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Where the Redskins stand after latest loss to Dallas

Where the Redskins stand after latest loss to Dallas

DALLAS—The Redskins’ 31-26 loss to the Cowboys put them in a position where they will have a hard time defending their NFC East division title. But they are still in good shape to make the playoffs for the second straight year.

That may not seem like much of an accomplishment but the Redskins have not played in the postseason after two consecutive seasons since 1991-1992.

Looking at the division race first, the 6-4-1 Redskins trail the 10-1 Cowboys by three and a half games. Both teams have five games left to play. The Redskins also are behind the 7-3 Giants. The chances of the Redskins catching the Cowboys and moving past the Giants to take the division look very remote.

The wild card race is a different story. The Redskins will finish Week 12 where they started it, in position for the sixth and final NFC playoff spot. The Vikings, who lost to the Lions on Thursday are 6-5, a half game being Washington. Two 5-5 teams, the Bucs and Eagles, play on Sunday and Monday, respectively, so they both will have a chance to move to within a half game of the Redskins. But no team is in position to overtake them for that final spot this week.

The Redskins will travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals, who are 4-5-1, on Dec. 4. If they beat the Falcons on Sunday they would have a chance to pull even with the Redskins. That looms as a key game for Washington, but if the Cardinals pull off the upset there will be a lot at stake for both teams.

MORE REDSKINS: NEED TO KNOW: REDSKINS-COWBOYS BY THE NUMBERS—COUSINS REMAINS ON RECORD PACE

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Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott has said privately he will hold out from training camp, per report

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Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott has said privately he will hold out from training camp, per report

Since entering the NFL in 2016, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has established himself as one of the elite rushers in the NFL.

Now, he wants to be paid like it.

Elliott, who has two years remaining on his rookie deal, has privately said he plans on holding out from training camp until he receives a new deal, per ProFootballTalk.

Slated to make just $3.5 million in 2019, Elliott is one of the most underpaid players in all of football. He's set to make $9.09 million in 2020, the final year of his rookie deal.

Dallas has put off extension talks with Elliott simply because he's still under contract for two more seasons, per the report.

Quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper are both free agents after the season, and the Cowboys would like to keep both at all costs, ProFootballTalk said. Additionally, Dallas just signed defensive end Demarcus Lawrence to a five-year, $105 million contract extension this offseason.

Should he not receive a contract extension, Elliott could face a situation similar to what Demarco Murray had with the Cowboys in 2014. Murray set a franchise record for most rushing yards in a season, yet Dallas still chose to let him walk in free agency.

Elliott's not the only star running back threatening to holdout this offseason. Los Angeles Chargers' Melvin Gordon has publicly stated he will skip training camp until he gets a new deal and is not afraid to miss regular-season games, similar to what Le'Veon Bell did last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Since entering the NFL in 2016, Elliott has led the NFL in rushing twice. His 4,048 total rushing yards over the past three seasons are the most in the NFL, and he has over 600 more rushing yards than Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley, the next most rushing yards over that span.

Whether he actually holds out or whether the Cowboys turn their attention to extending their star running back will be seen in the coming weeks.

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10 Questions for training camp: Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

10 Questions for training camp: Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

The Redskins spent a ton of money to fix their safety position this offseason, shelling out $45 million guaranteed for Landon Collins.

There's only one problem, however, as a modern NFL defense requires two safeties.

Assuming health, Collins will undoubtedly start at safety. What player lines up next to him will bring concerns regardless of the direction the Washington coaching staff leans.

The leading contender for the job is Montae Nicholson, a third-year pro out of Michigan State. As a rookie, Nicholson looked like a potential draft steal, especially early in the season when he showed speed, pop and a nose for the football. His rookie season ended after just eight games though due to injuries and a concussion.

Going into this second year in 2019, Jay Gruden heaped significant praise on Nicholson, and compared his importance to the defense as Jordan Reed was to the Redskins offense.

Things didn't go well.

Nicholson never seemed to understand the new scheme in place, where he and DJ Swearinger occupied sides of the field instead of a more traditional strong and free safety role. Nicholson has the track background to play a real center field, and seemed bewildered at times playing close to the line of scrimmage.

As the 2018 campaign staggered along, Redskins team president Bruce Allen traded with Green Bay for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, effectively benching Nicholson. Clinton-Dix wasn't much better in D.C., and eventually he signed with the Bears as a free agent this offseason.

There was also a late-season arrest for Nicholson outside of a Loudon County bar. While charges eventually got dropped, the Redskins suspended Nicholson for the final few games of 2018.

Add all of that up, and it's hard to believe Redskins' brass when they speak about how much they trust Nicholson and expect great things from him. Still, the NFL is no place for hurt feelings, and both the franchise and the safety need to turn the page from an ugly 2018 and hope 2019 fares better.

The reality is the Redskins don't have many options if Nicholson can't reclaim his starting role. Troy Apke showed next to nothing in an injury-plagued rookie season last year. Deshazor Everett has been with the Redskins for four seasons and has been a valuable special teams player, yet, when the team has needed somebody to fill a revolving door at either safety spot, he rarely gets a chance.

Odds are there isn't more help coming.

The draft came and went without Washington adding a safety. Same with the second wave of free agency.

Maybe a veteran safety with legit speed emerges on the marketplace - an unexpected training camp cut - but the Burgundy and Gold can't count on that. It's also possible veteran defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can make the Redskins 53-man roster and help at safety in passing situations.

Remember, however, that DRC retired from football last year halfway through the season. Let's see him get through the grind of two-a-days in Richmond before considering the 33-year-old part of the solution.

Add all of that up and it's very clear the Redskins need a lot from Nicholson.

Collins should help Washington immediately, as a leader and as a sure tackler. He's had some elite seasons in the NFL, but that last happened in 2016.

Collins on his own as the last line of defense will help the Redskins, but not to the tune of an average salary of $15 million.

Collins paired with a healthy and fully engaged Nicholson could be special. But that requires Nicholson to be both healthy and fully engaged. Time will tell on that.

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