. “That’s the leader. We’re just the wideouts. [We] do whatever he says. If we’ve got something we bring to the table, then we make it work.”

 

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