This is not a BSOHL post. This is a mere update to an injured player post. The player: Reds ace Johnny Cueto, who last we saw, was leaving the playoffs thanks to a bum oblique muscle. His general manager says he’s doing much better now, however: “Cueto’s in great shape,” Walt Jocketty said. “We just…
A year ago at this time, Robert Griffin III was the Redskins’ starting quarterback and Kirk Cousins was an afterthought, relagated to taking second and even third team reps.
Now, Cousins is The Man in Ashburn. And it’s changed everything, especially how he leads in the huddle, team meetings and the locker room.
“Well, you have permission now to take ownership,” Cousins said Wednesday after the second of 10 OTAs practices at Redskins Park. “As a backup or as a guy competing for the spot, it doesn’t get received really well when you start to try to take ownership. It looks like you’re trying to jockey for the position and be one of those guys. You just try to handle it the right way.”
Last offseason, Griffin received all of the first team reps throughout the spring and summer, while Cousins and Colt McCoy split the second and third team snaps. In fact, Jay Gruden didn’t hand Cousins the keys until late August.
This offseason, it's all different. Griffin is gone and Cousins is coming off a record-breaking season. And, if Cousins doesn’t sign a long-term deal in the coming weeks, he'll play for almost $20 million in 2016. Either way, Cousins is expected to be the highest paid player on the team...in addition to being the most important player on the team.
“Now as the starter, you really can take ownership,” Cousins continued. “And it feels like it did back in college when you were the starting quarterback and you had the chance to really assert yourself.”
Cousins added: “I enjoy being able to do that, and I think it helps me as a quarterback to have ownership because at the end of the day, I’m the one holding the football in my hands.”
The margin for error is always going to be slim when you're facing your most closely-matched division rival and when they've got a pitcher as lethal as lefty Steven Matz on the mound, and on Wednesday it was a mistake by Daniel Murphy at second base that loomed large in a 2-0 Nationals loss to the New York Mets.
With the Nats down a run in the seventh inning and Mets infielder Matt Reynolds on first base, first baseman Eric Campbell smacked a hard groundball to Murphy at second. It shot up to the left of his glove and through his legs into center field.
That put runners on the corners with one out and set up an RBI single to left field by Mets catcher Rene Rivera. The score was then 2-0 and that would hold until the final out was made.
After the game Murphy brought up his mistake on his own when asked an unrelated question.
"I misplayed another groundball, which just needs to stop happening. I just need to work harder on that," Murphy said of his team-high fifth error of the season.
Murphy came to the Nats with a reputation for subpar defensive play and this was the most obvious case so far of it affecting the outcome of a game. Though the Nats didn't score any runs on the day, Murphy explained how he thinks his mistake altered the momentum and scope of the contest.
"I think it was a double play ball and [Tanner Roark] should have gotten out of the inning. Then it was 2-0 and it just changes our approach from an offensive perspective," he said.
Murphy was asked if the ball took a bad bounce and he declined to go there, instead referring to the sequence as a "bad play by me."
His manager, Dusty Baker, didn't fault Murphy for the loss and instead focused on the dominant performance by Mets starter Steven Matz.
"Errors are part of the game," Baker said.
Baker, of course, can live with the occasional error as long as Murphy is atop the majors with a .394 batting average. Murphy's OPS is 1.043 and he's on pace for a career-high in homers. He's been as important to the Nationals' first-place start through 47 games as anybody.
Murphy knows defense is an area of game that needs improvement and Baker is not too concerned about it at this point.
"Murph works hard at it, he works very hard and he takes it hard when he doesn't make the plays," Baker said.
Before the public knew him as the NFL's best cornerback of the 2015 season, Josh Norman was best known for getting in a scuffle with quarterback Cam Newton at the Carolina Panthers training camp last August.
While it's crystal clear that Norman brought his gift of the gab from Charlotte to Washington, D.C., a potential dustup between the brash cornerback and star quarterback Kirk Cousins is probably not on the horizon.
"Well, you know, " Norman said with great laughter following Wednesday's OTA. "What can I say? Kirk and I are just a little bit different."
The dust up between Newton and he was all the talk of 2015 training camp, and while it looked bad on the surface, it wasn't much more than two incredibly competitive players, both of whom also enjoy talking smack, refusing to back down.
The dynamic between he and Cousins is different. Not bad or not positive, just not what it was with Newton.
"There are limits to my madness," Norman said, again, with a great big smile across his face. "But, umm... yeah I think it will be just a bit better," Norman quipped, with the entire group of reporters and personnel laughing. Kirk's my guy. He's great."
But that's not to say Cousins isn't going to make it a competition.
Norman noted that the quarterback was a bit more lively under center on Wednesday, throwing playful jabs at the defense.
"I was like, 'I don't want to go there yet. I want to be cool,'" Norman said, smile always present. "He looked away a couple times and he didn't throw no balls so I got a little jubilant, ya know? I was like, 'alright, what are you gonna do about it?' Just a little competition."
"I think, on the last play with the ones, he threw a ball, and completed it, and Kirk got all excited again. I was like 'Kirk, I'm gonna whoop y'all butt today."
While no one wants to see teammates fight, Norman brings a level of competitiveness the Redskins can definitely use. While the scuffle with Newton was a hot-button issue, the fact remains that the Panthers' team chemistry was as good as it ever was. The team's cohesiveness was one of the main reasons the Panthers were in San Francisco for Super Bowl 50.
Norman is hoping he can provide competition needed to take the Redskins to the next level, albeit without a fight.
"It's all fun and games," Norman said to media members.
"We make each other better. We just have to keep challenging each other."