Monthly Archives: November 2017

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ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins’ offensive line, once more, has become a mystery. And that’s not an ideal spot to be in coming off a tough loss while in the early stages of a three-game-in-12-day stretch.

The Redskins placed center Spencer Long on injured reserve, which wouldn’t be so bad if his replacement, Chase Roullier, hadn’t fractured a bone in his hand Sunday. Roullier will miss at least a week.

They did sign center Demetrius Rhaney, but the starter if Roullier doesn’t play will be veteran Tony Bergstrom. But the Redskins signed him on Oct. 25 to back up at guard and tackle. That’s what he’s done throughout his career, but he does have experience playing center. Bergstrom started three games at center for Oakland in 2015. Rhaney has appeared in 32 games, making one start with the St. Louis Rams in 2015.

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However, he’s in a tough position having to adapt to a new role with Washington during a week in which the Redskins will conduct just walk-throughs. The other question, though, will be: Who’s playing next to him? And then who’s playing next to the guy next to him?

The Redskins have injuries at both left guard and left tackle with Shawn Lauvao and Trent Williams. Lauvao, who has been bothered by a stinger, couldn’t finish Sunday’s game at New Orleans and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. He was replaced by veteran tackle Ty Nsekhe. Williams has been questionable for every game since hurting his knee against San Francisco on Oct. 15. He’s missed two games, but playing on a short week will be challenging.

If Williams can’t play, Nsekhe could start at tackle. If both Williams and Lauvao can’t play, then Nsekhe could play tackle with Tyler Catalina at guard.

Until this season, the Redskins wanted Nsekhe only at tackle and weren’t comfortable with him moving inside. When Lauvao was hurt Sunday, though, they felt they had no choice.

“Ty played pretty well for never playing it,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Now that he can play tackle and guard, it’s very beneficial. He might have to play only tackle this week. He might have to play guard. He knows them all. Smart guy.”

Long will undergo surgery to repair his quad tendon. He’s an unrestricted free agent after the season. If Roullier doesn’t play, he will be the eighth linemen to miss a game this season. They’ve had only one lineman play all 10 games thus far: right tackle Morgan Moses. But he’s played much of the season with two injured ankles.

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ASHBURN, Virginia — Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins’ future continues to be a topic. There’s nothing that can be done until the season ends. And even then the story might continue for months — or longer. Still, there’s interest and that leads us to this week’s mailbag.

Ryan Stiles @rstiles82
Replying to @john_keim
#jkmailbag A friend posed the theory that the Niners traded for Jimmy G, just so Shanny can trade him for Cousins. The more I think about it, the more I could see it (happening, not being a good idea). Any chance you see that happening?
12:46 AM – Nov 11, 2017
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John Keim: Oh, man, someone wants to make my head explode. I should rate some questions by the number of ibuprofen it causes me to take. This is a four-Advil query.

But quarterback, as you know, has been a big topic this week — and for the past several hundred — in Washington. And this question is sort of intriguing.

It certainly would be a blockbuster move and if the Redskins are going to let Cousins walk, my hunch is that they’ll make some sort of splash — whether through free agency, a trade or in the draft. Some of that, too, depends on how the team ends up this season and how Cousins himself finishes. If he plays well and they make the playoffs? Look for a tag. But if they let him walk, I could see them doing something they can sell to the fan base to generate excitement.

But I stress: They like Colt McCoy quite a bit and the question last offseason before making an offer to Cousins centered on how much more the latter was worth. Clearly, they value Cousins as they should. The difference has been how much they value — or are willing to “value” — him.
If the Redskins decide to let Kirk Cousins walk, they’ll likely look to make some sort of splash via free agency, a trade or in the draft. Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire
So that leads to alternatives. And that leads to Jimmy Garoppolo. I have a hard time believing the 49ers would trade him after the season. Adam Schefter reported it wasn’t a given that a long-term deal would be struck, and if that’s the case then, sure, the 49ers could trade him. They could possibly get more than the second-round pick they gave to New England for him. Anything can happen; but I know the 49ers really liked him long before this trade. I also know one reason they traded for him was the belief that Washington would retain Cousins somehow (likely on the tag). It’s hard to believe the Redskins would send Cousins to San Francisco and reunite him with Kyle Shanahan.

But the 49ers are big on having options, and if they’re not impressed with Garoppolo after he finally plays, or if he doesn’t want to sign there, they can pivot in different directions. Let’s play a hypothetical and say Cousins is allowed to hit unrestricted free agency. If the 49ers aren’t sold on Garoppolo (or think he’ll take longer than desired to develop), then they could trade him and sign Cousins.

If the Redskins tag Cousins, the 49ers could do the same and that’s where you’d get trade talk.

I do have a tough time seeing a one-for-one swap. I don’t know what the Redskins truly think of Garoppolo because he just hasn’t been a realistic option. They know they can control Cousins for another year with a franchise tag (or transition tag). Because of McCoy, they could draft a quarterback. A trade, though, would have to be considered, especially if they really like a guy. But with Garoppolo, what if he doesn’t play well? What’s his value? Would it be a straight swap? Or which side should get more — the one trading the more proven commodity (Cousins) or the one with possibly a higher upside (Garoppolo)?

Also, both teams would need to work out long-term deals before any trade; I’d say the 49ers would prefer Garoppolo under a franchise tag of $23.9 million rather than Cousins at $34.4 million. But it’s well-known that Shanahan remains a big fan of Cousins.

I’d bet Garoppolo ends up with the 49ers long term. And if he doesn’t, and it’s because he was really bad (not just because of the talent around him either), if you’re the Redskins would you really make that deal? I wouldn’t. And, I’d also bet (though not a lot) that the Redskins use a tag to keep Cousins around.

But, because both situations are fluid, it’s worth wondering.

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ASHBURN, Va. — Before practice, Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden spotted an unusual sight, at least in recent weeks: left tackle Trent Williams stretching. So Gruden walked over, and greeted him with a loud, “Heyyyy!”

No doubt, Williams just being on the field wearing his white No. 71 jersey was a sight for sore eyes. It was only his second practice since Week 4 and first since Oct. 21. But the Redskins still don’t know if he’ll be able to play against Minnesota on Sunday.

Williams was among 12 players listed as questionable with two others already declared out: defensive linemen Matt Ioannidis (hand) and Arthur Jones (shoulder). The other 11 listed as questionable: receiver Jamison Crowder (hamstring), guard Shawn Lauvao (stinger), center Spencer Long (knee/quad), tackle Morgan Moses (ankles), tackle Ty Nsekhe (core muscle), safety Montae Nicholson (shoulder), tight end Niles Paul (concussion), receiver Brian Quick (concussion), tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring), guard Brandon Scherff (knee) and linebacker Zach Brown (ankle).
Trent Williams has missed the last two games because of multiple issues with his knee. Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire
Reed did not practice Friday after being limited Thursday. Coach Jay Gruden said they wanted to give him another day of rest and re-evaluate him over the weekend. Reed missed last week with a hamstring injury, as well. Crowder, who also missed with a hamstring, practiced and said Thursday that he will play.

The Redskins have been hopeful that if Williams doesn’t return that three other starters — all of whom missed the last two weeks — will. But they’re keeping 11 offensive linemen on the active roster just in case.

Williams has missed the last two games because of multiple issues with his knee. He has ligament damage that likely will require surgery at some point. But he also has a bone bruise that has made playing more difficult.

“I feel better than the last couple weeks, but it’s still some uncertainty there,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a game-time decision.”

Williams said he wanted to test his knee to see what sort of lateral movement he had and could withstand.

“It’s constantly hurting while moving around,” Williams said. “Walking around, there’s not much discomfort in that but after being on it and playing football the next day it’s pretty achy.”

Just seeing him on the field led to smiles for the coaches.
“It was nice to see him put his helmet on for the first time in a while,” Gruden said, “and have the jersey put on over his shoulders. Wanted to make sure it still fit. The big thing is, he has to feel comfortable enough we can be effective. He’s played at such a high level his whole career, with the pain he has been having, he just doesn’t feel like himself. If he feels he can go, I’m sure he will go. He’s the toughest guy on this team.”

Williams called Friday a chance to measure where he’s at with his game. Because he’s missed two games and hasn’t practiced a lot in the last month, he’s not as sharp physically.

“Rust, yeah, I guess you could say that,” Williams said. “I haven’t been away from the game; I’ve been going through it in my mind. So there’s not as much rust mentally but physically when you get back moving around you’ve got to knock off a little rust.”

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The Washington Redskins must cut their roster to 53 by 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 2. Here’s a final 53-man roster projection:

Quarterback (2): Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy

That leaves Nate Sudfeld out. Coach Jay Gruden has been OK in the past carrying just two quarterbacks, and they could probably get Sudfeld back on the practice squad to keep him around and develop. If they believe they can’t sign him to the practice squad, he could earn a roster spot. And if they believe he’s worth grooming as an eventual starter, then he won’t be cut. There were definite mixed feelings about that topic. But keeping him means releasing someone who might be able to help now, probably a defensive player.
Nate Sudfield (left) might join Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy on the active roster if they don’t believe he’d get through waivers and onto the practice squad. Steve Helber/AP
Running back (4): Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, Mack Brown

That leaves veteran Matt Jones, who opened last season as the starter, finally getting what he wanted: his release. Jones wasn’t going to beat out Kelley or Perine and Brown adds a special-teams element. Brown would be the odd man out if they kept only three backs.

Tight end (4): Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Niles Paul, Jeremy Sprinkle

The Redskins talked to teams about trading Carrier, but to no avail. He can easily make a case for deserving a roster spot. He’s been one of the top four tight ends in camp. But the Redskins like Sprinkle because they see him as a rarity: a true Y tight end because of his size. More tight ends being drafted are akin to Reed, a receiver-type who can move around. Paul’s versatility matters — he can play fullback and special teams.

Offensive line (8): Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Spencer Long, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, Chase Roullier, Kyle Kalis

The question will be: Do the Redskins eventually sign another veteran interior backup and bump Kalis (or Tyler Catalina, if he makes it) to the practice squad? Roullier played well all summer, but he and Kalis are rookies. Nsekhe is a tackle. They could use an experienced vet to back up inside. Roullier has been one of the Redskins’ most impressive rookies. The starting lineup is set.

Receiver (6): Jamison Crowder, Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, Ryan Grant, Brian Quick, Robert Davis

Quick and Davis receive the final two spots and Maurice Harris does not because they can help on more special-teams units — both Quick and Davis have been used throughout the summer at gunner, for example. Both are big and physical; Harris is tall, but does not play as physically and is mostly limited to being a backup returner. Because of Doctson’s hamstring issues, it’s good for Washington to have an experienced backup such as Quick (who did not look sharp in the spring, but improved this summer). Harris didn’t do much of anything this summer because of a knee injury. They’d be smart to keep Harris on the practice squad and continue developing him.

Defensive line (7): Ziggy Hood, Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee, Anthony Lanier, Joey Mbu

Phil Taylor Sr. would have been on the roster if not for a season-ending torn quad. That left Mbu and A.J. Francis fighting for the potential last spot (unless they only keep six). The rest of the group was easy to pick. If Mbu doesn’t make it, he could warrant a practice-squad spot. McClain has not had a strong summer, but is too expensive to cut. Ioannidis has been their starting nickel tackle, along with Allen. Lanier is worth developing more and the Redskins believe Hood sets the tone for this group with his approach. If they go with six linemen and no Mbu (nor Francis), then they could use a rotation at nose tackle with Hood and McGee — or claim someone off waivers.

Linebacker (9): Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Junior Galette, Ryan Anderson, Chris Carter, Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Will Compton, Martrell Spaight

This group was relatively easy to pick, as a lot hinged on whether Spaight got through camp healthy. Carter can play inside or outside and helps on special teams. Also, with Anderson still sidelined with a stinger injury, Carter can provide help as a fourth outside linebacker. This means cutting draft pick Josh Harvey-Clemons and undrafted Nico Marley. Harvey-Clemons was making a transition from safety and has more to learn; the practice squad would be a good place for him. Marley’s energy would help there, too.

 

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Secondary (10): Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller, Fabian Moreau, Quinton Dunbar, Josh Holsey, D.J. Swearinger, Su’a Cravens, Deshazor Everett, Montae Nicholson
Expect DeAngelo Hall to remain on the physically unable to perform list when the season begins. Holsey’s play this summer forced the Redskins to keep six corners. But it meant having to cut veteran Will Blackmon, a versatile player who can play safety or corner. It leaves them somewhat inexperienced at safety, with Cravens not having yet played the spot in an NFL game and Nicholson a rookie. Everett’s special-teams play warrants a spot. If they only keep six defensive linemen, then Blackmon could find a spot as a fifth safety.

Specialists (3): Tress Way, Dustin Hopkins, Nick Sundberg

Considering the Redskins didn’t bring in competition for anyone in this group, their spots are safe. However, Hopkins did not have a strong year last season (81-percent rate on field goals) and, despite his youth and strong leg, must be more consistent. With kickers and punters, job security is a week-to-week gig.