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Jay Gruden believes in Kendall Fuller: He's not going to be perfect

Jay Gruden believes in Kendall Fuller: He's not going to be perfect

Rookie cornerback Kendall Fuller hit the ground running for the Redskins once he finally made the active roster in Week 4. In his first NFL game, Fuller played more than 60 percent of the defensive snaps, and in eight games with Washington, Fuller has been on the field more than 70 percent of all defensive snaps.

His play early on was encouraging; a physical presence playing the slot and strong tackler in run support. Against the Bengals in London, Fuller had seven tackles.

Since the bye week, things haven't gone so well for Fuller.

Some of it was matchups - including a particularly difficult assignment in the Minnesota game against his high school teammate from Good Counsel (Md.) Stefon Diggs. In that game, Diggs had 13 catches for 164 yards, almost exclusively working out of the slot.

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The following week Fuller struggled against the Packers, but things got worse against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Dallas slot WR Cole Beasley grabbed five catches for 56 yards, but in key spots, the Cowboys offense moved Dez Bryant into the slot to match up with Fuller.

The rookie had trouble against the Pro Bowl veteran, like many corners have, and despite some down games, Washington coach Jay Gruden still has a lot of faith in his third-round rookie CB.

"As a young football player, he’s growing. And he’s not going to be perfect, nor is anyone on our football team, but I like the ways he plays," Gruden said. "He plays with great effort. He’s a smart football player."

Fuller is a valuable piece of the Redskins secondary, and with more experience, he will become a bigger asset for Washington. Only a fool would suggest otherwise. 

It will be interesting if defensive coordinator Joe Barry tweaks his defense to give other defensive backs some reps at the slot corner position against Arizona on Sunday. The Redskins have a variety of options, including moving Bashaud Breeland inside and playing Quinton Dunbar outside, or perhaps giving Greg Toler more opportunities. 

Gruden's only advice is that Fuller continue to hone his craft, and considering the rookie's pedigree and work ethic, it should work.

"He has just got to continue to work on his technique and I think that’ll come with time. Whether it’s outside leverage, inside leverage, off technique, whatever it is, zone technique, all that stuff is just repetition, repetition, repetition. The more he gets, the better he is going to be."

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Redskins ranked as the fourth most valuable NFL franchise by Forbes

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins ranked as the fourth most valuable NFL franchise by Forbes

Annually, Forbes releases the worth of all professional sports franchises in the world. Once again, the Washington Redskins are sitting near the top. 

This year the Redskins are ranked the fourth most valuable NFL franchise at $3.1 billion. 

That marks a five percent worth increase from a year ago. They leapfrogged the San Francisco 49ers for a spot in the top four after placing fifth in 2017. They still trail the Dallas Cowboys ($4.8 billion), the New England Patriots ($3.7 billion), and the New York Giants ($3.3 billion).

Compared to other leagues and franchises, the Redskins jumped into the top-10. They are tied for the tenth overall value with the Golden State Warriors who are coming off of their third NBA title in four years.

From year-to-year there is never much movement from the top of the ranking. Once again, the Cowboys are the top team in the world by over $600 million. They were followed by three European soccer teams. In total four NFL teams made up the top-10, the most of any sport. 

2018 Top-10 World’s Most Valuable Sports Teams according to Forbes:

1. Dallas Cowboys, $4.8 billion (NFL)

2. Manchester United, $4.123 billion ( Soccer)

3. Real Madrid, $4.09 billion (Soccer)

4. Barcelona, $4.064 billion (Soccer)

5. New York Yankees, $4 billion (MLB)

6. New England Patriots, $3.7 billion (NFL)

7. New York Knicks, $3.6 billion (NBA)

8. Los Angeles Lakers, $3.3 billion (NBA)

8. New York Giants, $3.3 billion (NFL)

T-10. Golden State Warriors, $3.1 billion (NBA)

T-10. Washington Redskins, $3.1 billion (NFL)

Next five NFL franchises:

13. San Francisco 49ers, $3.05 billion

T-14. Los Angeles Rams, $3 billion 

17. Chicago Bears, $2.85 billion 

T-19. Houston Texans, $2.8 billion

21. New York Jets, $2.75 billion

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

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USA Today Sports Images

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

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.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Additions: Pernell McPhee (free agent)
Departures: Junior Galette (free agent)

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Other roster locks: Ryan Anderson, McPhee
On the bubble: Pete Robertson

How the outside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: By any measure, the Redskins had a top-10 pass rush last year. They were tied for seventh with 42 sacks and they got a sack on 7.3 percent of pass attempts, also seventh in the league. Looking forward to this year, Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the sixth-best pass rushing team for 2018. Ryan Kerrigan is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches age 30 and Preston Smith is about to hit his prime. After the departure of Galette, the depth is questionable, and we’ll deal with that next. Even without Galette, it’s still one of the best units in the NFL. 

To the 2017 Redskins: Some downplay the decision to let Galette walk in free agency, saying he had just three sacks. But his value went beyond that. He had 9 QB hits and 25 hurries, both second-most on the team, in just 258 pass rush snaps. Someone will have to step up and replace that pressure. The spotlight will be on Anderson, who had no sacks after being a second-round pick. He will need to step up for this year’s Redskins pass rush to be as good as last year’s. 

2018 outside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: Since the 2015 season, only one NFL player has at least 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions and it’s Preston Smith. His consistency is an issue but even when he is going for a few weeks between sacks he is getting pressure on the quarterback. Still, there is more ability there. Smith could set himself up for a big payday by breaking through with a double-digit sack season while continuing to make big plays in his contract year.

Most to prove: To be fair, Anderson did not get a whole lot of chances to rush the passer last year, playing just 81 pass rush snaps. Still, there are reasons to be concerned about how much he can produce after a zero-sack, one-hit, three-hurries 2017 debut season. Anderson was not expected to make a splash as a rookie, but more was anticipated. He was drafted where he was in part because of his work ethic. The Redskins hope he will work his way into a significant second-year leap. 

Rookie watch: There are no rookie outside linebackers on the roster. 

Bottom line: The main concern about the Redskins’ defense this year revolves around the cornerback spot following the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland. The best way to manage problematic cornerbacks is by getting a strong pass rush. The Redskins need to Smith to have a true breakout season and for Anderson or McPhee to be a strong contributor off the bench. Along with the improved defensive line, the pass rush could transform the defensive line into a quality unit in 2018. 

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series