Redskins

Broncos stay bland but focused

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Broncos stay bland but focused

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) They are 16-point favorites against a team tied for the worst record in the league. With each and every victory over the span of a 10-game winning streak, their once-narrow path to the Super Bowl has grown as wide as an eight-lane highway.

But think you'll catch the Denver Broncos looking past the Kansas City Chiefs this week? Don't bet on it.

If the Broncos have taken even a moment to think ``big picture'' this season - or think about anything beyond their next opponent - they've done a great job hiding it.

``As soon as you start thinking about the Super Bowl, you get beat so fast and you're going to be back at home before you know it,'' free safety Rahim Moore said.

From the free safety to the head coach to Peyton Manning to the 53rd man on the roster, this has been the theme all year - think about next Sunday, think about getting better every week, and let the future take care of itself.

Boring? Yes.

Predictable? Absolutely.

Effective? You bet.

And nobody has stuck to the script better in 2012 than the Denver Broncos.

``We're focused on trying to get better,'' Manning said. ``I think we've done a good job with that all season, just taking it one week at a time. I know it's a boring cliche, but I think coach (John) Fox has preached it. I think our team has bought into it, and I feel like we'll do the same this week.''

Whether they acknowledge it or not, the playoff picture has been looking prettier every week for the Broncos (12-3). By topping Kansas City and extending their winning streak to 11, which would be the second longest in franchise history, they would wrap up a first-round bye. If they win and the Houston Texans lose to Indianapolis, the Broncos would be the top-seeded team in the AFC.

The experts in Las Vegas aren't even waiting for Sunday's game to express their feelings.

The Broncos, at 4-1, are now the favorite to win the Super Bowl, followed by New England at 5-1 and Green Bay at 6-1.

They have come by that status honestly, winning their last 10 games by an average score of 31-17 and making most of those wins as predictable as the well-worn quotes about taking things one game at a time that they serve up on a daily basis.

``I grew up around San Diego and went to the horse track a lot,'' Fox said. ``There were a lot of favorites and it didn't work out that way a lot of times. You've got to earn this between the lines and it won't affect our attitude or mindset moving forward.''

Now, just because they don't get ahead of themselves this isn't to say the Broncos are completely devoid of personality.

Manning has a wry sense of humor and, when he's up to it, can be introspective; last Sunday he spoke in depth about his comeback road this season, insisting that despite the year he's having, he is not the same as he was in his prime.

Von Miller likes to dance after his sacks - all 17 1/2 of them.

Champ Bailey is almost always as thoughtful during an interview as he is good in one-on-one coverage.

Maybe it's because of well-respected, focused leaders such as Manning and Bailey that there are no troublemakers in the locker room, nobody serving up bulletin-board material and, for the most part, no complainers, save cornerback Tracy Porter, whose tweets about lack of playing time earlier this month were quickly and quietly tamped down by the team.

All of which keeps the focus on football, and the Broncos are perfecting the art of the easy win.

Home or road, tough opponent or not, Denver's wins have looked very similar week after week: They take a two- or three-touchdown lead and coast to a relatively easy win, yet still sprinkle in enough mistakes to keep the day-after film session interesting.

Bugaboos from last week's 34-12 win over Cleveland: Penalties. The Broncos committed 11 of them, a season high. Ball security. Broncos punt returners Trindon Holliday and Jim Leonhard bobbled one ball apiece but didn't lose either. Interceptions. Bad communication between Manning and Knowshon Moreno caused a second-quarter turnover against Cleveland - Denver's first inside the opponent's 10-yard line this season.

``You get concerned with everything,'' Fox said. ``The bottom line, as I mentioned yesterday, it's all about winning. You strive for perfection but they're never perfect.''

Even while he's having what will, statistically, wind up as one of his top three seasons as a pro - 103.7 passer rating, 34 touchdown passes and 4,355 yards - Manning never walks off the field satisfied. That sets the tone for the entire team.

``I think we've made some strides each week,'' he said. ``I still have to admit that it's not going to be an offense that's been together for five years. It's not going to look like that because we haven't. We've only been together for however many weeks, so we've tried to improve each week, but a lot of things just take time. We're trying to do the best we can in this limited amount of time.''

So far, that's been very good.

Lest the Broncos get complacent, especially with what looks like an overmatched opponent coming into Denver on Sunday, Fox can always pull out a number of well-worn bromides to keep his players' attention.

-''On any given Sunday.'' (Yes, he really says that.)

-''The other team gets paid, too.'' (A ready-made answer for any of Denver's shortcomings, which were more pronounced when the Broncos were 2-3 earlier this season.)

-''We don't look at the record, we look at the tape.'' (An easy one this week, because Kansas City's 2-13 record looks much less impressive than its toughly fought 17-9 loss to Denver did last month.)

``Does that translate to wins?'' Fox said of his way of keeping the players focused on the task at hand. ``Well, it has for us lately, and we'll see next week.''

NOTES: KR Holliday (ankle), CB Porter and OL Chris Kuper (ankle, headaches) all missed practice Wednesday. ... Fox is going for his 100th win as a head coach in what will be his 500th overall game as a college and NFL coach. ... RB Knowshon Moreno is averaging 3.9 yards a carry on 124 carries this season and the Broncos are ranked 25th in the league in average yards per rushing attempt.

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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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