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Eagles game a big opportunity for Cousins to redeem himself

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Eagles game a big opportunity for Cousins to redeem himself

The Redskins (1-2) missed out on a huge opportunity in the Meadowlands a little more than a week ago. But there’s good news: they have another chance to gain a foothold in the NFC East when Sam Bradford and the Eagles (1-2) visit FedEx Field on Sunday.

Before the game, be sure to catch Redskins Kickoff on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic at noon. We’ve also got you covered after the game; Redskins Postgame Live begins at 4.

Here are Tarik’s five areas to monitor:  

1-Kirk Cousins needs a bounceback performance after last week’s 32-21 loss to the Giants. He threw two interceptions for the second time in three games, including a baffling decision deep in Washington’s end that helped the Giants open an early 9-0 and forced the Redskins away from their game plan. Cousins also missed a handful of open receivers. Coach Jay Gruden reiterated his confidence in Cousins this week, saying he and his assistants are seeing gradual improvement from the fourth-year signal caller. But, as we all know, this is a bottom line kind of league, for quarterbacks and coaches alike. Cousins will face a Kiko Alonso-less Eagles' defense that defense ranks 24th against the pass, seventh against the run and is allowing 21 points per game (11th).   

2-The Redskins are second in yards allowed per game (277.3) and eighth in points permitted per game (19.7), which signals significant improvement over last year. Buuuuut…there are a couple of key areas where the unit must get better. Washington is tied for 21st in sacks with only four, with starting outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy accounting for 0.5 sacks between them. In the takeaway department, the defense has one fumble recovery and no interceptions. The Jaguars are the only other team with just one takeaway. Overall, the Redskins’ turnover differential is minus-5. That, obviously, is not sustainable. Asked what he wants to see from the pass rush on Sunday, Gruden said: “More of it.” Bradford has been sacked only twice but he’s tied with Cousins with four interceptions (only four quarterbacks have tossed more.)

3-The Redskins’ special teams were a mixed bag last week at MetLife Stadium. Rashad Ross returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown, Washington’s first since 2010. But the unit also yielded a blocked punt that resulted in a safety and an early 2-0 deficit. On Sunday, they’ll face another challenge: Philadelphia’s 5-foot-6 punt returner Darren Sproles, who is one of six players who have returned a punt for a score this season. “I’ve never been around a player that works as hard, trains as hard, prepares as well as Darren prepares,” Eagles Coach Chip Kelly told Washington reporters this week. “What you see on Sundays is what we see every day in our training sessions with him.” Earlier this week, the Redskins signed free agent Mason Foster in an effort to provide depth at inside linebacker and bolster punt protection.   

4-One of the biggest areas of concern for the Redskins this week figures to be the banged up secondary. Starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall is already sidelined for a few weeks because of a toe injury and now Chris Culliver is battling some swelling in his left knee. Gruden is hopeful that Culliver will play, but the coach acknowledged that it’s always worrying when a player can’t practice on the Thursday before a game. If Culliver is able to suit up, he’ll start alongside Bashaud Breeland, who is still looking to get into his groove. If Culliver doesn’t play, well, that would be suboptimal to say the least. Gruden should provide another update on Culliver’s status after practice on Friday.    

Culliver isn’t the Redskins’ only injury concern, of course. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (hamstring) has been sidelined since Week 1 and, although he was not ruled out on Thursday, it would be a long shot for him to suit up. The status of inside linebacker Perry Riley (calf) is also in doubt after he missed practice on Thursday.

5-Ask Gruden and he’ll tell you Sunday’s game will come down to who runs the ball more effectively and who stops the run more effectively. It’s hard to argue with that assessment. In the Redskins’ victory over the Rams, Matt Jones and Alfred Morris racked up 182 yards on 37 carries and a pair of rushing touchdowns (both belonging to Jones). That’s what the Redskins want to be on offense, and they must get back to it. Philadelphia’s ground game, on the other hand, has yet to get going. DeMarco Murray (11 yards on 21 carries) missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury and is expected be a game-time decision Sunday. With Murray scratched in last week’s 24-17 win over the Jets, Ryan Mathews carried the load, running for 108 yards on 24 carries. “They’re going to try and run it on us obviously,” Gruden said. “How we stop the run will be how the game goes. How we run the ball will be how the game goes.” 

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins’ Jones doesn't want to overthink ball security

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Kyler Murray is 'making a mistake' choosing football over baseball, according to Joe Theismann

Kyler Murray is 'making a mistake' choosing football over baseball, according to Joe Theismann

Joe Theismann wants Kyler Murray to have a "long, happy career" — as a professional baseball player.

In an interview with NBC Sports Washington, the former Redskins QB was asked what he thought of Murray's choice to pursue his NFL dreams over his MLB dreams for now. He didn't hold back.

"I think that he should choose baseball," Theismann said. "I think that he would struggle in the NFL."

As of now, many mock drafts are projecting the Heisman Trophy winner to be selected in the first round. His believers see him as an electric option who's entering a league perfectly suited for his skillset. 

Theismann is not in that camp, though.

"I understand a lot of guys work from the 'gun. You're away from the line of scrimmage," he explained. "But, sooner or later, defensive coaches in this league are going to figure out how to keep you in the pocket. And if you can't throw from the pocket, or you can't see from the pocket, it's going to become a problem."

Murray's height, which Theismann touched on, is a main concern for those skeptical of how he'd handle life in the NFL. Of course, being in the 5-foot-9 range matters far less on a MLB diamond.

Theismann also thinks that the Oklahoma product will need to be in an offense with a strong running attack. That's something any rookie passer needs to succeed, and without one, Theismann isn't sure if Murray can carry the load on his own.

In the end, Theismann told NBC Sports Washington that Murray is "making a mistake" by setting his sights on the gridiron. He simply doesn't see things going well for Murray as a signal caller.

"I think in professional football, it'll be a real challenge and an uphill climb for him to be able to do the things that he wants to do and a team wants him to do," he said.

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2019 NFL mock draft: History shows cost for acquiring Kyler Murray within Redskins' reality

2019 NFL mock draft: History shows cost for acquiring Kyler Murray within Redskins' reality

Here comes Kyler Murray, maybe.

Maybe the NFL, that is. Yes, though the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback announced Monday he would enter the 2019 Draft. We still don’t know whether the Oakland A’s prospect ultimately chooses the gridiron over the outfield. The smitten professional leagues will do whatever is possible for that final rose from the high-profile athlete.

Let’s assume Murray has eyes on a football marriage. He will not have much say in choosing his other half on the team level. With April’s NFL Draft a ways off, it’s the mock draft world determining the 5-foot-9 passer’s destination for now.

The draft slot range extends from the top half of the first round to a Day 2 selection. Picking football with that rumored downside seems unlikely. Murray was the ninth overall selection in the 2018 MLB Draft. Therefore we will ponder a world where the bullish win the day.

Among the mock draft’s currently projecting Murray high in the first round, ESPN’s via Mel Kiper Jr. and NBC Sports Washington’s from yours truly. Similarities between the mocks include:

  • Murray selected 13th overall by the Miami Dolphins
  • The second QB drafted after Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins
  • Three quarterbacks in the first round

Not that anyone in the DMV area needs a reminder, but the Redskins have the 15th selection and quarterback uncertainty. Plenty of time for debating remains on whether Washington should use its first on a QB (I lean no for now).

In these scenarios, Washington would miss out on the top two projected quarterbacks. The third QB named in the two mocks, Duke’s Daniel Jones, hears his name called late in round one. Missouri’s Drew Lock and West Virginia’s Will Grier are among the more prominent late first/second-round candidates.

Therefore if adding QB help in round one were the goal, the Redskins would shift focus to other prospects – unless they are love-struck with Murray or Haskins.

Quarterbacks tend to rise by draft day. It’s kind of a valuable position. Therefore sitting at 15 becomes risky if Washington wants one of the better options.

Free agency comes before the draft. At the moment, the Giants (6), Jaguars (7) and Dolphins are obvious QB landing spots. The Buccaneers (5), Broncos (10) and Bengals (11) could join such a list.

Here’s the potential cost for moving up based on recent teams originally selecting 15 or lower.

2018 

  • Cardinals trade 15, 79, 152 to Raiders for 10 (QB Josh Rosen)
  • Bills trade 21, 158 and offensive tackle Cordy Glenn to Bengals for 12 (NT Vita Vea) and 187

2017

  • Texans trade 25 and a 2018 first-round selection to Browns for 12 (QB Deshaun Watson)

2016

  • Titans trade 15, 76 and a 2017 second round selection to Browns for 8 (OT Jack Conklin), 176

Based on the price Houston paid moving up 13 spots, the cost of jumping past the Giants and Jaguars assuming those teams stay put, for Haskins would require a massive outlay. Recall the bushel of high picks Washington sent St. Louis for the right to draft Robert Griffin III just to move from six to two.

However, the cost for moving from 15 ahead of 13 is not steep relative to the QB need – and the picks at Washington’s disposal.

The trades for Rosen and Conklin are most similar to each other and the Redskins’ situation. Tennessee paid a heavier price in 2016 going from 15 to eight than Arizona did with a move from 15 to 10 last season.

What’s noteworthy from the Washington’s perspective is the ammunition available. The Redskins have their original selections except for the fourth-rounder sent to Green Bay for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and sixth used to snag Adonis Alexander in the supplemental draft. In addition, projections show compensatory picks in the third, fifth and sixth round coming their way based on three of their 2018 free agents – Kirk Cousins, Trent Murphy, Ryan Grant – signing elsewhere.

While the Redskins have a lengthy list of needs, these extra selections allow for a tick more aggressiveness if interested. Washington could make the exact same Arizona trade from last season to jump Miami for Murray or another quarterback and still own seven selections including a first, second and third.

The Redskins would still have enough selections to tab a left guard, wide receiver, safety or whatever remained on the needs following free agency in the second or third round. That’s worth keeping in mind as this discussion lurches forward over next three months.

Before such decisions, the question is whether Murray chooses the NFL over MLB. The pining football world awaits your decision, Kyler.

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