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Cousins likes low-risk, high-reward screen passes

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Cousins likes low-risk, high-reward screen passes

The Redskins have four pass plays this year that have gone for 45 yards or more. It’s not surprising that two of them are touchdown bombs from Kirk Cousins to DeSean Jackson, one from 63 yards out and the other from 56 yards.

The source of the other two, however, is quite unlikely. Rookie running back Matt Jones, who at 6-2, 231 is cut out to be a power back, has caught screen passes of 78 yards for a touchdown against the Saints and another for 45 yards against the Giants.

Screen passes have not worked well for the Redskins of late. How long has it been since they worked effectively? Well Jones 78-yarder was the longest touchdown pass caught by a running back since Larry Brown went 89 yards against the Jets in 1972. More recently, Darryl Young caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Robert Griffin III in 2013 but that one was a downfield pass, not a screen. Last year Roy Helu caught a short pass from Cousins and scampered for 55 yards but that wasn’t a traditional screen pass with the line blocking momentarily, releasing, and forming a wall for the back to run behind after catching the pass. Same with a pass from Rex Grossman to Helu in 2011 that covered 47 yards for a touchdown.

Kirk Cousins sees a lot of factors working together to make the plays work.

“I think it’s a combination of getting the screens called at the right times against the right looks,” said Cousins. “You’ve got to have an offensive line that can be good actors and sell the pass down the field and convince the guy on them that it’s a pass and they need to rush. To have the perfect timing to set that up and then let the guy go and then go find the downfield blocks.

“When you have athletic lineman like Morgan Moses, Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff, Spencer Long, Josh LeRibeus, they’re getting out and they’re able to run these guys down. I think you’ve seen the escort that Matt Jones has had on a couple. These guys can run. It’s great to see, it’s encouraging.”

The line is the key. If even one defender senses that his blocker is intentionally letting him get to the quarterback he can disrupt the play.

“Screens are plays that have low risk, high reward,” said Cousins. “The risks of a lot of things going wrong are not as high as if you’re throwing the ball down the field deep. In return you can get a lot of big, explosive plays. It’s a great play that when you can be good at it, it makes an offense very explosive and dangerous.”

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Vernon Davis pulls off memorable proposal in Ocean City

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USA Today Sports Images

Vernon Davis pulls off memorable proposal in Ocean City

Vernon Davis has long been a fan favorite in the D.C. area since his University of Maryland days. The 34-year-old is almost always well-dressed and respectful to the media. 

More recently, he has been outspoken about his interest in acting after his football career. A true renaissance man who just so happens to be a force in the National Football League. 

In April, NBC Sports Washington ran into Davis at the Team USA Awards where he was serving as guest speaker. 

He took his smooth nature to a whole new level Tuesday while vacationing in Ocean City, Md. with his girlfriend Kayla. 

Dressed in all white on the beach, Davis proposed in an epic way. 

The best motivation I ever had. #shesmyrock

A post shared by Vernon Davis (@vernondavis85) on

Check out the whole video produced below. We won't spoil it for you, but there were skydivers involved. Take a look: 

Davis will suit up for his third season with the Redskins when training camp opens July 26 in Richmond. 

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Inside linebackers

Additions: Shaun Dion Hamilton (drafted in the fifth round)

Departures: Will Compton (free agent)

Starters: Zach Brown, Mason Foster

Other roster locks: Josh Harvey-Clemons

On the bubble: Hamilton, Zach Vigil, Martrell Spaight

How the inside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: This is a difficult comparison to make since only about half of the teams use the 3-4 with two inside linebackers and there are many variations when they go out of their base defense. Brown certainly is in the upper tier of players at his position. Foster’s skill set may not be coveted by many teams around the league, but he is a perfect fit in the Redskins’ defense in many ways. The player who could differentiate this group from others around the league is Harvey-Clemons. If he turns into a top-notch nickel LB the inside linebackers will be a great asset. 

To the 2017 Redskins:  This is about health. In 2017, Foster missed 11 games, Brown was hampered by a variety of injuries before sitting out the last three games. Compton was the top backup to both players and he went to injured reserve after just three starts. They did re-sign Vigil, who had spent training camp with the team, and he played pretty well near the end of the season. If the front-line players can stay on the field for most of the season this should be a much better group than the one that was partially responsible for the league’s 32nd-ranked rushing defense. 

2018 Inside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: The 2017 season was supposed to be a redshirt year for Harvey-Clemons as he transitions from college safety to NFL linebacker. He played a lot in the base defense during the offseason practices and that indicates that they are considering him for a bigger role beyond just playing nickel. You have to wonder how his size (6-4, 230) will affect his ability to get off of blocks. 

Most to prove: Spaight was a fifth-round pick in 2015 and he has yet to establish a regular role in the defense. It was telling that when they needed someone to start in the latter part of last year they brought back and started Vigil and mostly kept Spaight is going into the last year of his contract, but it would not be surprising to see Vigil beat him out for the last roster spot.  

Rookie watch: The Redskins traded up in the sixth round to get Hamilton. It wasn’t a blockbuster deal but the fact that they thought enough of him to move up says something. Gruden has said that he thinks Hamilton could be a starter at some point. He was one of the leaders on a strong Alabama defense before injuries struck. Hamilton is not going to start this year barring multiple injuries, but he should develop a role as the season goes on and be ready to compete in 2019.

Bottom line: The Redskins have not invested much in terms of free agent dollars or draft capital in the inside linebacker position in recent seasons. That changed somewhat this offseason as they made sure to spend to retain Brown and Foster. Neither commanded a huge contract but they did make a commitment and that is important. Last year Brown gave the defense a sideline-to-sideline dimension it hasn’t had in quite some time and retaining him was critical. Inside linebacker may not be a major strength for the defense this year but it should be able to get the job done. 

2018 Redskins position outlook series