Redskins

Beck: Huskers to be in trouble if heads not right

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Beck: Huskers to be in trouble if heads not right

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska is still smarting from that 39-point loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, and few people outside the state believe the No. 23 Cornhuskers are capable of beating sixth-ranked Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.

The challenge for Bo Pelini and his coaches between now and Jan. 1 is to make sure the players have moved on emotionally.

``If we have a hangover,'' offensive coordinator Tim Beck said, ``it's going to get ugly.''

The Huskers (10-3) have begun preparing in earnest for the Bulldogs (11-2) after going through short workouts last week. The players will be dismissed for Christmas on Thursday. They'll return to Lincoln next Wednesday and travel that afternoon to Orlando, Fla.

``I guess we treat this like the Rose Bowl game that we should have gone to, and I'm still frustrated about that,'' quarterback Taylor Martinez said.

Beck described himself and the rest of the team as ``shell-shocked'' in the days following the 70-31 beating by the Badgers. Yet the mood was light after Tuesday's practice. Players yukked it up with each other as they walked off the field, and defensive end Eric Martin clowned around with Martinez while the quarterback was speaking with reporters.

Martinez said he doesn't think the meltdown against Wisconsin will carry over to the bowl.

Running back Ameer Abdullah lamented the lost opportunity.

``It hurt,'' he said. ``We worked so hard, with all the comeback victories, but you have to have short-term memory. The season isn't over. We can't drag that same attitude into the bowl game. We have to get our spirits back up and practice hard.''

Georgia is the highest-ranked bowl opponent since the Huskers took on top-ranked Miami in the Rose Bowl game that decided the 2001 national championship. The Huskers are 10-point underdogs.

The Bulldogs have a three-year starter in quarterback Aaron Murray, who ranks second nationally in pass efficiency, and the powerful freshman running-back combination of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Gurley leads all freshman rushers with 1,260 yards, and the 5-11, 216-pound Marshall has run for 723 yards.

Georgia allowed 10 or fewer points in five games and features the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year in outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who leads the Bulldogs with 12.5 sacks despite missing two games.

Asked what scares him about Georgia's defense, Martinez said, ``Nothing. They're like any other Big Ten defense. Big Ten defenses are the best in the country, and we're going up against a good Georgia defense. We have to look at it like that.''

Beck said the Bulldogs' defense is ``too big and too athletic'' to compare with any in the Big Ten.

``They're an Oklahoma, a Texas, a South Carolina,'' Beck said. ``They do a lot of different things. They run around and make plays all over the place.''

Georgia narrowly missed a chance to play for the national championship, losing 32-28 to Alabama in the SEC title game.

The Huskers, however, aren't buying into the hype of the SEC, which has won six straight national titles.

``It doesn't matter what conference they come from,'' Abdullah said. ``There are a lot of good teams around the country. It's not just because they come from the SEC that they hold some special powers.''

It's the second straight season Nebraska has played in the Capital One against an SEC team. Last January the Huskers lost 30-13 to South Carolina after a second-half implosion.

Nebraska is playing for its first 11-win season since 2001 and the 13th in program history. The Huskers have never lost fewer than four games under Pelini, who's in his fifth season. A win over the Bulldogs would create a positive vibe for Nebraska as it goes into next season. Significant starting experience will return at eight positions on offense and at five on defense.

``11-3 sounds a heck of a lot better than 10-4,'' Abdullah said.

Beck said the bowl can cushion the blow of the Wisconsin debacle. He said the players and coaches prepared for Badgers as well as they did for any opponent.

``Why did it turn out that way? It wasn't our night,'' Beck said. ``As bad as it stings and as bad as I know they're not that much better than we are, points-wise, it's over. You've got to move on. There are a lot of great things these guys have done in this program, a lot of great things happened this year, and one game isn't going to define it for me and for them.''

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10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No rookie draft pick excited the Redskins fan base like Derrius Guice since Robert Griffin III came to Washington back in 2012. That's a fact. 

Guice slipped during the draft to near the end of the second round, a position much too late for a player with his talent. Rumors emerged that he had character issues, but in the months since April's selection, they seem unfounded. In quick time, Guice has emerged as a Redskins fan favorite and has performed plenty of charitable acts.

So, moving past the erroneous off-field questions, it's time to manage expectations for what Guice can do on the field. 

DJ Swearinger recently said he expects Guice to make the Pro Bowl and rush for more than 1,000 yards. As a rookie. (Listen here)

That's not unheard of, last year rookie Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rush yards. In 2016, Ezekiel Elliott did the same thing. Rookie running backs can step in and produce right away in the NFL, unlike some positions that usually bring more of a learning curve. 

Can Guice do that?

The first and most important questions will be health and durability. Guice dealt with lingering knee injuries last year at LSU, and the Redskins will need him fully healthy. A 1,000-yard season is not unrealistic if Guice plays a full 16-game season. It would require rushing for about 65 yards-per-game. 

The bigger key is opportunities. 

How many carries will Guice log in 2018? Early on in the season, Guice might still be learning pass protection in the Redskins scheme, and Jay Gruden will not tolerate missed assignments that result in big hits on QB Alex Smith.

If Guice can lock in on blitz pickup, 200 carries seems reasonable. Remember that Chris Thompson will still be a featured part of the Redskins offense, and Rob Kelley will get chances too. 

Last season, Samaje Perine led all rushers with 175 carries. He didn't do much with the chances, averaging just 3.4 yards-per-carry. Kelley had 62 carries before injuries shut his season down after parts of seven games. 

Combine Perine and Kelley's carries, and then things start to get interesting. With 230 carries, at an average of 4 yards a pop, Guice starts to approach 1,000 yards.

One problem with extrapolating too much data from last season is the crazy amount of variables. Late in the year, with Perine largely ineffective and a very beat up offensive line, the Redskins simply couldn't produce on the ground. In their last five games of 2017, the Redskins never rushed for more than 100 yards. They averaged just 60 yards-per-game on the ground during that stretch, including a season low 31 rush yards against Arizona in December. 

The line can't be that beat up again, right?

Guice has to be able to deliver more than Perine, right?

If the answers to those questions are yes, then a 1,000-yard season seems possible for Guice in 2018. 

One misnomer from the Redskins 2017 campaign emerged that Washington simply did not run the ball well or enough. In fact, early in the year when the Redskins looked like a possible playoff team, they ran the ball quite well. In three of the first four games, Washington went over 100 yards on the ground, including 229 rush yards in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Guice might get to 1,000 yards in 2018. It's no sure thing, and there are plenty of variables, but it's possible. That hasn't happened in Washington since Alfred Morris, and would be a very welcome sight. 

The rookie runner has invigorated the Redskins faithful, and that's before he even steps on the field. If Guice can produce, the fans will go crazy.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 21, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

How the addition of Alexander affects the Redskins' DB depth chart—Adonis Alexander was brought into the NFL about a week and a half ago and in five days he’ll be on the practice field in Richmond. How much will missing OTAs and minicamp hurt him in comparison to, say, his former Hokie teammate Greg Stroman? I think that the plan is for this to be a “redshirt” year for Alexander to learn. But that was supposed to be the plan for Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chase Roullier last year and both ended up playing key snaps. 

Can the Redskins defensive line live up to its potential? Many NFL fans don’t appreciate the value of having a good defensive line. Redskins fans are not in that group because they have seen what you get when you try to build a defensive line with over-the-hill veteran free agents, low draft picks, and undrafted players. Fans will value the talent, youth, and depth on the 2018 D-line.  

10 Questions in 10 days: LB depth chart—This is another area where the Redskins have not invested much in recent seasons. At least this year they stepped up and re-signed starters Mason Foster and Zach Brown. They are the present. Are Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Harvey-Clemons the future? 

The pass rush must continue to be a strength for the Redskins—With the picture at the cornerback position is somewhat murky right now, the pass rush will be critical, especially in the early going. The outside linebackers lost a key reserve, putting the burden on Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan to continue to get pressure on Ryan Anderson to take a leap forward in his second season. 

Tweet of the week

Well, this tweet did sort of stir things up as did some of the things that Cousins said in an article by Dan Pompei on the Bleacher Report. The thing about Twitter is that there is no room for nuance. I was labeled a Kirk “hater” by some. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. On multiple occasions, I urged the team to sign him long term and highlighted the positive aspects of his play. 

But this thing about not having a “platform” to lead always struck me as a cop-out. Cousins talked about it during some press conferences while he was here. The length of your contract should not prevent you from embracing a leadership role. You’re getting paid to lead, just do it. Few in leadership positions in business or in the military know where they will be a year from now. They embrace the role while they have it and Cousins should have done the same. 

The fact that I don’t like this one aspect of Cousins doesn’t mean that I don’t like him overall. He’s a good quarterback and I think he will have success with the Vikings. I think that the price got to be too much for the Redskins and the decision to move on to Alex Smith was sound or at least the best they could do after it became apparent that he was not going to sign here. But it’s not all one or the other. It is possible to see the positive and negative of Cousins. 

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

Timeline

Mike Sellers, whose seven receiving touchdowns in 2005 were the most by a Redskins running back since the merger, was born on this date in 1975.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 5
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 19
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 42

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 50 days. 

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