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Gruden: Redskins confident Jones will find a cure for his fumble-itis

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Gruden: Redskins confident Jones will find a cure for his fumble-itis

Jay Gruden says the team plans to work with running back Matt Jones as he struggles to overcome a fumbling problem. But, the Redskins coach noted, there are limits to their patience.

“He’s a talented kid, man,” Gruden said on Monday, a day after Jones fumbled for the fourth time on 104 touches this season. Only Adrian Peterson has fumbled more times (5), but it's important to point out that the Vikings’ star has twice as many touches (229).

“Like I said, a lot of them—I think like three of them—were non-contact fumbles,” Gruden added. “He’s trying to gain the extra yard, stick the ball out. [Against the Panthers] he was hurdling the pile and it just barely got poked out.”

Jones’ fumble Sunday was a costly one.

Midway through the second quarter—with the Panthers leading 21-14—Jones attempted to leap over a defender when Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly hit him from the side and jarred the ball loose. The Panthers’ offense, meanwhile, quickly parlayed the turnover into a 14-point lead.

“I think it’s just a matter of him continuing to focus more on the ball pre-contact, also when there is contact,” Gruden said. “That’s something Randy Jordan does every day in individual [drills]. He spends the first part of individual every day working on ball security drills, and we’ll continue to work on it.”

The Redskins spent a third round pick on Jones, who has flashed his potential as a ball carrier and as a pass catcher, in the hopes he'd eventually ascend to the starting role. The fumbles, however, have prevented that from happening. And, if he’s not careful, they could end up costing him a lot more.

“He’s got to understand as a running back in the National Football League, once you have this M.O., the only way to shake it is to protect the ball,” Gruden said. “If you don’t protect the ball then you won’t be a running back in the NFL for very long. We have total faith in him that he’s going to fix this but he has to himself make sure he understands the importance of the ball. All running backs do.”

MORE REDSKINS: Grading Redskins' Cousins against the Panthers

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Dustin Hopkins isn't 100-percent so the Redskins reportedly worked out five kickers

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Dustin Hopkins isn't 100-percent so the Redskins reportedly worked out five kickers

Lost in the fact that Tress Way is having a stellar season is that his fellow specialist, Dustin Hopkins, is getting it done, too.

The Redskins' kicker has made 17 of 19 field goals so far in 2018, giving him an 89.5-percent conversion rate on kicks. Against Carolina, he nailed a career-long 56-yarder, plus he's 17-for-17 on extra points.

But on Tuesday, a report came out saying that Hopkins is "a bit banged up." As of now, the Redskins don't know if they'll have Hopkins or not this weekend vs. the Texans, which is why they worked out five kickers five days before the Houston matchup, per Field Yates.

Among the group of free agents was former 'Skin Kai Forbath, who made 32-of-38 three-pointers for the Vikings in 2017. He was with the Burgundy and Gold from 2012-2014 and also briefly in 2015. 

Washington also reportedly tried out two maligned kickers in Roberto Aguayo and Blair Walsh. 

The Bucs drafted Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft but he flamed out in Tampa and was gone after a single year and poor 2017 preseason. Walsh, meanwhile, hasn't been the same since missing a 27-yard game winning playoff attempt versus Seattle while he was with Minnesota.  

Rounding out the group was Sam Ficken and Jon Brown.

The Redskins have been very reliant on both Hopkins and Way this season, seeing as their offense has had its issues. They've needed Hopkins to cash in on field goals to avoid wasting points and Way to help win the field position battle each week.

For some franchises, losing a kicker for a week or two wouldn't be much of a problem. And while Washington could very well be OK without Hopkins, they'd rather not have to bring in a new foot for any amount of time.

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NFC East Update: The division race is shaping up very well for the Redskins

NFC East Update: The division race is shaping up very well for the Redskins

The Redskins helped themselves in the NFC East division race with a big Week 10 win over the Buccaneers, and then the Cowboys helped their rival out again with a big win in Philadelphia.

With seven games remaining and the NFL calendar starting to get serious about playoff situation and scenarios, the 6-3 Redskins are in the driver's seat in the division. 

"I think the good thing being 6-3, being in first place is we control what we have to control. We don’t have to look at the other teams, we just have to focus on what we do and if we do our job, we don’t have to worry about anything," head coach Jay Gruden said Monday. 

And he's right. The Redskins have built a cushion in the division, and if they keep winning at a .667 clip, nobody can catch them.

Here's the NFC East update:

  1. Washington Redskins (6-3, 2-0) - This team isn't winning pretty, and they certainly don't make many highlight plays on offense, but the Washington formula for victories is working. At +11, the Redskins are 3rd in the NFL in turnover margin and they own a defense that doesn't give up many points. Fans can debate if the offense is too limited, but for now running the ball and playing strong defense is piling up wins. Washington hasn't been 6-3 since 2008. Another large test looms on Sunday when Houston comes to FedEx Field, riding a six-game win streak. Up next: Nov. 18th vs Texans,1 p.m.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (4-5, 2-1) - Things have been a roller coaster in Big D. Two weeks ago it looked like the Cowboys season might spiral out of control after a blowout loss at home to the Titans. Speculation began to mount about the future for head coach Jason Garrett. A week later, after a major win in Philly on Sunday Night Football, Cowboys fans are back focused on the playoffs, not firing their coach. Dallas has built an impressive young defense, though the offensive struggles remain. Similar to the Redskins, Dallas has one of the worst pass games in the NFL but relies on running the football. Up next:  Nov. 18th @ Atlanta, 1 p.m. 
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5, 1-1) - At no point this season have the Eagles looked like the same 2017 juggernaut that won the city's first-ever Super Bowl. Much of that was chalked up to injury, particularly Carson Wentz working back from a knee injury last year, and new parts on defense. The Eagles had a Week 8 bye, made a trade to acquire WR Golden Tate, and were facing the slumping Cowboys in Week 9. All signs pointed to a big Eagles win and the Philly machine getting back on track for the second-half of the 2018 season. Only it didn't happen. The Eagles haven't won two games in a row yet this season, and road games against the Saints and the Rams are still on deck. Up next: Nov. 18th @ New Orleans, 4:25 p.m.
  4. New York Giants (2-7, 0-3) - The Giants doubled their season win total with a road win in San Francisco over the 49ers. It was a good victory, but hardly impressive. The Niners are equally bad and currently starting their 3rd-string QB. Still, Odell Beckham remains optimistic for his New York squad and thinks the team could go on a undefeated streak to close out the season. It's not realistic considering the offensive line and Eli Manning's play at quarterback, but it's a nice theory. The Giants are 0-4 at home and 0-3 in the division. Up Next: Nov. 18th vs Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

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