Redskins

Shurmur: 'I'm not worried about saving my job'

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Shurmur: 'I'm not worried about saving my job'

BEREA, Ohio (AP) The Browns are still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff hunt. It's a long shot, but they haven't been eliminated with three games remaining.

And with every win, Pat Shurmur's odds of returning as Cleveland's coach improve.

With his team riding a three-game winning streak - the Browns' longest since 2009 - Shurmur feels good about the progress of his young team, which is finally showing an ability to finish games after so many close losses earlier this season.

But despite the good vibes emanating from one of the NFL's youngest teams, there remains uncertainty about the future.

Swirling around Shurmur are rumors and reports, one on the weekend involving Alabama coach Nick Saban, that the Browns intend to make a coaching change. The clock seems to be ticking on Shurmur, who insists he's not focused on anything but getting his team ready to play their next game.

``Listen, I'm not worried about any of that,'' Shurmur said Monday. ``I'm not worried about saving, I'm worried about doing my job and that's it. I just want to do my job.''

Shurmur will have at least three more games to strengthen his case to return, starting Sunday against the Washington Redskins, who won't know until later this week if they'll have rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. He sustained a mild sprain of a ligament in the right knee against Baltimore and it's too early to know if he'll be ready.

After starting 0-5, the Browns (5-8) have turned their season around, and Sunday's 30-7 blowout win over Kansas City was Cleveland's best all-around performance. The Browns gave up an 80-yard touchdown run to Jamaal Charles on the game's opening play, but responded by scoring 30 unanswered points and posted their most lopsided win since 2003.

It was another positive sign for Shurmur, who seems to be improving in his second season along with his roster of rookies, first- and second-year players. Shurmur was quick to point out during his news conference that Cleveland's rookies have combined to make 72 starts - a league high. Indianapolis is second with 44.

``That's good for the future because we're finally starting to find how to win football games with these young players,'' Shurmur said.

There's progress on both sides of the ball. Cleveland's offense is showing better balance behind rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who is learning to manage games and not force as many passes as he did earlier this season. The defense, anchored by a deep line, is showing signs of becoming a dominant unit and playing with a nasty attitude.

The Browns, who lost at least 11 games in each of the past four seasons, are beginning to blossom.

``I don't want to override my boundaries with, `We're the best team,' or say stuff like that, but we're putting something together here and it's going to be beautiful,'' said rookie running back Trent Richardson, who scored twice in Sunday's win to tie Hall of Famer Jim Brown's franchise rookie record with nine rushing touchdowns.

``We haven't arrived yet, but we're just trying to win to get to the next level and be an elite team.''

It remains to be seen if Shurmur will be around to coach the Browns once they move to a higher tier.

Owner Jimmy Haslam paid $1 billion to buy Cleveland's franchise, and he and new CEO Joe Banner may have already made up their minds to hire a new coach. If that's the case, the Browns' record over the final three games - home against Washington and road games at Denver and Pittsburgh - may not matter.

But if the Browns run the table, finish 8-8 and somehow make the playoffs, it would be difficult to explain not bringing Shurmur back for a third year.

Incredibly, the playoffs are still possible, but Shurmur said he has not raised any postseason possibilities with his team.

``I'm not going to focus on that,'' he said. ``Our energy, our efforts are all going to be directed toward the Redskins and that's where we need to be. It's a little bit easier to be shortsighted and narrow-minded with three games to play and I think we have to make sure we stay in the moment.

``We all know the math changes if you don't take care of business this weekend, so that needs to be our focus.''

In recent weeks, Shurmur has displayed more outward support toward his players. On Sunday, he kicked himself for pulling backup running back Montario Hardesty after he fumbled at the goal line. On Monday, Shurmur explained that he challenged a ruling that Josh Cribbs was down at the 1-yard-line because ``I wanted Josh to have a touchdown and I thought that was worth it.''

Shurmur is fighting for his players, and they're fighting for him - with every win.

It's all jelling for the Browns, and now it's a matter of whether it can stay that way.

``I've always been fond of our team,'' Shurmur said. ``What I like is they're tough, they play hard and when we ask them to do things they respond. They're a very coachable group. There's a mixture of young guys and older guys that have been around here a long time and when you see it all come together and they have success, that as a teacher or a coach, that's where you get your joy.''

NOTES: Shurmur was convinced RG3 would transform whatever team drafted him. He praised the Redskins for maximizing the QB's strengths. ``There was no doubt in my mind that he would be a success in this league,'' he said. ``No doubt. It doesn't surprise me the success, and I credit their coaching staff because they have incorporated things in their offense that utilize his skill and ability and that's smart.'' ... Weeden made an awkward slide on a scramble in the first quarter Sunday, ripping up a huge chunk of turf in the process. ``That was the hardest, roughest looking slide I've ever seen,'' Shurmur joked. ``I thought they were going to stop the game and bring out a dump truck.'' ...The Browns signed TE Brad Smelley from the practice squad to the active roster and waived DL Ronnie Cameron.

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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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