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The Redskins' defensive line is young, loaded and focused, and Jim Tomsula is enamored with it

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The Redskins' defensive line is young, loaded and focused, and Jim Tomsula is enamored with it

Jay Gruden was forced to face 15 questions related to Trent Williams' minicamp absence in his Wednesday press conference, and each one seemed to wear on him a little bit more. 

So, Gruden probably would've been happy to talk about literally anything else as the session with the media began winding down, whether that was Jeopardy! spoilers or the Nationals' current hot streak or even his unsteady job security.

But when the head coach was asked about his young yet mature and supremely talented defensive line, there seemed to be an extra hint of joy as he gave his longest answer from his time at the podium. 

"It's an unbelievable group," he said. "On and off the field, you can't ask for a better group of men." 

"It's led by a great coach, obviously," Gruden added, before delivering his only punchline of the day. "Not to take anything away from Jim Tomsula, but I think anybody in here could coach that group."

Gruden shouldn't feel too bad about that remark. In speaking with reporters on the field, Tomsula literally said the same thing before absolutely gushing about his unit.

"I feel really good about the people that are in the room," Tomsula explained. "It's the quality of the guys. We all talk about how long their arms are, how many times they bench press this or that, they talk about what the 40 is. The one thing that gets overlooked a lot is the type of individual it is, the makeup of the guy."

The room that the longtime coach is referring to has six special players: Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Daron Payne, Caleb Brantley, Tim Settle and JoJo Wicker, who was on the Redskins' practice squad for quite a while in 2018. He's naturally interested in some of Washington's other developmental prospects, but those six have a united attitude and serious commitment to getting better all the time.

Gruden sees it as well.

"It's the effort, the tenacity they play with, the accountability that they demand of each other," he said. "It's everything you want in a player both physically and, obviously, mentally and leadership-wise."

The 2019 Redskins' roster has questions everywhere. Who will the starting QB be, and how long will that guy hold the job? Which receivers will emerge, if any? Can the linebackers produce without Reuben Foster? Nearly everywhere you look, you can find flaws.

Up front on the defense, however, there's nothing but difference makers. Jonathan Allen has a chance to become nationally-known as a disruptor in his third year and Daron Payne isn't far behind him. Matt Ioannidis, meanwhile, just picked up a well-earned contract extension, and Tim Settle and Caleb Brantley are two options Tomsula is dying to give more time to.

And, as it turns out, Tomsula's Six is trying to recruit another member, even if only on a part-time basis: Montez Sweat, whom Tomsula called "freakish."

"These guys have grabbed Sweat," Tomsula said, sounding proud. "Sweat's the one guy they bring over to lift weights with them. Sweat's the guy they bring in when we do our boxing." 

The thought of a pass rusher as gifted as Sweat absorbing the approach of players like Allen and Ioannidis can only be described as tantalizing.

Now, Tomsula doesn't speak to the media often, but when he does, his love for the game and for coaching is immediately evident. There was a time a few months ago, though, where it wasn't clear whether he'd be back with the Burgundy and Gold in 2019.

Fortunately, two things ultimately convinced him to return.

"Greg Manusky and those daggum D-linemen," Tomsula said. "I have a problem falling in love with those kids. I get so damn attached to these kids... You're not around them like I am. You'd love any of them to marry your daughter. They're just really, really good guys that can turn it on on the football field."

Sure, Gruden joked anyone could lead this collection defensive lineman. But you can bet he's fired up Tomsula's back and is the one who's actually doing it.

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'I'm so grateful': Kirk Cousins downplays any bad blood with Redskins

'I'm so grateful': Kirk Cousins downplays any bad blood with Redskins

If there is any bad blood between Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and the franchise he spent the first six seasons of his NFL career with, he certainly didn't show it on Tuesday.

In anticipation of his first matchup against the Redskins since signing with Minnesota last offseason, Cousins was asked an array of questions regarding his time in the Burgundy and Gold. He spoke glowingly of the organization, thanking them numerous times for giving him a chance when no other team would.

"For me, when I think of my time in Washington, I think of the word gratitude," Cousins said to reporters in Minneapolis on Tuesday. "I'm so grateful to be drafted by them. When 31 teams hadn't picked me, the Redskins picked me. That means a great deal to me."

"I just have a tremendous memory of the games there, the teammates, the coaches, and I'm so grateful for the people I got to work with," Cousins continued. "The quarterback I am, the player I am and where I am in this league now is largely the result of the coaches I got to play for there and the way they impacted me, and the teammates I got to play with."

Cousins' career in Washington was quite the whirlwind. Drafted three rounds after the supposed-to-be franchise savior Robert Griffin III in 2012, Cousins spent the first three seasons of his career as a backup and a spot starter. But the combination of a concussion that Griffin suffered in the 2015 preseason and the overall ineffectiveness from the No. 2 overall pick led then-Redskins head coach Jay Gruden to name Cousins as the starter just prior to the season.

"I was given an opportunity to start when there weren't many people outside of that building that thought I should," Cousins said. They stuck by me."

Things weren't pretty at first. The Redskins dropped four of their first six games, with Cousins throwing just seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. Then in Week 7, everything changed.

"There was a stretch there where we were 2-4, many people thought it should be over, I shouldn't be playing," Cousins said." Then we had that comeback game against the Buccaneers, I yelled the words 'You like that!' and kind of never looked back."

The Redskins went on a tear, winning seven of their last 10 games, including the final four. Washington won the NFC East, and Cousins finished the year with 29 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions.

Cousins' next two years in Washington weren't as successful as 2015, as the Redskins failed to make the postseason both seasons despite being on the cusp of a playoff berth each time. Neither side was able to agree to a long-term contract, with Cousins playing on the infamous franchise tag both years. Washington decided to trade for quarterback Alex Smith in January of 2018, marking the end of Cousins' tenure in Washington.

"That's not something I need to get into today. That's been well documented," Cousins said Tuesday on why the two sides weren't able to come to a long-term deal. "It's about winning a football game this week and trying to get to 6-2 before this long weekend."

While the end of Cousins' era in Washington wasn't pretty, he still had nothing but positive things to say about the Redskins.

"I'm just so grateful," Cousins said of his time in Washington. "I could list the names but I'd probably leave somebody out, but there were some special coaches and some special teammates and people in that organization that I'll relate to the rest of my life. When football is long over, I'll still be calling them and texting them. So that's the simple truth."

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Redskins at Vikings Week 8: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Redskins at Vikings Week 8: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has had Thursday's date circled on his calendar for a long time.

Cousins will face the Redskins for the first time on Thursday since leaving the franchise that drafted him. In 2018, the Redskins allowed him to walk in free agency after two straight seasons playing under the franchise tag.

It's no secret that Washington has struggled to find stability at the quarterback position since Cousins left town. Since his departure, the Redskins have started five different signal-callers (played six) in 23 games, and have a cumulative record of 8-15. 

While the Cousins storyline will grab many headlines, Redskins quarterback Case Keenum may feel that he has something to prove, too. Keenum led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game in 2017, but Minnesota signed Cousins the following offseason, allowing Keenum to walk. He signed with the Broncos, and was traded to Washington earlier this year after one season with Denver. 

Thursday marks Keenum's return to Minnesota. The last pass he threw in U.S. Bank Stadium miraculously landed in the arms of Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, connecting on a 61-yard touchdown pass as time expired to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game.

Redskins running back Adrian Peterson has also been looking forward to Thursday's clash. It's not his first time back in Minnesota, as he returned in 2017 when playing with the Saints, but he's eager to play against the franchise he spent a decade with and became one of the best running backs in NFL history. 

The all-time series is tied 13-13, but the Vikings have won three of the last four contests between the two. Here's everything you need to know.

REDSKINS at VIKINGS WEEK 8

Who: Washington Redskins (1-6) vs. Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

What: Game 8 of the 2019 NFL regular season

When: Thursday, October 24, 8:20 p.m.

Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV Channel: FOX, NFL Network

Live Stream: NFL.com/watch and pregame and postgame coverage streaming on NBCSportsWashington.com

Radio: Redskins Radio Network

Spread: Vikings, -16

Over/Under: 42.0

Weather: 42 degrees, partly cloud (U.S. Bank Stadium is indoors)

REDSKINS at VIKINGS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 p.m.: Redskins 100

6:30 p.m.: Redskins Nation

7:00 p.m.: Redskins Kickoff Live

11:30 p.m.: Redskins Postgame Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)

REDSKINS 2019 SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Redskins at Eagles (L, 32-27)

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, Cowboys at Redskins, (L, 31-21)

Week 3: Monday, Sept. 23, Bears at Redskins, (L, 32-27)

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Redskins at Giants, (L, 24-3)

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, Patriots at Redskins, (L, 33-7)

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Redskins at Dolphins, (W, 17-16)

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, 49ers at Redskins, (L, 9-0)

Week 8: Thursday, Oct. 24, Redskins at Vikings, 8:20 p.m.

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Redskins at Bills, 1 p.m.

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Jets at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, Lions at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Redskins at Panthers, 1 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Redskins at Packers, 1 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Eagles at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Giants at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Redskins at Cowboys, 1 p.m.

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