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How big a role this year for Redskins' Matt Jones?

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How big a role this year for Redskins' Matt Jones?

The Redskins knew that they were getting a big, banging running back when they drafted Matt Jones in the third round earlier this month. But they may be getting more than they thought they were.

“The thing about Matt is you think of him as a big power-type back, but really Matt has done some things out in space that have been very, very impressive – making moves on the second level, getting to the second level,” coach Jay Gruden said after the team’s morning rookie camp practice. “In the passing game, running some option routes on linebackers. He has done some good things. He has got natural hands, so we’ve been very impressed.”

Jones’ pass catching ability remains a question mark despite those natural hands. He only caught 19 passes in three seasons at Florida. That doesn’t mean that he can’t do it but his ability as a receiver against top-level competition has yet to be demonstrated.

“I didn’t really catch the ball at Florida a lot,” said Jones. “They always knew I could catch the ball but we just didn’t do it a lot at Florida.”

Jones was not just disappointed that he didn’t catch more passes for the Gators. He wanted to do more of everything in college.

“I’ve got a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “My college career wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I really want to have a successful career in the NFL so that’s why I’m going even harder because I didn’t have the college career I wanted.”

His rushing stat line over three years was 297 carries for 1,431 yards (4.9/carry) and 11 touchdowns. That’s a light single season for a workhorse running back. Some analysts have called the Florida offense “a mess” under head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. The Gators ranked 96th in the nation in total offense and 43rd in rushing. Both the head coach and the coordinator were fired.

“I think it was because of the offense I was in,” Jones said when asked why he was disappointed in his college career.

He believes he’s in a system that’s a better fit now. “I love this offense, I feel like I’m more downhill. I just feel like I can do what I want to.”

One of the storylines that will be followed closely all season is how much Jones plays and how many snaps and carries he might take away from starting running back Alfred Morris. After all, a team doesn’t spend a third-round pick on a running back unless they have a substantial role in mind for him.

Gruden cautioned that we have a long way to go before Jones supplants Morris in any meaningful way.

“We’ll see,” Gruden said when asked about Jones sharing the load with Morris. “That’s what training camp is for and the preseason games, and Alfred is a darn good halfback, so in order to take carries off of him, you’ve got to show a lot. So far, Matt has taken the right steps to take a little bit of the load off of Alfred. But like I said before, Alfred is our feature back, obviously, but in the NFL nowadays it’s important to have two, three guys that can carry the ball. If you want to commit to running the football, you’ve got to have a couple guys that can tote it, so Matt will just add to the number.” 

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

Terrelle Pryor made a number of highlight reel catches last year during training camp, and it appears the Redskins defense didn't like it. 

Washington's marquee free agent signing last season, Pryor came into Richmond with sky-high expectations. Throughout the training sessions last August, Pryor put on one-handed displays at the Jugs machine and often made big catches in team drills. It's also important to remember there was never any live tackling during these drills, leaving defenders at a distinct disadvantage. 

Zach Brown remembers the scene quite well, and thinks it will look very different this summer when Pryor comes to Richmond as a member of the New York Jets. 

"That’s going to be something right there. The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now," Brown said on Inside the Locker Room on the Team 980 (full audio here).

Brown explained that Redskins coach Jay Gruden would not allow the defense to hit Pryor last year, even when the wideout did some showboating. 

"Jay ain't here to protect you anymore," Brown said.

The Redskins linebacker explained that he tried to explain to Pryor that the one-handed catches from training camp would not translate in the NFC East, where players get hit hard. It doesn't seem like Pryor listened, as he finished the season with only 240 receiving yards on 20 catches in nine games. 

"The boys were already hot for what he was doing last year," Brown said. He added, "Try to one-hand something while you’re with the Jets, you’re gonna catch a forearm."

One incident that supports Brown's comments came when Bashaud Breeland got thrown off the practice field last training camp. Breeland got mad that he wasn't allowed to get physical with Pryor at the line of scrimmage, and the scene blew up. Breeland eventually got sent off the field after arguing with coaches. 

The Jets visit the Redskins for three days of practices beginning August 12th. The two teams then square off in the second preseason game on August 16th. 

Brown will get his chance at Pryor, assuming the wideout plays. Pryor finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve, but is expected to be fine once training camp begins in New York. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 17, 39 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The best Redskins players 25 or younger

Here is a look at the best Redskins players who have played at least one season and will be 25 or younger as of Week 1 this year. 

WR Jamison Crowder, 25 as of Week 1—Crowder hit the ground running in his first year, with 59 receptions, a team rookie record, and gaining 604 yards. He has been very dependable in his three years, averaging 64 catches, 747 yards, and four receiving touchdowns per year. 

OLB Preston Smith, 25—Since he came into the league, no player but Smith has at least 20.5 sacks, three or more interceptions, and four or more forced fumbles. His sack numbers tend to be up and down from week to week, but Jay Gruden has said more than once that Smith is very consistent in getting pressure on the quarterback even if he doesn’t always get home for the sack. 

DL Matt Ioannidis, 24—A year ago it was thought that he would face an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. Now goes into the season as a starter and key contributor. The 2016 fifth-round pick got much stronger between his first and second seasons and he took well to the coaching of new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Only a broken hand that cost him two games and had him playing with an awkward cast for a few more kept him from threatening to make double-digit sacks. 

DL Jonathan Allen, 23—The Redskins were just starting to get a hint of what Allen could do early in the season. Pro Football Focus credited him with a total of three sacks in the Redskins third and fourth games. But in their fifth game, he suffered a foot injury that ended his season. Allen was a full go for the offseason program and there is no reason to think that he won’t pick back up right where he left off. 

S Montae Nicholson, 22—Like Allen, Nicholson’s rookie season was shortened due to injuries. He took advantage of the absence of anticipated starter Su’a Cravens and made an impact from the beginning. While the 2017 fourth-round pick and free-agent pickup D.J. Swearinger were in the lineup the decade-long struggles the Redskins have had at the safety position were suddenly gone. 

Best of the rest: WR Josh Doctson (25), C Chase Roullier (25)

It should be noted that DL Daron Payne turned 21 in May and RB Derrius Guice will the 21 later this month so they could be joining this list soon. Assuming those two start, the Redskins will have nine quality starters aged 25 or younger this year. 

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

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Timeline  

Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder was born on this date in 1993. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 39
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 53
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 76

The Redskins last played a game 166 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 84 days. 

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