ASHBURN, Va. -- The plan for nearly a decade changed on a yearly basis. Not a whole lot stuck. The Washington Redskins would form a new safety combination, only to seek another one the following year.
Since 2008 -- the year after safety Sean Taylor, who was becoming one of the game's best safeties, was murdered -- the Redskins have had 24 different players start at least one game at safety. And only six players have started at least 10 games in a season for the Redskins in that time.
But the Redskins finally have two young safeties who, if they play well, could change this trend. It's not a stretch to think they might: free agent signee D.J. Swearinger is a former second-round pick whose game finally matured last season with his third team, Arizona; and Su'a Cravens, another second-round pick, will play his more natural safety position after a year at nickel/dime linebacker.
Redskins corner Josh Norman knows what to expect from Swearinger, his high school teammate.
"We're just balling. Dogs and ballers, that's it," Norman said. "I know he has that in him just playing with him. On one of those routes [in practice] he cut and I was like, 'Bro, what [are you doing?].' He's like, 'Man, I'm just out here balling.' It's fun to have that back here."
And, if he works, it'll be even more fun for the coaches.
"He just looks like a safety back there," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "No offense to the previous safeties we've had before, but D.J. is to a level in his career where he's got a lot of confidence. He has got a lot of talent. We know that he's a physical guy, but as far as coverages and breaking up things, he's got a lot of confidence and he's going to really, really emerge as a top safety not only for this team but in this league."
The spring really will be about seeing how each one can handle the job. The Redskins will ask their safeties to rotate so they'll both have to be skilled in the box as well as deep middle. Swearinger had been more of a strong safety in his career until playing a lot of free last year, as well.
"I like free safety better," he said. "I'm always in the middle so a lot of receivers won't be lurking in the middle when they see me back there so I like that better.
"I like going against the quarterbacks and you're going against the quarterback."
Cravens was a standout freshman safety at USC, earning placement on freshman All-American teams, before becoming more of a hybrid safety/linebacker. He was ecstatic late last season when the Redskins decided to use him full time at safety. Cravens is not a speed demon in the 40-yard dash, but he always has played faster on the field because of his instincts. A key will be the angles he takes -- on runs or passes.
It's too early to judge, but now is the time for first impressions. There's plenty to learn: Wednesday, the offense hit some deep passes down the field; on one play, Cravens vacated the middle. He's more natural playing in the box but still must prove to the coaches he can play deep, too. As a nickel linebacker last year, Cravens showed he could make plays and tackle. But with safeties, it's often hard to gauge their true progress until they're in live hitting situations.
"He looked like he was fluid, looked like he has some range," Gruden said. "I like the way he's bought into the safety position. I think he's fired up about it. That's half the battle. He feels like he belongs out there. The confidence is going to grow the more he understands the system and plays within the system. He still has a ways to go, but he has got a great chance to be a very good safety because he can play in the box, and if he shows us the range that we think he might have, he can be very versatile. And D.J. can come down, he can play back, whatever, so it's a good mix."
FRISCO, Texas -- In a fascinating story written by Seth Wickersham about the relationship between Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks, the Pro Bowl cornerback told friends he allowed himself to imagine playing for the Dallas Cowboys.
Naturally, it has Cowboys fans wondering about that as well, which is why it is the subject of this week’s Twitter mailbag.
— Harden da real MVP (@Radical4_Christ) May 25, 2017
So this question also includes Darrelle Revis, but we’ll cut to the chase: not interested. At least that’s what I’ve been told more than a few times from folks inside the Cowboys’ organization. Revis isn’t the player he was a couple of years ago.
But Sherman is a different situation. He’s 29. He has not missed a game in his career. He is productive (30 interceptions). He would bring an attitude and bravado to a defense that has been solid.
Contractually, anything is possible. Sherman is set to make $11.4 million this year and $11 million in 2018 before he becomes a free agent. The Cowboys can absorb Sherman’s base salaries without needing to do anything to their salary cap once they gain the $14 million in space from Tony Romo’s contract when the quarterback’s release becomes official on June 2. They could look to extend Sherman’s contract if they wanted as well and lower his cap figures.
Stephen Jones likes to say player acquisition is 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. He also likes to say, “Never say never.” This falls into the “never say never” category when you’re actually saying never. Well, not never, but put the possibility of it happening at 1 percent.
Nobody wants to listen, but the Cowboys have made their intentions clear in free agency: They will not pay big money. The same holds true for a potential trade. If they are going to pay significant money to anybody, it will be to players they know.
If not, then the stars have to align and everything must be in their favor.
The Cowboys just drafted four defensive backs, including three cornerbacks -- Chidobe Awuzie in the second round, Jourdan Lewis in the third and Marquez White in the sixth. They also have second-year cornerback Anthony Brown. Will any of them be as good as Sherman is right now? Maybe. Maybe not. And given how good Sherman has been, it’s more the "maybe not" part.
Sherman would bring a lot to the Cowboys defense, especially when you look at the receivers with the New York Giants (Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard) and Philadelphia Eagles (Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews).
He would bring a pedigree and fearlessness to the defense as well. He has helped make Seattle's defense one of the best in the NFL for the last few years. He’s not alone, by any stretch, but he is the face of that defense.
Some will view Sherman as a final puzzle piece of sorts, and knowing how badly Jerry Jones wants to win a Super Bowl, wouldn’t they go after him? It would have made more sense for the Seahawks to do something during the draft so they could find a replacement. It would have made more sense for the Cowboys to do it then too.
ASHBURN, Va. -- The prized rookie trotted out onto the field for snaps with the third unit, a group no one expects Jonathan Allen to stick with. Not after the Washington Redskins, who considered him the second-best player in the draft, selected him 17th overall.
But they want to take it slow with the defensive lineman. So his early reps during the spring workouts came with the No. 3 defense. The key for Allen will be getting ready to start the season, not the group he works with in May. Redskins safety Will Blackmon said on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football" show that Allen has a "Reggie White energy about him. The new secretary of the defense." Blackmon was referring to Allen's energy -- there's a calmness to it -- and not skill set. But the point is that Allen enters with a veteran-type presence.
For now, though, it’s just about developing. The Redskins are in shorts and helmets and two months from the opening of training camp. It's a time to teach and learn.
“These rookies, we’re trying to just get them baby steps. We don’t want to just throw them out in the fire,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.
The Redskins worked various line groups ahead of Allen. Joey Mbu, for example, worked as the No. 1 nose tackle along with ends Ziggy Hood and Anthony Lanier. They will continue to rotate at this spot. For now, it doesn’t matter who lines up with which group.
But it’s good for developing players such as Lanier to face the first-team offensive line. For example, with Trent Williams working out in Houston, Lanier faced Ty Nsekhe, a quality backup capable of starting. On one play, Lanier showed excellent leverage and strength in moving him back. His development will help the line. The same is true of second-year player Matt Ioannidis, who took snaps with the first defense at times as well.
And what the Redskins want Allen to do now is simply develop. The Redskins paired a younger line with a proven veteran coach in Jim Tomsula. Allen said he’s noticed already what a technician Tomsula is; he’ll ask players to repeat a drill if they don’t do it right, as he did a few times with Allen both in the rookie minicamp and in organized team activities. They want Allen to stay lower more consistently and focus on placing his hands in the right spots.
“There’s a lot for me to learn, a lot I don’t know,” Allen said. “Just focus on what I can control and that’s learning as much as I can.”
Allen said the entire group has helped him out, but singled out players Hood, Mbu, Lanier and Phil Taylor in particular. There’s little doubt that when the season begins, Allen must be in a position to help. Considering his talent, he should win a starting job. They’ve worked him at both end spots and would play him as a tackle in their nickel packages.
But first things first: They want him to walk before he runs.
“He’s going to progress at a fast rate,” Gruden said. “You can see the talent that he has. He’s just going to get better and better. Let’s get his feet wet a little bit, and then we’ll throw him in there. But he’s doing a great job.”
In an interview with Bleacher Report, the Washington Redskins cornerback predicted plenty of "bad blood" in the division this season and took aim at the high-profile receivers he'll be going up against.
"You think the NFC East didn't like each other before? This year right here? There's going to be a lot of fines and maybe some suspensions," he said.
Norman said his rival, Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr., "tries to be a tough guy" who acts like "a big kid" when opponents get physical with him. He called Dallas' Dez Bryant "just a guy" who doesn't "'wow' you."
Norman turned his attention to Jeffery when asked which receivers he has circled on his schedule.
"Alshon is going to be with us this year. He's a big guy. He uses his body. And I enjoy going against big guys because they think they can get physical with me," said Norman, who's entering his second season with the Redskins. "They think that. That's quite the contrary."
Norman won't have to wait long to get his shot, as Washington hosts the Eagles in Week 1.
"I'm going to be honest with you: This s--- is going to get really ugly," he said of the NFC East. "Because I do have a safety [D.J. Swearinger] that don't give a f--- and I definitely don't."
ASHBURN, Va. -- Their talks haven’t been the typical ones between a quarterback and a receiver. Then again, Washington Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor’s background suggests he should know more, having played quarterback in college and in three NFL seasons. And that pleases Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.
It can help quicken their connection. Cousins loves the details of the position; Pryor knows what that entails.
“It’s even caught me by surprise,” Cousins said.
Cousins actually will be throwing to two former quarterbacks; tight end Jordan Reed entered Florida playing that position before switching to tight end after his freshman season. Pryor, though, played it at a much higher level, having started 10 games at the position in three years with Oakland, with 311 career passing attempts. Last season was his first full year as a receiver and Pryor responded with 1,007 yards.
Cousins and Pryor first worked together in Florida two months ago with a group of fellow Redskins players. But Pryor and Cousins met the night before, spending two hours going over plays and hand signals in Cousins’ hotel room.
“I have to know as much knowledge as he knows,” Pryor said in April. “That’s just how I am, a little different. I want to know the whole concept; I want to know the route depth. I want to know all. It’s the quarterback in me. I can’t let it go; it’s a love of the game. More knowledge is more power and more knowledge is more valuable. You have to know your part and can’t mess up thinking you know everything. I really take that serious, in terms of knowing what everyone does and what everyone needs to be doing.”
Pryor explained how, in the red zone, knowing what a quarterback goes through on certain routes helps. For example, he said, he knows that on a fade, he must be patient off the line and create separation. That requires him to drive into a defender and then back to the outside. It’s important to the timing of the play because if the quarterback is in shotgun formation, he must get the snap, spin the laces and then throw. Pryor said Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer once told him that if the receiver gets open too fast, the quarterback might not be ready to throw.
That knowledge can help Cousins and the Redskins’ offense. Also, Pryor’s ability to read a defense will as well. It’s not just about knowing the coverage on his side; it’s about knowing the big picture of a defense. It allows Pryor to adjust at receiver with the thought process of a quarterback. Cousins knows that it also means Pryor knows where the quarterback should throw by looking at the defense.
“He’s going to hold me accountable because he knows where the ball should go,” Cousins said. “I like it because I’ve never had a conversation with a receiver like I’ve had with him where he said, ‘Yeah, it was two-invert, so I took it to the post. It was quarters on the backside.’ He really can see it and he’s going to hold me accountable, so you take the good with the bad. I love it. He’s an enthusiastic guy. He’s always wanting to run another route. ‘Let’s try it again, let’s do it again,’ just a positive attitude and he’s been a joy to work with thus far.”
FRISCO, Texas -- Undrafted rookie tight end M.J. McFarland caught a simple pass down the field Wednesday and was met with a loud reminder.
It didn’t come from Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett or offensive coordinator Scott Linehan or tight ends coach Steve Loney.
It came from Dak Prescott.
“Tuck it. Tuck it,” Prescott told McFarland, telling him to secure the ball as he ran down the field to get ready for his next snap.
As Prescott enters his second season as the Cowboys' starting quarterback, more is being put on him. Linehan is adding to the Cowboys’ system as Prescott becomes more proficient in all areas with a year of experience. Prescott also is being asked to take ownership of the team.
A year ago at this time, Prescott was getting used to taking snaps from center and splitting time as the third-team quarterback with Jameill Showers. In his first organized activity as a rookie, he took two snaps in team drills. On Wednesday, he took five of the 12 snaps in team drills. Kellen Moore took three. Austin Appleby took two, and Cooper Rush had one.
“I guess just being more outspoken,” Prescott said. “But just the way I handle my business, the way I go about every day, I don’t think much has changed. Just the fact that now when I say things, people are listening, and I have the floor to say things now. Last year, I was just being quiet and trying to fit my way in somehow or another.”
He set 19 team rookie quarterback records in 2016. He tied an NFL rookie record with 13 wins. Yet Prescott says he can be “100 percent better” in everything he does.
“Mentally, I think as a quarterback and pretty much at every position, the No. 1 way to get better is the number of reps," the 23-year-old said, "and just me having a good bit of those this offseason, I think it’s going to allow me to get better with my footwork, get better at the reads, get better going through things faster and being more accurate every day.”
After Prescott earned the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award for his 23-touchdown season in which Dallas earned the best record (13-3) in the NFC, the trappings of being the Cowboys’ quarterback could've been overwhelming, but Prescott has not been caught up in the success.
While enjoying what can come for someone in his position -- such as the sponsorship deals he has secured with Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Adidas and Beats By Dre in the past 12 months -- Prescott spent the early part of the offseason working out in Orlando, Florida, with strength guru Tom Shaw, who helped prepare him for last year’s draft.
When the Cowboys reconvened in early March for captains workouts, Prescott was there, and he hasn’t missed a day.
At offseason testing earlier this week -- vertical jump, a three-cone drill, bench press, a 20-yard sprint and flexibility -- Prescott’s numbers improved from his rookie year in every category.
“He’s not resting on anything that went on last year,” quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said.
The Cowboys had that first inkling last year, when he told them that he would need a week to master the ability to take a snap from center, something he rarely did at Mississippi State. Although he was a fourth-round pick, he quickly became the leader of Dallas' rookie group. When Tony Romo and Moore went down with injuries last summer, Prescott showed that he was ready for everything.
As his second season begins, Prescott is making sure that he is ready for the encore.
“He is trying to get himself ready for every opportunity he has, as quarterback, in the meeting room, walk-through, practice, games, in the weight room,” Garrett said. “He is just one of those guys, and he is a great example for a coach to use with the other players on the team. They naturally follow him. They naturally see how he goes about everything, how ready he is for the chances that he does get.”
If teammates see him working, the thinking goes, then they will work with him. If they see him taking accountability for his mistakes, then they will accept his criticisms when they err. It’s why Prescott took the time to remind McFarland, whose chances of making the final roster might be remote at the moment, to tuck the ball away.
“I don’t look at what’s behind me,” Prescott said. “I look at where I want to go and what I can do. The only way I know is through hard work, so it’s just something that I continue to try to do.”
As general manager Jerry Reese likes to say, the New York Giants always keep their options open. They're always trying to improve.
They might on Thursday when they add depth to an already strong defense with the signings of defensive end Devin Taylor and safety Duke Ihenacho. Both were starters last season with the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins, respectively. Neither are expected to fill similar roles with the Giants, where they will battle for jobs this spring and summer.
Their signings likely aren't game-changing, although Taylor could fill a more significant role. He seems to be a better bet to make an impact in 2017. Ihenacho seems the more likely of the two not to be on the Week 1 roster.
As for now, here's how they should fit in with the Giants:
Taylor: He's a long, rangy edge player who started all 16 games last season for the Lions. He's what the Giants like to call a true defensive end. He's listed at 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, and can probably even add some weight to his frame. His problem with the Lions was consistency, not talent.
Taylor will likely receive a long, hard look as an interior rusher on passing downs. It's something he did with the Lions in 2015, when he finished with a career-high seven sacks. He didn't do it much last season.
The Giants didn't receive much pass rush from the interior last season. That was the weak spot on the defensive line and, after Johnathan Hankins (3.0 sacks) left in free agency, it remains an unknown heading into this season.
Taylor might be able to help. It could come at the expense of some playing time or roster spots for defensive ends Romeo Okwara, Kerry Wynn and Owa Odighizuwa. They were options on the interior last season. They now could be fighting for jobs more than ever. Taylor is a proven player with versatility.
Ihenacho: He started 10 games last season as a favorite of former Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, now a defensive backs coach for the Washington Redskins. He's considered an in-the-box strong safety who lacks cover skills.
The Giants already have Landon Collins as their strong safety. That isn't going to change. They have Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams at free safety. Ihenacho is battling for a backup role, likely with Nat Berhe. This move could be a sign that the Giants aren't sold on Berhe remaining healthy. He missed the final six games of last season with a concussion. Ihenacho is their contingency plan.
There have also been rumblings about Mykkele Thompson playing some cornerback. The young safety has also had trouble remaining on the field. He missed all of last season with a knee injury. Ihenacho gives them strength in numbers.
But he is far from guaranteed a roster spot. He missed all but 12 snaps in 2014 and 2015 because of injuries. He also struggled to finish plays last season with the Redskins, which likely contributed to a team in need of safeties allowing him to walk this offseason.
Ihenacho will need to win a roster spot if he intends to stick with the Giants. Nothing will be given to him upon his signing.
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis didn't celebrate with a jump shot in his living room, mimicking what had gotten him fined in the first place. Instead, he greeted the change in the NFL's stance on celebrations with a simple shout.
"Yeeeesssss!" said Davis, arching his neck back, when asked for his reaction to the NFL relaxing its rules on celebrations. So his jump shot over the goal posts, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty and a $12,154 fine last October, would be legal this season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said they listened to players, officials and heard the fans who expressed a desire to allow the celebrations to continue.
"It's like a light just hit me and beamed right over my head," Davis said. "It's awesome. It's exciting. When I was in San Francisco that was always my go-to when it comes to celebrations. I'm not a big dancing guy and I don't do all that. I try to stay in compliance and stay in the realm of the team, but when it comes to celebrations, I like to go to the jump shot. After all, I do have a pretty nice sweet jump shot."
Davis said the NFL actually refunded him half of the original fine, doing so during the season. Davis reiterated Wednesday what he said at the time: The jump shot was not included in the examples of celebrations in preseason meetings with officials. That's why he thought it was legal.
However, not every Redskin celebration from last season will be allowed now. Corner Josh Norman's bow-and-arrow routine after a big play might be disallowed because it involves weaponry. Norman said he's not sure how that would be considered a weapon since it's imaginary.
"I don't feed into it too much," Norman said of the change. "That's a smoke screen. It is what it is. Obviously it's good they take the fans perspective on things and fans want to see more of it. But all the other teams or other [leagues] ... they get into it. Obviously we get here and we can't. I don't understand that. It'll be something else they take from us."
Both Davis' and Norman's celebrations occurred in wins. Davis' came after a touchdown, resulting in a penalty on the kickoff. Philadelphia
returned the short kick for a touchdown.
"It got to a point where I didn't see the harm in it, yet the effect it had on the game was significant," Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "To the commissioner's credit, he listened to the players and there is not a single faction of the NFL that doesn't want to see the players celebrate and enjoy it.
"If you heard me mic'ed up against the Packers, I was the one running into the end zone yelling, 'Celebrate! Celebrate!' It's important to celebrate doing good things. We work so hard. When good things happen, celebrate it and let people know that that needs to happen again."
FRISCO, Texas -- A hamstring strain kept Dallas Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley from taking part in Wednesday’s session of organized team activities. Early on in the workout, Lucky Whitehead suffered a similar injury and headed to the locker room.
As a result, Ryan Switzer received a lot of work in the slot, and the fourth-round pick did not disappoint.
“I think he’s going to be a good player,” Prescott said after practice. “He’s a guy that can definitely learn a lot from Beasley. They’re definitely similar in their play style. He’s got some stuff to him. Excited just for him to keep learning, getting better watching Bease, watching these other guys.”
Beasley led the Cowboys in receptions last year with a career-high 75, becoming a favorite target of Prescott early and often.
“I call those guys like quarterback-friendly, just in the fact that they’re hard to cover,” Prescott said. “Sometimes in zones, people forget about them. In man, they got the shiftiness or whatever it is that they need to get way. They’re usually open. That’s why I said he can learn a lot from Beasley and become one of those guys.”
The Cowboys selected Switzer because they did not believe they had adequate depth at the position should something happen to Beasley in the regular season. They also needed help in the return game, and he had seven career punt returns for touchdowns at North Carolina.
“He was in there with the ones and he made some plays,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Obviously he’s a young player, still learning everything. This is the first time for him. Every time he does something, it’s the first time, so that’s an interesting situation to be in. But he’s got good poise about him. He’s got confidence and he’s got good football sense and savvy, and you see that in him right away.”
FRISCO, Texas – The biggest part of the Dallas Cowboys first organized team activity open to the media was who was not on the field.
Start with Ezekiel Elliott, who was in a car accident on Sunday. Coach Jason Garrett said the NFL’s reigning rushing champion was complaining of general “body soreness, neck soreness” when he reported to work Monday, so the Cowboys opted to hold him out of the workouts this week.
Garrett said the expectation is Elliott will take part in OTAs next week when they resume on Tuesday.
While Garrett said the schedule is a “good rhythm for them,” he knows both players want to do more.
“It's always been a fight to get them out of an individual play, let alone a practice, but you sit down with them and you talk to them,” Garrett said. “We're doing this to help them and to help our football team. I think they understand that and they can have a really productive day even when they don't practice. So, they are involved in the meetings, involved in the walkthrough. They did all of that. And then when they warmed up with us, they went in and worked with the rehab guys just to work on some things where they can hopefully benefit from. And then they came back out and watched the team stuff. So, very positive day for those guys. We'll continue with that rhythm."
Garrett said a training camp plan for both players has not yet been discussed, but he expects there to be a similar schedule once the Cowboys get to Oxnard, Calif.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith is on a similar schedule as the veterans but for different reasons. He is coming back from a serious knee injury that forced him to miss all of last season. The Cowboys do not want to overdo his return with too much work too soon, but optimism remains high.
Defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford went through the early portion of practice but did not take part in 11-on-11 drills. He said his surgically repaired shoulder is getting better but has hopes of potentially doing more in the OTAs and the June minicamp.
Wide receiver Cole Beasley has a hamstring strain that kept him off the field, and he was joined by Lucky Whitehead, who left practice early with a similar injury.
Garrett wasn’t sure when Beasley would return.
“We’re going to be deliberate bringing him back. Hamstrings can be tricky,” Garrett said. “He’s had a really good offseason up to this point, but this has just been bothering him.”
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and offensive tackle Chaz Green, who had back surgeries, also did not practice. Neither did tight end James Hanna (knee) nor TE Geoff Swaim (foot), although they are not expected to practice until training camp.
Guard/center Joe Looney did not practice because of a sore back, but Garrett said Looney could return Thursday.
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins noticed a ghost from his past on the sidelines in practice Wednesday. A coach from Northwestern, Matt MacPherson, who had recruited him out of high school, attended the workout. His presence served as a reminder for his current situation.
“I wanted a scholarship, they didn’t offer me,” Cousins said of Northwestern. “It’s a reminder that you never know what will happen. They made a decision and went in a different direction, and that’s fine. You play with that. You always try to prove yourself and learn. Senior year of college was the same way, trying to get drafted. You just play and see where the chips land and try not to let it get to you.”
Which is what he’s doing with the talk surrounding a long-term contract with Washington. Cousins and the Redskins have until July 15 to reach a deal or table talks until after the Redskins’ season. There has been no new offer since before the NFL combine but Cousins has termed the dialogue “positive.” The Redskins say they'd consider a third franchise tag, but the cost would be prohibitive at $34 million, which is why it would be unlikely. The transition tag would cost $28 million, but they'd receive no compensation if he signed elsewhere. So that makes it a difficult scenario as well.
He also said he’s not concerned that no deal has yet been reached.
“One person told me deadlines do deals,” he said. “That’s the rule of negotiating. Why would something happen way before a deadline? It just doesn’t make sense. I’m not in a hurry. They’re not in a hurry. We’ll see how things go. I’m being patient.”
After the Redskins' second organized team activity practice session was over, Cousins looked relaxed addressing the media. He smiled and joked as much as he could about the contract, appearing like a veteran in this situation. That’s because he is experienced, having gone through it last year as well.
Cousins compared it to being a second-year quarterback.
“When it comes to the contract, I’ve gotten reps,” he said. “I’m getting used to answering questions. It’s been very positive. I’ve had really positive conversations with everyone involved through the process this offseason. Everyone’s on the same page. I feel good where I’m at and where this team is at and where my teammates are at. It’s just a matter of moving forward and we’ll see what happens come July 15. It will be a telling date as it was last summer.”
Four decades ago, George Allen, the father of current Washington Redskins team president Bruce Allen, coined the "Future is Now" slogan for the Redskins. It’s no longer used, but it always applies in Washington.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden understands that well.
“I don’t think patience is in the dictionary here in D.C.,” Gruden said. “We have to be good now. We were 9-7 two years ago; 8-7-1 last year. Expectations are high. They’re always high for this area, and we have to perform.”
As they began the organized team activity portion of the offseason Tuesday, the Redskins have been one of the more interesting teams in the NFL since last season ended.
ESPN’s Insiders mostly pegged the Redskins as a team that got worse this offseason. They lost receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, defensive linemen Chris Baker and Ricky Jean Francois, offensive coordinator Sean McVay and general manager Scot McCloughan.
But while the names are big, the results weren’t always. Sometimes, the name overshadowed the actual impact. Certainly, some will be missed -- and possibly quite a bit. But not all the absences will be mourned. The Redskins also failed, at least for now, to reach a long-term deal with quarterback Kirk Cousins.
And Cousins, even with no long-term contract, remains. He might not be in D.C. beyond this season, but he can still be productive in 2017. If not, then it says something about him.
Do these changes make the Redskins better or worse? Or just different? At this point in the offseason, the case could be made for any of them. And from any team's perspective, optimism crushes all other takes.
“It’s been smooth, actually,” Gruden said of the offseason. “Contrary to [popular] belief, we had a good offseason. We had a good draft, good free-agent pickups and we have a good core of players coming back.”
The defense might have as many as seven new starters, in addition to a new coordinator (Greg Manusky) and two new position coaches (Tomsula and secondary coach Torrian Gray). The Redskins ranked 28th each of the last two seasons in yards allowed. They were in the bottom half of points allowed, too. Change was needed; now they just have to prove it was for the better.
“We have to learn to play together, which will be the biggest challenge for us,” Gruden said.
But the Redskins remain confident in their offense. They return their starting offensive line, which Gruden said he’s “fired up about.”
The only offensive starters they lost happened to be 1,000-yard receivers. Although Pryor was that in Cleveland, the Redskins' passing game will focus hard on tight end Jordan Reed and receiver Jamison Crowder. The optimistic take for Washington is that it drafted a strong running back in Samaje Perine to pair with Rob Kelley and third-down back Chris Thompson. Also, second-year receiver Josh Doctson is finally healthy and Cousins enters his fourth year in the offense and third as a starter.
The Redskins have to prove it can work. Gruden's confidence, though, hasn't been dented.
“It starts with the quarterback, obviously,” Gruden said. “He’s going to get better. He knows how to utilize the weapons around him. ... We have the weapons on offense to be very, very good.”
FRISCO, Texas -- For the fourth straight season, the Dallas Cowboys could have a defensive player miss games because of a suspension.
David Irving is appealing a four-game ban for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy, according to a source, but rarely are those suspensions overturned or even thrown out altogether. Players are told -- and retold -- that they are responsible for what they put into their bodies. If they don't use an approved substance, then they run the risks of what Irving is facing.
If (or when) the suspension is upheld, Irving will join Orlando Scandrick (two games, 2014), Greg Hardy (four games, 2015), Randy Gregory (14 games, 2016 and all of 2017), DeMarcus Lawrence (four games, 2016) and Rolando McClain (suspended indefinitely, 2016) as suspended Cowboys.
Since 2014, the Cowboys have had 10 different players receive suspensions from the NFL. Some never played for the team (Shaq Evans, R.J. McDill). Others had small roles (Josh Brent, Jakar Hamilton). But Irving, Gregory, McClain, Scandrick, Lawrence and Hardy were starters or major role players when they were hit with the penalty.
That's a difficult way to build a defense.
From Irving's perspective, the timing is awful. He was the Cowboys' most productive defensive lineman at the end of last season. While he was set to become a restricted free agent after this season, the Cowboys pondered the possibility of doing a multiyear extension, similar to what they have done with Cole Beasley and Jeff Heath the last few years.
While it remains possible to work out a deal, Irving's price would be affected if the suspension holds because the next penalty is even more severe.
From the Cowboys' perspective, it should not change how they handle their defensive line group.
If the suspension holds, Irving will be able to continue to work out through the organized team activities, minicamp, training camp and preseason games. Once the team makes the final cuts for the 53-man roster, he would then be moved to the suspended list.
The Cowboys have felt comfortable with their defensive line depth. They added Stephen Paea and Damontre Moore in free agency. They drafted Taco Charlton in the first round and tackles Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell on the third day of the draft.
Irving's absence could help Moore's chances of making the roster. One of the undrafted free agents, such as Lewis Neal, could make it into the fold as well.
But the Cowboys don't need to make a 16-game decision on a player because Irving could miss four games. They didn't make significant additions when they lost Lawrence for four games. (Gregory falls into a different category because of the multiple violations that have him deep into the substance-abuse program with the possibility of not playing again.)
Losing Irving would be a tough blow to the rotation defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes to employ, but it does not take the Cowboys out of contender status. Irving had four sacks last season. He led the Cowboys in quarterback hurries with 26. He is an ascending player in many ways, but he is not a finished product to the point where the Cowboys know what to expect from him week to week.
Remember, after his dominating performance against the Green Bay Packers in the sixth game of the season -- one sack, three forced fumbles, one pass deflection, one tackle for loss that earned him defensive player of the week honors -- he went seven games without a sack.
In many ways Irving remained a projection as he entered 2017.
The Cowboys defense is better with Irving in the rotation, but his potential absence can be overcome.
They have made do without Scandrick, Lawrence, Gregory and McClain and managed to make the playoffs in 2014 and 2016.
They can make do in 2017 without Irving if required.
The rookie edge rusher worked in with the first team as OTAs opened Tuesday and found himself lined up opposite Lane Johnson, who was playing left tackle in Jason Peters' absence. A nice little competition ensued (as much as one can compete in shorts, anyway) with Barnett winning one snap with a quick get-off and sudden inside spin move. Johnson walked away impressed.
"Barnett is promising. Just going against him today, he's got great lean off the edge," he said.
"He can bend the edge really well. They were comparing him to Myles Garrett in the draft. I think he bends the corner probably the best of anybody in the draft. He's a good player for us, gonna be good for us this year."
Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry started as the first-team defensive ends. Barnett often rolled in when Curry was kicked inside. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz seems to like the idea of deploying Curry as an interior pass-rusher, further increasing the chances that Barnett could see some significant playing time at defensive end this season if everything continues to go according to plan.
Some other observations from Eagles' OTAs:
- Cornerback remains a real question mark for this team. The starters Tuesday were Jalen Mills -- the team's seventh-round pick last season -- and veteran Patrick Robinson -- who is on his third team in as many years. With Ron Brooks still making his way back from a ruptured quad tendon, rookie Rasul Douglas mixed in as the third corner. The Eagles can't rely on second-round pick Sidney Jones (Achilles) making a big impact this season. They'll need a strong pass-rush and a surprise contributor or two to emerge at corner in order to survive in an NFC East loaded with receiver talent.
- Head coach Doug Pederson noted that the presence of new receivers coach Mike Groh has "lit a fire" under former first-round pick Nelson Agholor. Judging off Tuesday's session, you can see how the former Bears and Rams receivers coach might have that kind of effect. Groh's authoritative voice boomed over most others, particularly early as he put his new wideouts through a series of route drills. Much of his, um, encouragement was in the direction of Dorial Green-Beckham. "Stop looking at the ground! What's on the ground?" Groh shouted as Green-Beckham started his pattern with head down. This all had a new sheriff in town feel to it.
- The addition of LeGarrette Blount (6-foot, 250 pounds) provides a much-needed contrast to a backfield that includes Darren Sproles (5-6, 190) and Donnel Pumphrey (5-8, 176). The barreling style of running was on display during Tuesday's practice. Signed to a one-year deal last week, Blount is the latest skill position player to be added this offseason, joining a group that includes receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. While the talent infusion is most welcome, the spring and summer will be about all the skill position players getting on the same page.
"I think with Alshon, with Torrey, now with LeGarrette, just getting extra time, whether it's in the locker room, in the training room, whatever we're doing, I'm just gonna talk through some things," Carson Wentz said. "Now that we finally got to go against a defense today, we can go watch the tape, we can come back and communicate, 'Alright, this is what I was looking for from you', 'This is what I was feeling.' Just natural stuff. It will happen."
PHILADELPHIA -- The first thing you notice when looking out onto the Philadelphia Eagles' practice field is the new-look receiving corps.
As Carson Wentz commanded the offense during Tuesday's first day of OTAs, he was flanked by the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Alshon Jeffery and burner Torrey Smith -- two of the Eagles' top free-agent acquisitions in an offseason dedicated to bolstering the support system around the young quarterback. Tuesday was the first time that Wentz was able to test his new weapons out against an opposing defense. While there were a couple glitches along the way, he got a taste of what his new wideouts bring to the table -- particularly Jeffery.
In one sequence, Wentz took a quick drop and fired an intermediate pass to Jeffery that was a little high-and-outside. With linebacker Mychal Kendricks quickly descending on the play, Jeffery extended his long arms and snatched the ball out of mid-air, prompting Kendricks to slap his hands together in frustration.
"It's been great with him," said Wentz of Jeffery. "He plays on-time, he knows what he is doing. His catch radius is impressive; that's the first thing that jumps out at me. So I'm just looking forward to continuing to build on that relationship."
The receivers did Wentz no favors his rookie season, finishing second-to-last in receiving yards (1,849) and tops in drop percentage (5.8), per ESPN Stats & Information. So the Eagles' front office went out and inked Jeffery (1 year, upwards of $14 million) and Smith (3 years, $15 million) then drafted North Carolina's Mack Hollins and West Virginia's Shelton Gibson in the middle rounds. With a good amount of firepower now on the offensive side of the ball, things should open up for all parties involved.
"I expect Alshon to have a big year," said Smith. " You can't double-team everyone. So for myself and Alshon and really the whole receiving corps, when you have speed on the outside, Alshon obviously plays the way he plays the game -- he can stretch the field and he's a big body -- you have [tight end Zach] Ertz inside, Jordan [Matthews] in the slot, teams are going to have to pick their matchups."
Jeffery, who served a four-game suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drugs policy in 2016, is coming off a down year by his standards. Working with three different Bears quarterbacks, he found the end zone just twice and finished with 52 catches for 821 yards. The expectation is that he will re-establish himself as one of the league's best receivers while working on a one-year prove-it deal and alongside a young QB in Wentz who could very well blossom in Year 2, especially now that he has some quality playmakers at his disposal.
"I think this offseason, the approach has been great," said Wentz. "I think we've added on both sides of the ball guys that can help us both in free agency, through the draft. I'll tell you one thing: I love the guys in that locker room, and I think we have a chance to do something special."