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Niles Paul on injury: 'Life can be cruel sometimes'

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Niles Paul on injury: 'Life can be cruel sometimes'

A few hours after suffering a season-ending injury in Cleveland, Redskins tight end Niles Paul took to Twitter to express his disappointment and thank fans for their well-wishes.

“This one is a tough pill to swallow,” he wrote. “Finally got the opportunity I always wanted since I entered this league. Took me 4 years to get there & just like that, it was taken from me.”

Paul, of course, was referring to the fact that he had just earned a bigger role in this year’s offense and was listed this week on the depth chart as the Redskins’ No. 1 tight end—ahead of the talented-yet-injury-prone Jordan Reed.

Paul had worked diligently to earn the distinction. The 26-year-old, who signed a three-year contract extension in March that could be worth as much as $9.6 million, had bulked up to 252 pounds (from 238 in 2014) in an effort to become a better blocker, telling CSNWashington.com in June: “I was always a willing blocker, but I was 230-pounds going against guys who were 260, 270, 280. I just wanted to level out the playing field a little bit.”

It worked. Recently, in fact, Coach Jay Gruden called Paul the most “complete” tight end on the roster, in part because of his improved effectiveness as a blocker.

Now, though, the Nebraska product faces a lengthy rehab after suffering a fracture and dislocated left ankle in the first quarter of Thursday’s preseason opening victory.

Paul’s injury robs the locker room of one of its most respected leaders, subtracts a good special teamer from a unit that can't really afford to lose anyone and compounds the Redskins’ depth issue at the tight end position. Last week, Logan Paulsen suffered a toe injury that the team fears is season-ending, a source told CSNWashington.com on Thursday, and Reed is battling a hamstring injury that sidelined him against the Browns. The three healthy tight ends on the roster--Je'Ron Hamm, Chase Dixon and Devin Mahina--have no regular season experience, meaning it's possible, if not likely, that GM Scot McCloughan will look to bolster the unit's depth.

Indeed, this was shaping up to be Paul’s year to take the ball and run with it—literally. Which is another reason he was so emotional as he got carted off the field at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“Life can be cruel sometimes,” Paul wrote. “Thank you for all your well wishes & prayers. They are very much appreciated.”

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2019 NFL mock draft: Redskins roundup in the first round

2019 NFL mock draft: Redskins roundup in the first round

A quick reminder about gauging NFL mock drafts three months out before the actual fun in late April: Focus more on the position than the player.

<<GALLERY: 2019 NFL MOCK DRAFT 11.0>>

Public draft boards remain fluid and will remain in this flexible state for several weeks before hardening in early March after the Combine. Compared to pro scouts and front office personnel, outside analysts are always behind the curve. Opinions change once sources share internal projections and rumors spread.

There is also more time for homework on a concentrated batch rather than all of college football.

Alabama safety Deionte Thompson lived in the top 10 before the college football playoffs. Two games later, mock drafters dropped him into the 20’s after struggles against Oklahoma and Clemson. Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen, Oklahoma guard Cody Ford, Kansas State offensive lineman Dalton Risner and Alabama running back Josh Jacobs are among the prospects positively trending.

Team needs, however, remain stable for weeks, outside of the rogue trade or contract extension. Clubs are not permitted to enter into contract negotiations with unrestricted free agents until March 11.

With the knowledge of strengths and weaknesses, study how many players at a position of interest are mocked with a general range of your team’s selection. This is more important for now than a specific prospect at a precise draft slot.

Now, it wouldn't be kosher to put entire mock drafts from other entities on our site (Click here for my latest full two-round mock draft).

Instead, here’s a sampling of what football thinkers are envisioning for the Redskins in the first round.

CBS and USA Today: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

We have a trade. CBS moves the Redskins to the Green Bay’s selection at 12, while USA Today jumps Washington all the way to nine via Buffalo. Both scenarios have Washington selecting a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback reared in the Big 12 Conference. Apologies for the Robert Griffin III flashbacks.

As discussed here, the Redskins may at least need to jump Denver at 10 and Miami at 13 for a passer, assuming Murray or Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins slip past the Giants (6) and Jaguars (7).

NFL.com: Malcolm Brown, WR, Oklahoma

Pro Football Focus: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

Analyst Daniel Jeremiah states Brown, a true speed threat, makes for a “tempting” option assuming Washington sorts out its quarterback situation. PFF’s Steve Palazzolo writes Washington “needs to replenish their receiving corps and Arcega-Whiteside has one of the best combinations of body control and contested-catch skills in the draft.”

All fair points, but consider me a tad dubious about the Redskins going with a pass catcher at 15. The Redskins certainly need receiver help and more offensive playmakers overall. Adding a veteran ready to help meshes more with a coaching staff and perhaps front office likely putting more of a premium on immediate success after missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season. If slot target Jamison Crowder re-signs, that may eat up any remaining dollars directed for a receiver.

ESPN: Jachai Polite, OLB, Florida

Mel Kiper Jr. sends an edge rusher to Ashburn, specifically Florida’s Jachai Polite, who finished with 11 sacks this season. This need races to the top of Washington’s list should the team move on from free agent Preston Smith, and does not believe 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson can handle the gig.

SB Nation: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

“There are a number areas Washington could address with the No. 15 pick,” writes Dan Kadar. “Cornerback is one of them, and Murphy is pro-ready corner thanks to his instincts and ability to play the ball in the air.”

Again, fair points, and Murphy’s cover skills have some league voice considering him the draft’s top corner ahead of LSU’s Greedy Williams. However…

The Redskins could not really justify a corner in the first round if Josh Norman stays. Now, should they decide the high-priced defender provides more value as a salary cap casualty, then corner becomes a screaming need. It also looks like there will be a handful of corners potentially around on Day 2, including Clemson's Trayvon Mullen.

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D.J. Swearinger slams Jay Gruden, says Redskins 'will never win big'

D.J. Swearinger slams Jay Gruden, says Redskins 'will never win big'

Almost a month after his release, former Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger voiced some highly critical comments of Washington head coach Jay Gruden on his Instagram page. 

"That coach y’all have will never win big cause it ain it him to coach discipline," Swearinger wrote in a comment on his page. 

The backstory here needs telling.

While Swearinger was playing at a high level for Washington in 2018, he was clashing with the coaching staff.

Swearinger was released before the Redskins final game of the 2018 season after the safety made damning comments about defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Swearinger alleged that he watched more film than the defensive coaches and questioned the team's scheme in a critical moment of the Week 16 loss against the Titans. 

This was not the first time Swearinger had gone public with complaints about coaching. It happened multiple times in 2018 and also in 2017. 

After an ugly December loss against the Giants that caused Swearinger to criticize the team, Gruden publicly admonished his safety. Privately, the coach made clear that the behavior would not again be tolerated. Then, the Titans game happened, Swearinger blasted Mansuky. The safety was released a few days later.

Below are Swearinger's full comments from his Instagram page that came in a reply to a Redskins fan saying he missed him on the team:

Y’all will never win big bro. I’ve seen championship swagger from a coach BA he a OG. That coach y’all have will never win big cause it ain it him to coach discipline..it ain in him to chew somebody out in practice cause they lacking..when u say I’m a cancer for wanting to practice harder or wanting to get coached harder just to win then winning prolly not for you or you don’t understand that hard work pays off. Mediocre work get you beat! Remember This winners are born but champions are made. A strong leader of men make others around him better. Spread Peace Love And Elevation In everything you do lil brudda! Be Easy!!

Nobody would question Swearinger's effort in practice or workouts. He's a hard worker.

For the season, he logged four interceptions and three forced fumbles to go with a sack and 53 tackles in 15 games. Pro Football Focus ranked Swearinger the 13th best safety in the NFL and he had been named as an alternate to the Pro Bowl.

Obviously, Swearinger was not released because of his play. The coaching staff just felt they could no longer tolerate his public criticism, and some on the staff had felt that way for a long time. 

It should be noted too that for a talented player, Swearinger has bounced around a lot.

The Texans released him two years after drafting him in 2013, despite having two more years on his rookie contract. Tampa signed him, and released him after seven games. Things worked out in Swearinger's next stop with the Cardinals, where he played for part of 2015 and the full 2016 season before signing with the Redskins as a free agent in 2017.

The Redskins cut Swearinger despite having another year on his contract for a modest $4.5 million price tag. Arizona claimed him on waivers. 

One bizarre note in all this: The actual photo Swearinger posted to go along with this comment had nothing to do with the Redskins. It was a picture of Swearinger with Larry Fitzgerald, with the safety congratulating the receiver for his recent announcement that he would return for the 2019 season. 

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