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Redskins veterans agree on the one quality that helped Case Keenum become starter

Redskins veterans agree on the one quality that helped Case Keenum become starter

After Jay Gruden announced Sunday that Case Keenum would be the Redskins starter in Week 1 against the Eagles, three Washington veterans were asked for their reaction. Oddly enough, all three used the exact same word to explain why they feel like Keenum deserved the job.

"Case is very consistent," Vernon Davis said.

"He's consistent," Josh Norman said.

"Just being consistent," Adrian Peterson said.

It's a very appropriate descriptor for the 31-year-old. All throughout training camp in Richmond and other offseason practices in Ashburn, Keenum was steadier than Dwayne Haskins and more reliable than Colt McCoy.

Plus, when you consider that the franchise's head coach is in dire need of early wins as opposed to letting a rookie signal caller figure things out, you realize that while this may be big news, it's absolutely not shocking news.

"Case has come in here and picked up the offense extremely well, had great confidence and command over the team," Gruden said in his press conference where he named Keenum the winner of the long, winding QB competition. "I think we have great confidence that Case can lead us to a win against Philadelphia."

Gruden would go on to say that as long as Keenum is producing, he will remain the No. 1 guy. As for whether he still believes he's in a day-to-day race, Keenum told reporters he's constantly competing against himself and will focus on that instead.

So, how does Keenum hold onto the top spot of the depth chart for all of 2019?

Well, if he can encapsulate the quality that Davis, Norman and Peterson noticed from him since he arrived, that'll go a long way.

Much like last season, the plan for this season's Redskins is to win games behind a strong rushing attack and a bullying defense. Keenum will need to make vital throws, of course, but Gruden likely won't be asking him to put together 350-yard, three touchdown days too often.

If Keenum is able to distribute the ball, limit his turnovers as best as he can and sustain drives by being clutch on third down, then there's a chance he keeps this gig for a long time.

If he plays erratically, however, and becomes the reason the Burgundy and Gold aren't winning, then Gruden will be forced to turn to Haskins or McCoy (if he gets healthy) to try and save things.

Sure, those who are skeptical of the situation probably have a right to be. Keenum has been totally fine in live action during the preseason, yet that's about as complimentary as you can be.

Perhaps, though, totally fine is the precise level Keenum needs to perform at. The Redskins would love for him to be better, of course, but as long as he at least remains there, he should remain the starter, too.

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The Redskins have literally talked about defensive communication for months, but they're still failing

The Redskins have literally talked about defensive communication for months, but they're still failing

The Redskins have been talking about communication on defense for months. Literally.

Yet, despite all of that focus, the unit is somehow still having problems with it.

What was supposed to be a major area of defensive growth has turned into perhaps the biggest reason why Washington's defense has been so ineffective this season.

For a collection of people who love to discuss communicating, they sure are bad at actually doing it.

The following is a timeline meant to illustrate that point and show how pervasive the concept of communication has become with the Redskins, starting with the positivity surrounding it at training camp and ending with the disappointment about the lack of it these days. 

The lesson to be learned here? There's an enormous, football field-sized difference between identifying an issue and, you know, fixing that issue.

Phase 1: Optimism 

The Redskins began 2019 knowing their defense had to be better about being unified before and after the snap. And with some key additions who were supposed to help shore up the shortcomings there — from vocal players like Landon Collins and Jon Bostic to experienced coaches such as Ray Horton and Rob Ryan — there was reason for hope. That hope was reflected in what was said during the preseason.

"It's all about communication on defense. I think we have enough firepower talent-wise to hold our own and be a hell of a defense. Now it's about communication... That's something we really have to work on through this training camp."  — Jay Gruden, July 25

"Communication has been excellent. Everybody is just getting along. We got a fresh crop of guys that’s in there... It's fun to play to with right now." — Josh Norman, July 27

"We talk more than anything. Communication is the biggest key within the defense. On that part we just stay on the same page, making sure what we got to do and how we got to play it." — Landon Collins, Aug. 3

"Defensively, they’ve just got to rally and play together and communicate – that's the biggest thing." — Gruden, Sep. 2

Phase 2: Struggles begin

All of the excitement about those much-needed improvements? It lasted less than one regular-season game. DeSean Jackson rips through the Redskins' secondary in Week 1 and plenty of offenses and receivers follow throughout September, where the team goes 0-4. Even so, the message remains the same: We can correct this.

"If you're going to take advantage of a miscommunication, that's the perfect play on for it. Unfortunately, it happened for us and it’s been addressed from the coaching staff to the players on understanding the importance of communicating. I'm not going to point the fingers at the coaches or the players in that regards, we just understand that it can't happen again in pro football.” — Gruden, Sep. 9 (right after the loss to Eagles)

"I think the biggest focus we have to do is we're focusing on our consistency... Overall, the communication is getting better and better. It's a work in progress." — Gruden, Sep. 18

“Just during practice and stuff, trying to get the exact looks that we’re trying to get and then keep on working them. We’ve got to make sure we communicate on the back end along with the safeties. Overall, it’s just a communication standpoint that we’ve got to make sure that we keep on talking and doing the right thing." — Greg Manusky, Sep. 26

Phase 3: A slight rebound

Don't get confused: Things weren't totally patched up when September and October left and then early November arrived. However, the Burgundy and Gold did notch their first win of the year in that stretch and, if you look strictly at the scoreboards from their results, they did limit offenses (excluding the Patriots) more than they had been. Perhaps they were turning a corner, finally.

“[We're] just meshing together as a team as well. We had a couple injuries throughout the season, but overall I think just coming together and understanding the concepts that we’re going to present each and every week and they’re trying to grow and they keep on growing with it.” — Manusky, Nov. 14 (coming off the bye week)

Phase 4: Back to breaking down

Whatever "meshing" Manusky thought he was seeing didn't show up in the Redskins' Week 11 meltdown against the Jets. Despite having an extra week to prepare, the defense somehow looked as disorganized as ever, allowing Sam Darnold to throw a career-high four TDs and a dismal Jets offense to move the ball at will. It sounds like the players are almost entirely fed up, even as others continue to march on.

"It's just getting old. At some point, as a grown man in a professional football league, you've got to get it together... You've got to get better at communicating and taking pride in wanting to communicate." — Quinton Dunbar, Nov. 17

"The only way I know how to dig out of this is by going back to work and fixing the problems that we've had." — Bill Callahan, Nov. 17 

"Communication. It always comes down to that and we’ve got to make sure we communicate." — Manusky, Nov. 21

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Montae Nicholson says it was his decision to play days after death at his home

Montae Nicholson says it was his decision to play days after death at his home

Speaking publicly for the first time since missing practice after participating in an investigation into the death of 21-year-old Julia Crabbe, Montae Nicholson thanked the Redskins organization and his teammates for their support.

Nicholson, who played just days after Crabbe's drug overdose death at his home, said the decision to play in last Sunday's game against the Jets was difficult but was his alone.

"It was, without a doubt," Nicholson said of how hard the decision to play. "But, you know, at the end of the day, it was my decision. I wasn't forced into anything. It wasn't easy at all trying to separate the field from everything that was going on."

According to reports, Nicholson found Crabbe collapsed in his bathroom. He took her to a nearby hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. Nicholson is reported to be cooperating with investigators looking into the victim's death. 

When speaking to reporters on Thursday, Nicholson asked that the media respect his privacy and said he wouldn't be taking questions on the legal situation. 

"This week has been extremely hard on not only myself but Julia's friends and family, as well. I would appreciate if you all respect my privacy while everything is going on," he said. "At this time, I will only be taking questions on responding to and about the Lions this week. I'm sorry."

He has practiced all week in advance of the Lions and is expected to play on Sunday. Diving into football, he said, has been a large part of his coping with the tragedy. 

"It's been rough, to say the least. But, you know, with my teammates and friends who aren't in the state or just aren't around here, the head office made it very well known that they have my back in everything that was going on and if I needed anything, just to talk or anything like that, they made that known that the door was wide open," he said. 

Nicholson said having the team's support means a lot to him. 

"They could've shut the door on me and turned their backs, but they didn't," he said. "And that just speaks volumes to the type of program I'm a part of. I'm extremely grateful to be here and to still be here."

This isn't Nicholson's first off-field incident during his time with the Redskins. He finished the 2018 season under suspension after being arrested for a fight outside of a Loudon County restaurant. Those charges were later dropped. 

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