Brown ready for breakout season with Maryland

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Brown ready for breakout season with Maryland

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- C.J. Brown earned the job as Maryland's starting quarterback last season because of his ability to run with the football.

It is a trait that makes him susceptible to injury, and the last thing the Terrapins need is to lose the only quarterback on the roster with playing experience.

In their first meeting last week, the Maryland coaching staff discussed the possibility of reducing Brown's sprints downfield -- and decided against it.

"We've got to do whatever we have to do in order to win," second-year coach Randy Edsall said Monday. "You know what? We can't sit here and play cautiously or be afraid to do the things that C.J. can do to make us better."

That means Brown will get the chance to build on a breakout season in which he scored five touchdowns and orchestrated three of the top eight rushing performances by a quarterback in school history, topped by a 162-yard effort against Clemson.

Danny O'Brien had a better arm, but he lost the job last year to Brown and ultimately left the school during the offseason.

That leaves Brown, a redshirt junior, as the unquestioned starter. Both backups are freshmen, so if Brown gets hurt, Maryland's chances of bouncing back from last year's 2-10 disappointment will be all but over.

Brown, one of four co-captains, knows this. And it doesn't change a thing.

"Anytime you think about getting hurt or playing a different way than you're used to, you're going to be more prone to injury," Brown said. "Maybe I'll be smarter in not taking a big hit or getting down, but I'm not going to change my playing style. I can only do what I do. Injuries are meant to happen, and if it does, than maybe it was just meant to be."

As a preventive measure, Brown spent hours in the weight room to beef up his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame.

"I've worked extremely hard during the offseason to maintain my body, to put on mass and put on muscle," he said.

His effort made an impression on his teammates and the coaching staff.

"C.J. has worked extremely hard. He knows that he's the quarterback, he's the leader," Edsall said. "I think he's done a tremendous job working to make himself better fundamentally as a quarterback, but he's also taken the leadership role to another level. He commands respect from his teammates."

During the season, Brown will be the focal point in the huddle. During the offseason, he led by example.

"The first thing I noticed when we came back from the winter session is that in every drill and every sprint, C.J. was coming in first," senior wide receiver Kevin Dorsey said. "You can see that he put on a show to show this is his team, that he can step up to the plate and get the job done. It hasn't stopped. He's been consistent all summer. I know he'll have a good year and show people that not only can he run, but he can pass, too."

If there was one problem Brown had last year, it was inconsistency as a thrower. He completed only 49 percent of his passes and threw seven touchdowns compared to six interceptions.

New offensive coordinator Mike Locksley worked with Brown to improve his poise in the pocket and insists things will be different this year.

"Obviously one of his strengths is his feet, but he doesn't get enough credit for his ability to throw the football," Locksley said. "We've had to tweak some mechanical things with him, but I've been really impressed with C.J. as a whole, not just as a runner. What we've got to do is find who the playmakers around him are and then just get him to play smart as a quarterback."

And, of course, keep him upright. If Brown gets hurt, the Terrapins will have to turn to Perry Hills or Caleb Rowe.

"We've got to make sure we get Perry and Caleb ready to go," Edsall said. "Hopefully, nothing would happen to C.J. But in the sport of football, in that position, those things can happen."

NOTES: The team began summer practice Monday with 17 seniors and 68 percent redshirt freshmen and sophomores, according to Edsall. ... The school unveiled its new, privately funded 3 million turf field. The word "MARYLAND" runs across midfield and both end zones have a design reminiscent of the state flag. ... Unlike last year, the players will have their names on the back of their uniforms.

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Need to Know: Can the Redskins really afford to franchise tag Kirk Cousins in 2018?

Need to Know: Can the Redskins really afford to franchise tag Kirk Cousins in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 24, 20 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on May 22.

Timeline

It’s been 143 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 109 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 20
—Training camp starts (7/27) 64
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 78

Is the 2018 Cousins tag threat a bluff?

On Monday, Redskins president Bruce Allen reiterated that the team is willing to use the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins for the third straight year.

“In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract,” said Allen when asked if the team would use the franchise or transition tag on Cousins in 2018. He has said something similar on previous media interviews this year.

This year Cousins is getting the tag for the second time in his career. That gives him 120 percent of his 2016 salary which comes to just under $24 million. A third franchise tag in 2018, which would either give the Redskins exclusive negotiating rights or a possible choice between matching an offer sheet from another team or getting draft pick compensation, would get Cousins a 144 percent increase over this season, or a whopping $34.5 million.

The franchise tag would give the Redskins the power to unilaterally lock up Cousins for the 2018 season. It is expensive, by design. Could the Redskins afford to wield that power? Or is Allen just bluffing?

A look at the numbers makes it look like Allen is bluffing.

According to Over the Cap, the Redskins have $127 million in salary cap commitments in 2018. Based on recent growth trends the salary cap will be an estimated $178 million. That gives the Redskins $51 million in cap room.

Cousins’ $34.5 million salary for a third tag would hit the 2018 cap all at once as soon as the tag is applied. You don’t have to be a master capologist to do the math and figure out that such a move would leave the Redskins with $16.5 million in salary cap space.

A look at the top-line number doesn’t seem that bad. Eight teams would have less cap space than Washington so others, like the Cowboys, Eagles, and Chiefs, would be worse off.

But the problem with the Redskins’ situation is twofold. First, 21 of their current players are slated to be unrestricted free agents in 2018. Not all of them are key contributors. But they would have to squeeze to bring back the likes of Zach Brown, Terrelle Pryor, Spencer Long, and Bashaud Breeland. If they don’t re-sign them they will have to go to the free agent market for replacements and that will tough to do with so little money to work with.

The other issue is that they don’t have any fat to cut from their cap. They could save from $4.5 million to $8 million by cutting one of the four players with the highest cap numbers. But they aren’t going to be better if they cut loose Josh Norman, Jordan Reed, Trent Williams or Ryan Kerrigan.

Going down the list of top cap hits, they would save no money by letting Brandon Scherff go since his salary is fully guaranteed. Washington would take a net loss of cap space by cutting Morgan Moses and releasing Vernon Davis would save just $1.1 million. In fact, other than the top four mentioned above there are no players the Redskins could release who would save more than $1.6 million in net cap space.

The Redskins could create more cap room by restructuring some of their highest-paid players. But a simple restructure, where salary is converted to signing bonus, spreading the cap impact over the remaining years of the deal, doesn’t save any real money. The cap hit is merely pushed back into future seasons. Bruce Allen has been reluctant to do this and he is right to think that way. Restructures should only be used in a “break glass in case of emergency” situations, not as a regular way of doing business.

In short, tagging Cousins for $34.5 million would force the Redskins to lose quality players or to use cap management tactics that run against their philosophy, or some combination of both. While you can’t rule out the tag on Cousins, there is enough there to make the possibility remote.

Mike McCartney, Cousins’ agent, can look at these numbers and figure out that Allen is bluffing about a 2018 franchise tag as well as I can. It will be close to a non-factor in negotiations.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Ervin Santana tosses 2-hitter as Twins beat Orioles

Ervin Santana tosses 2-hitter as Twins beat Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Ervin Santana pitched a two-hitter for his 10th career shutout, Brian Dozier homered and the surging Minnesota Twins beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-0 Tuesday night.

After banging out 21 hits in a 14-7 win over Baltimore on Monday, the AL Central-leading Twins relied on exceptional pitching to earn their ninth victory in 13 games.

Santana (7-2) struck out six, walked two and permitted only one runner past first base. The lone hits against the right-hander were a second-inning single by Welington Castillo and a single in the fifth by Jonathan Schoop.

It was Santana's 18th complete game, the second this season. He finished by retiring the last 14 batters.

Minnesota became the first team this season to capture a series at Camden Yards (the Orioles were 7-0-0). Now 16-5 on the road, the Twins on Wednesday will seek to complete their first three-game sweep in Baltimore since 1996.

Dylan Bundy (5-3) pitched well for the Orioles, but Santana was better. Bundy allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings, striking out seven and walking three.

Byron Buxton hit an RBI single in the fifth and Dozier connected in the seventh for a 2-0 lead.

A crowd of 13,294 endured a persistent rain shower that wasn't quite fierce enough to cause umpires to stop play.

The weather suited Santana just fine. He lowered his ERA to 1.80 and improved to 4-0 with a 0.31 ERA on the road.

MORE ORIOLES: 2017 MLB Power Rankings: Where do the Orioles place?