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With Fletcher ailing, Alexander could start

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With Fletcher ailing, Alexander could start

If London Fletcher does not suit up Sunday in Pittsburgh, it's possible reserve Lorenzo Alexander will replace the venerable veteran and join the starting lineup for the first time since 2010.

Fletcher has played in 231 consecutive games, the longest streak among active players in the NFL. But the 37-year-old suffered a strained right hamstring Sunday and began complaining of balance problems Monday.

Fletcher did not practice Wednesday and was scheduled to be examined by a neurologist later in the day. He did not appear to practice Thursday, either.

Coach Mike Shanahan is expected to provide an update on Fletcher's status Thursday afternoon.

“Hopefully he’ll be cleared,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “We feel good [about] Lorenzo and Keenan” Robinson.

Alexander, meantime, started 12 games at linebacker in 2010 and saw ample time there against the Vikings, recording 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery deep in Minnesota’s end.

When Fletcher left Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium early in the fourth quarter, Alexander stepped in. Robinson also saw time at Fletcher's inside linebacker position.

“They did a nice job when they stepped in for London last week,” Haslett said. “It would be weird, a different feeling obviously” without Fletcher.

If Fletcher can’t go, it also could potentially change the complexion of a key matchup. Fletcher normally would assist in covering Heath Miller, the Steelers’ 6 foot 5, 256-pound tight end who’s averaging five receptions a game. That responsibility would then fall on Alexander, who has significantly less experience in pass coverage.

“London is awesome on the tight ends,” Haslett said. “Heath is a heck of a player. 'Zo will have his work cut out for him in that area. But he’ll be up to the challenge.”

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Redskins will try in-house options to replace Galette

Redskins will try in-house options to replace Galette

RICHMOND—The Redskins are going to go with the younger players on the roster to fill the void left when outside linebacker Junior Galette went out for the season with a torn Achilles. At least that is the plan for now, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

Gruden tried to make it clear that the team was not down about the loss of Galette except for feeling bad for the player as a person.

We're upset, obviously, more so for him as an individual,” said Gruden. “Just watching him work, getting ready from the previous injury, how hard he was training, the attitude he came into the building with and the excitement that he was going to bring to this football team only to see it cut short with another Achilles, I'm devastated . . . for him.”

But Gruden said that the organization is taking the proverbial “next man up” approach.

“As far as this football team, injuries are part of the game,” he said. “We have to rebound. We have Ryan Kerrigan, we still have Preston Smith, we have Lyndon Trail, we have some young guys, Houston Bates. They're going to have to fill the void that he so-called would have filled for us. We still have some good pass rushers in here who are going to produce.”

What about the possibility of converting Trent Murphy, who moved from outside linebacker to the defensive line this offseason, back to a linebacker?

“That could happen,” said Gruden. “But there's so much nickel pass rush nowadays, the amount of time we're in a true 3-4 alignment is very slim, about 30 percent now. We have guys that can fill that void, we want to keep Trent inside for now to play defensive end in our nickel and our sub packages.”

In other words, they aren’t going to make any major moves until they have a good idea of what they have in house.

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Gruden says focus with Kirk Cousins is on football, not contracts

Gruden says focus with Kirk Cousins is on football, not contracts

RICHMOND - Talking for the first time since both sides did not reach a long-term deal, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he and Kirk Cousins will focus on football, not contracts.

"The contract will take care of itself," Gruden said Wednesday from the Redskins training camp facility.

"We won't have any conversations about the contract, any of his future contracts, any of that stuff. All we're going to focus on is this year and him getting better and being the best quarterback he can possibly be."

Earlier this year, Cousins signed the franchise tag offer from the Redskins, a one-year deal that will pay him nearly $20 million for the 2016 season. The club had until July 15 to work on a long-term deal with their quarterback, but none was reached. Reports showed the sides to be quite far apart in negotiations, but Gruden does not expect the negotiations to have any impact on the season.

Gruden said he knows Cousins intends to focus just on football now that the team is in camp, and with it, heightended expectations.

"He's a great football player, made great strides last year," the coach said of his QB. "We're all excited about it but he's got to continue that progress."

Cousins made significant progress in 2015. Named the Redskins starter in August, Cousins relatively average first half of the season was more than eclipsed by his second half. The Redskins finished the season on a four-game win streak to claim the NFC East title, while the team scored at least 34 points in each of their last three regular season games. Along the way, Cousins 4,166 passing yards set a new franchise record.

Despite the strong finish to 2015, some believe the lack of a long-term deal means questions remain for Cousins.

"He's got a year out of film, people are going to study on him and he's going to have to study other people and prepare himself no differently," Gruden said of Cousins. "We're going to coach him no differently."

Defenses will have year of film on Cousins, yes, but the quarterback now also gets the benefit of being the unquestioned starter throughout an offseason. With contract time now over, COusins and Gruden can get back on the practice field in Richmond and continue their progress throughout training camp.

Asked what he wants Cousins to do now, Gruden was clear: "He's got to get himself ready, his body ready, his mind ready to play a tough NFL season."

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Madden ranked its top five tight ends. Jordan Reed isn't one of them

Madden ranked its top five tight ends. Jordan Reed isn't one of them

Jordan Reed had 39 more catches, 347 more yards and nine more touchdowns than Jimmy Graham last season, but in Madden's recently released rankings of its top five tight ends, Graham's name makes the list while Reed's doesn't.

Is this Madden 15 or Madden 17?

Other than the developers mixing up the years, it's hard to see how the Redskins' top pass catcher can be given a rating that's lower than Graham's in the upcoming edition of the popular video game franchise. And as it turns out, Reed's team is just as confused as anyone:

Fortunately, the official Madden Twitter account sent this response back to the Redskins. Unfortunately, it provided zero clarification for their selection of Graham over Reed:

The newest Madden hasn't even been made available to the public yet, but it already has one major glitch.

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