Redskins

Jones, Cobb filling in nicely for injured Jennings

Jones, Cobb filling in nicely for injured Jennings

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Packers wide receivers know from the minute they arrive in Green Bay they're not going to have as many catches as they might somewhere else, or match the dizzying numbers some of their rivals put up.

They also know Aaron Rodgers will make sure their chance eventually comes. When it does, they better make the most of it.

``Any given Sunday, it could be your day,'' James Jones said. ``You've just got to make sure you stay ready mentally, knowing Aaron's going to throw it to the open guys. When you get a chance, make the most of your chances.''

Jones and Randall Cobb have been doing just that. With Greg Jennings slowed much of the season by a groin injury - he's been inactive the past two games and had only one catch the week before that - Jones and Cobb have stepped up to help fill the void.

Jones caught two touchdowns last week in Houston, joining Don Hutson as the only Packers players to have two TD receptions in three straight games. He leads the NFL with seven touchdowns, already matching his total from all of last season.

Cobb, in his second year, had his first 100-yard receiving game against the Texans, and has had seven catches in two of the past three games.

``I think all of us, as a group, we know what Greg brings to the table. With him being out, we all know that we have to go in and do what we have to do,'' Cobb said. ``We have to take care of our job and, when the opportunity is there, we have to make the plays for our quarterback and for this team.''

It's a mentality the Packers demand, from the veterans on down.

The Packers don't have a traditional No. 1 receiver, a guy such as Reggie Wayne or Larry Fitzgerald who gets the majority of catches game in and game out.

Yes, Jennings and Jordy Nelson are both 1,000-yard receivers, and Donald Driver was before them. But the strength of Green Bay's offense - besides Rodgers, of course - is its versatility and depth.

Rodgers throws to his receivers, tight ends and running backs. He may go to Jennings and Nelson most often these days, but not to the exclusion of the rest of his receivers.

Against Houston, for example, when Rodgers tied a franchise record with six touchdown passes, he threw to six different players. Three had three catches or more.

``We're just trying to take what's there,'' Jones said. ``I feel like we've got playmakers who can turn a 5-yard catch into a 50-yard gain. Every play, there's the potential for a big play.''

That would also seem to create potential for trouble.

Jennings, Jones, Cobb, Nelson - they were all second- or third-round draft picks, and they didn't get this far without being competitive.

It would be understandable if they grumbled or pouted a bit when they glanced at the stats, knowing their numbers don't compare to some of the other top receivers in the league. But they don't, because they all know - and accept - how the system works.

``It's passed down,'' Nelson said. ``We know there's talent. We know everyone wants the ball and everyone wants to get on the field. We know there's going to be limited opportunities so when you get the opportunity, you've got to do it. You've got to make the most of it and make sure you're ready when your time comes.

``We just hold each other accountable,'' Nelson added. ``If you're out there and not making the play, then we're going to be on each other. `I'm sitting here and you're doing that?' So we're hard on each other and, again, it's all about making the most of your opportunities.''

And when they do, no one takes greater delight than Rodgers.

Jones took a lot of grief the first few years of his career for his drops. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones had a drop rate of 14.39 percent from 2009 to 2011, second-worst behind Roy Williams among players with at least 125 catchable balls.

But when Jones was a free agent in the spring of 2011, Rodgers was one of his biggest supporters, urging the Packers to bring him back.

Jones wound up signing a three-year deal.

``I'm just going to say that I hope we can hold onto him for a while,'' Rodgers said, grinning, when asked if Jones is playing like a No. 1 receiver this year. ``He's playing really well, making the most of his opportunities, making me look good in the process. So you've got to appreciate James, the way he's playing right now.''

His praise for Cobb is equally high.

Cobb spent most of his rookie season on special teams - he was a Pro Bowl alternate as a kick returner - though he got a little time on offense.

A quarterback himself in college, Cobb made it a priority to work with Rodgers during the offseason, picking the MVP's brain about routes and coverages, and his progress is drawing raves.

``It's not going to be his last 100-yard game, I can tell you that much. He's a big-time player,'' Rodgers said. ``We love having him here. He adds a lot to our offense. We're just going to continue giving him more opportunities.''

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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 25, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Fan questions—The secondary

To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the secondary and we’ll get into those in a bit. But the popular notion that the secondary struggled last year is not accurate.

Do you want to go standard stats? They were ninth in the league in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent passer rating last year.

Do you prefer more advanced analytics? They were sixth in defensive passing DVOA and 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt.

That’s not a great pass defense but it was a pretty good one. It should be noted that they also benefitted from a solid pass rush; they were seventh in the league in sack percentage. Still, you don’t finish in the top third of the league in pass defense without at least a competent secondary.

The question is, will it remain competent? Kendall Fuller was indeed a key player, one of the best slot corners in the league. Bashaud Breeland was inconsistent but he did shine on occasion. But the fact that he is still available as a free agent indicates what the league thinks of him, problems passing the physical notwithstanding. Those two will have to be replaced.

It is likely that Quinton Dunbar will take Breeland’s spot on the outside. That is at worst a lateral exchange if not an improvement. Dunbar has been working for three years to get this opportunity and there is confidence among the coaches and, perhaps more importantly, the players that he is ready.

Orlando Scandrick is the probable starter at slot. He is a downgrade from Fuller, no question about it. If he is healthy—a big if—Scandrick is good enough to get the job done. Don’t let the star he wore on the side of his helmet for so many years blind you to the fact that he’s a solid player.

The depth at slot consists of second-year player Josh Holsey, who played all of nine snaps on defense last year, and rookie Greg Stroman. That’s not ideal but most of the other teams in the NFL have a similar depth chart.

The wild card who could be the difference between this secondary being better than last year or worse is Fabian Moreau. He played only 59 defensive snaps as a rookie but he did show off his speed and hard-hitting style on some of his 349 special teams snaps. During the offseason practices that were open to the media, Moreau was mostly Josh Norman’s backup at left cornerback. The feeling is that he won’t remain a reserve. We will have to see how things sort out during training camp.

There should be some improvement at safety if Montae Nicholson figures out how to stay on the field in his second year. If he struggles with injuries again and Deshazor Everett has to line up alongside D.J. Swearinger for a good chunk of the season, the safeties are no worse off because that's what happened last year. 

The bottom line is that a secondary that was good last year may take a step down in 2018 but the decline should not be steep. And if Moreau can be the player the organization thought he could be when they used a third-round pick for him, it could be just as good if not better.

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

Tandler on Twitter

I tweeted this in response to a discussion about the relative popularity of the NFL and NBA. Albert Breer’s tweet on the TV ratings for the leagues’ respective drafts was the nexus of the discussion.

Timeline  

Redskins cornerback Josh Holsey was born on this date in 1994.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 31
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 45
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 59

The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 76 days.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.