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Rookie RB Jones getting to be a ‘problem’ for defenses

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Rookie RB Jones getting to be a ‘problem’ for defenses

In the second quarter of the Redskins’ preseason game against the Lions rookie running back Matt Jones had the kind of run the team hopes to see from the rookie on a regular basis.

On first down from the Washington 20, he took a handoff from Colt McCoy and headed up the middle. In the hole he planted, made a slight change of direction and quickly rolled into the second level. About 12 yards downfield a defensive back flew in to try to make the tackle but Jones made a move and dodged him. He kept heading north until he was brought down after a gain of 24 yards.

Jones finished the game leading the team in rushing with 52 yards on 10 carries. He blasted his way into the end zone from a yard out. His head coach was impressed.

“Matt Jones continues to hit the hole the way we want him to—hard,” Jay Gruden said after the game. “He gets through the second level, he’s a problem.”

At 6-2, 231 Jones can be a big problem. He is doing what Scot McCloughan hoped he would do when he drafted Jones out of Florida in the third round. There were plenty of skeptics among draft analysts when they turned in the card with his name on it as the 95th overall pick last May. The instant conventional wisdom was that the third round was way too high to take Jones, who wasn’t even the Gators’ full-time running back. After Thursday, many of them are singing a different tune.

While Jones has looked good throughout training camp and the preseason (he leads the Redskins with 82 yards on 13 carries) it is too early to know if he is a hit or a bust or something in between. His workload once the regular season starts is uncertain. It is clear that Alfred Morris remains the No. 1 back.

“Right now I would say more of a relief back,” said Gruden when asked about what Jones’ role will be. “Take some load off of Alfred late in the game or the second quarter here and there, spell him from time-to-time. Alfred is doing so good and has been in such good shape, it is hard to take him out of the game on first or second down. I think it’s going to be important for Matt to earn his reps. He’s got to go out these last three preseason games and A) stay healthy and B) show the stamina that he has, the ball security that we can trust him in a game on Sunday afternoons. If he earns the reps, he will get his fair share of carries.”

Last year, working a dual role as Morris’ relief and the third-down back, Roy Helu had just 40 carries. But the Redskins plan to run the ball more this year and hope that a revamped defense can keep them in a position to do so. That could lead to more carries for Jones, assuming he keeps up what he has been doing since he took the field for the Redskins.

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As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper on Monday, and with that, alarms go off around the NFL that it's wheeling and dealing season. The trade deadline hits in one week, and for teams looking to bolster their squad before the second half of the year, it's time to see what areas could improve. 

For Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, the injury situation at wide receiver means that his team could use help at the position. 

"We could probably use one more there if we could," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast. 

Asked if there was one area the team could bolster via trade, the coach explained that if wideouts Jamison Crowder or Paul Richardson could come back from injury right away, the Redskins would have no need to trade for another receiver. Unfortunately for the Redskins, neither injury situation is very clear, and some reports show that Crowder could miss a few more weeks working back from an ankle injury. 

"I think if you look at our team right now with the injuries to Crowder and obviously the uncertainty with Richardson you might want to add another receiver, but I like what [Michael] Floyd’s done coming in here," Gruden said. 

Floyd had one catch for 20 yards in the Redskins win on Sunday over the Cowboys, but he's a physical veteran that has the coach excited. Gruden also complimented what Maurice Harris and Brian Quick have done in the absence of Richardson and Crowder.

While the Cowboys struck first in the receiver trade market, more players remain reportedly available, including Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas and Dolphins WR DeVante Parker. 

Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowler in Denver, but at 30 years old and with some trade value, it makes sense for John Elway to consider his market. The Broncos are 3-4 and have an underperforming offense. 

Parker was a first-round pick in 2015 but has not had a 1,000-yard season in Miami. Making matters more complicated, Parker's agent Jimmy Gould called Dolphins head coach Adam Gase "incompetent" to a host of different media outlets. Parker has only been active twice this season though he contends health is not an issue. 

Gruden remains confident that 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson will get going, and he is a similar big target as Thomas and Parker. Should Richardson miss significant time, the Redskins would lack a true speed threat.

There's certainly no clear indication that Washington will make a move before the NFL trade deadline, but as things stand now with injuries, there is a need. Remember, too, the Redskins are long on 2019 draft picks with 10 selections in seven rounds.



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A day after loss to Redskins, Cowboys trade for Raiders WR Amari Cooper

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A day after loss to Redskins, Cowboys trade for Raiders WR Amari Cooper

The Dallas Cowboys are in desperate need of a playmaking wide receiver. The lack of talent at wide receiver has been evident throughout the first seven weeks of the 2018 NFL season, with wide receivers accounting for just five of the Cowboys' eight passing touchdowns.

Following the 20-17 loss to the Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys decided to make a quick fix, trading a 2019 first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for star wide receiver Amari Cooper, according to multiple reports.

Cooper, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has just 22 catches for 280 yards and one touchdown in the first six games. The former Alabama star had an equally disappointing 2017 campaign and has grown frustrated with his role in John Gruden's new regime.

Cooper will instantly become the Cowboys best deep threat and will allow Cole Beasley to shine both in the slot and spread out wide. Beasley leads the Cowboys with 33 receptions for 350 yards and two touchdowns.

Rookie Michael Gallup, who scored the Cowboys' only passing touchdown against the Redskins, has the second most targets among Dallas receivers, hauling in 10 of his 22 targets for 190 yards. Tight end Geoff Swaim has 19 catches for 205 yards and running back Ezekiel Elliott has 25 catches for 175 yards.

Prescott is averaging just 202.2 passing yards per game, and while Cooper may not be a true top-tier wide receiver, he is the next best thing and will allow the offense to be more dynamic in its play-calling.

Cooper will make an estimated $13.9 million in base salary in 2019, meaning the Cowboys will have to pay a pretty penny to keep him.

The move makes it clear that the Raiders are shifting toward a full rebuild. It also shows that Dallas understands it didn't have enough firepower to compete for a divisional title.

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