NFC East Roundup: Redskins, Kirk Cousins Fine With Waiting
Let’s take a spin around the NFC East to see what’s going on with the rest of the division:
In Washington, the Redskins and quarterback Kirk Cousins are okay with waiting on a long-term contract, as Rick Snider of the Washington Post writes.
The Redskins and Cousins have until July 15 to agree to a long-term contract. Few deals get done before a deadline and each side is holding firm. Otherwise, Cousins will play on his one-year pact, and that’s fine with him. That has been his position since last season ended. He knows he could eventually force Washington into a mega-deal if he continues to invigorate fans.
However, waiting it out presents risks for both sides. For Cousins, there’s the chance of suffering a career-ending injury without the security provided by a lump sum of guaranteed money included in a new agreement. Cousins will likely buy an insurance policy for that scenario.
Another risk for the quarterback is a poor season that could devalue his services by at least 50 percent. Should he falter this year, and Washington decides not to keep him in 2017, Cousins could probably get around $8 million from another team.
Given that Cousins has an 11-14 career regular-season record, there’s not a long track record of success to predict how this year will go. A standout receiving corps featuring DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder and new first-round pick Josh Doctson improves his chances of playing well.
If Cousins lives up to his compensation under the tag, Washington risks paying out big money on par with what Indianapolis gave [Andrew] Luck.
On defense, will the Redskins show improvement on the defensive line, even without Terrance Knighton and Jason Hatcher? Mike Jones of the Washington Post asks that question.
For now, the starting lineup remains undetermined. [Chris] Baker, who recorded 53 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles (all career highs), returns as the left end, and a mix of new and familiar faces (some with redefined roles) will compete for key roles.
During offseason practices, long-time Redskin Kedric Golston served as the primary starter at nose tackle, while Ricky Jean Francois (entering his second year with the team and eighth in the NFL) and free agent addition Kendall Reyes alternated at right end. Jean Francois and Ziggy Hood (signed to a modest deal in January) also saw time at first-team nose tackle.
Meantime, fifth-round pick Matt Ioannidis and Leon Powe brought up the rear at that position, and Trent Murphy, who this year moves from linebacker to end, and 2015 practice squad member Corey Crawford received snaps at the end positions on the second and third units. Stephen Paea, who battled injury after signing with Washington in the 2015 offseason, remains in the mix. But he received permission to miss the last two weeks of offseason work to tend to personal matters.
The Redskins have bodies, for sure. But it’s unknown how many of them are difference-makers.
In the Big Apple, will head coach Ben McAdoo continue to call plays on offense? Paul Schwartz from the New York Post explores that question.
It does him no favors to announce to the NFL world, “Yes, I’ll continue to call the plays.’’ Most likely, he will keep his intentions to himself throughout the bulk of training camp, and he might even experiment with the play-calling duties in the preseason games, splitting the responsibility between himself and his offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan, a longtime Tom Coughlin assistant and loyalist.
McAdoo called the plays the past two seasons for Coughlin and is expected to retain the play-calling duties, as he likely is not going to be comfortable starting out as a novice head coach giving up what largely got him the job in the first place.
Bill Parcells, an expert on all-things coaching, said he believes he knows which way McAdoo will go: He will opt to call his own plays.
“I don’t know what he’ll do, but I would imagine what he’ll do,’’ Parcells — former head coach of the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys — told The Post during a phone interview. “Most come into the job with the intention of doing it that way. I know some that have done it their whole career.’’
The under-the-radar signing of fullback Will Johnson could make the Giants offense my dynamic, as John Fennelly of SNY.tv explains.
Johnson did not touch the football often with the Steelers, but was a fine run blocker. He’s a tough, physical player, the type of football player the Giants have lacked the past few seasons.
The coaching staff will looking for ways for Johnson to help them this season.
“There’s a lot of versatility- asking about Will Johnson- and the fact that he’s done some things in line as a tight end. He’s done some things moving into the backfield,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said last month at minicamp.
“You know, the more versatile our tight ends can be, that really helps our offense, whether they’re able to stretch the field vertically and do things in the passing game. I would love for them to be able to move around and be smart enough to know where to insert and fit in the run game, and certainly pass protection is a big part of that, and he is a young man that is picking things up. There’s been a learning curve- there’s been some mistakes- there’s been corrections, and there’s been more mistakes, and then there’s different corrections, but he’s getting better and we’re definitely glad he’s here.”
In Dallas, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli thinks that cornerback Morris Claiborne is set for a breakout season after switching to the left side, writes Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News.
During his final two seasons at LSU, Claiborne intercepted a total of 11 passes. He has recently gone back and watched highlights of some of those plays. If not for the injuries, Claiborne believes he’d be playing at that same elite level in the NFL.
“I just need to prove to myself that I can go out and make plays,” he said. “It hasn’t happened for me, but I feel like it’s going to happen when it happens. But right now, I’m pushing the issue.”
Claiborne has noticeably bulked-up his upper body and says he’s stronger than ever. He plummeted to 150 pounds two years ago while recovering from multiple knee surgeries. At the time, he struggled to lift 225 pounds.
Claiborne now weighs around 190, and he can bench press 225 pounds 11 times.
But will the added strength lead to improved durability?
“The more he can practice, the better he gets,” Marinelli said. “I think it’s his time. He’s had a real solid camp.”
On offense, offensive tackle Tyron Smith has been working on his technique throughout the offseason, according to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News.
Smith should continue to be the building block Dallas planned on when it drafted him in 2011 and added two more first-round picks to the offensive line — Travis Frederick (2013) and Zack Martin (2014) — over the next three years.
Smith said he has been focused on refining his technique in the offseason.
“For me, it’s just more technique as much as possible,” he said, “because when all else fails, technique is what you rely on.”
Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan told the NFL Network of Smith: “Once he gets those hands on you, you just might as well go back to the huddle because you’re probably not getting near the quarterback. He’s just got cinder blocks for hands.”
The addition of running back Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick of the draft allows the line to block for another elite back after DeMarco Murray rushed for an NFL-best 1,845 in 2014 and Darren McFadden rushed for 1,089 yards in 2015.