Observations or thoughts from any of these way early before training campteam practices are often couched with a reference to no pads being worn, notackles being made. Rightfully so, especially when it comes to the runninggame, so says the man in charge. "With running backs you really dont know until you put them in a gamesituation," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "Youve got a goodfeel. Its a lot like the safety position. Until you see them hit, you reallydont know if theyve got a sense for the ball at the safety position. Itsthe same thing with a running back. Can they run? Can they protect? Untilpeople are shooting at him live bullets, you dont know for sure.Obviously, the Redskins got a long look at Roy Helu Jr. last year. On Thursday,the dual threat back flashed his effective pass receiving skills, hauling in acouple of short scoring passes from Robert Griffin III. Especially with Tim Hightower (knee surgery) on the sideline, Helu is thetop backfield option, though others received snaps with the first team duringwhat was a mix-and-match team drills session. Tristan Davis' ability popped ona couple of touches, but again, no pads, no tackling - and once Hightower isback, potentially no more run for the veteran addition with the starters.As for Hightower, Shanahan said, I havent been able to see Tim practiceyet. Hes biting at the bit, ready to go. I cant tell you if itll be twoweeks or three weeks, but hell be ready for the season."I talked with Hightower as he walked off the practice field and as Iwrote yesterday, the veteran seems encouraged by his progress followingsurgery in November. However, having "never been through thisprocess", he's been hesitant to project a timeline for his return. "You know your body," Hightower said. "Im a full speed kindof guy, practice at full speed, give effort. If Im not able to come out and dothat on a consistent basis, Im not going to practice."That means more reps and opportunity for the other guys to show they areworthy of a spot on the 53-man roster or the practice squad. That's something,but especially with running backs,hardly the largerpart of the evaluationprocess.
Kirk Cousins' price tag just moved even higher with the news that he will replace Matt Ryan in the Pro Bowl. ESPN's John Keim reported the roster move first.
Ryan's Atlanta Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 44-21 dismantling of the Green Bay Packers. That victory means Ryan will not be available for the Pro Bowl, held this Sunday in Orlando. Cousins got his spot as an alternate.
Cousins gets the spot deservedly. This season he passed for 4,917 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes and throwing 25 TDs to 12 INTs. In two seasons since being named starter for the Redskins, Cousins has thrown for more than 9,000 yards.
The Pro Bowl nod for Cousins will only make the Redskins pending contract talks that much tougher. The quarterback played in 2016 under the franchise tag, which netted him nearly $20 million. This season Washington could again place Cousins on the franchise tag, with a price tag around $24 million. Both sides can still work for a long-term deal, though the value of that contract would likely soar past $100 million and closer to $120 million.
Some questions exist within the Redskins organization if that is too much money devoted to one player, even if it is a Pro Bowl quarterback.
It's fitting that Cousins is subbing in for Ryan, who has found much success playing under Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. All signs points to Shanahan taking over as the 49ers head coach after the Super Bowl, and a report emerged that San Francisco would make a strong push to obtain Cousins, either in free agency or via trade.
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The Redskins have made official some coaching staff changes that have been reported over the last few days.
The team announced that they have filled both coordinator jobs with internal hires. Outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky is the new defensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh is now the offensive coordinator.
The team also announced the hiring of two assistant coaches, one on each side of the ball. Kevin O’Connell will replace Cavanaugh as the QB coach and Jim Tomsula will coach the defensive line.
Tomsula was the 49ers head coach in 2015. He was fired after that one season after posting a 5-11 record. But it was his eight seasons as defensive line coach in San Francisco that the Redskins care about. Tomsula did a solid job there, working under Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, and Jim Harbaugh. He also was the defensive line coach under Manusky when he was the defensive coordinator in San Francisco.
RELATED: REDSKINS MAY STAY IN-HOUSE
He is known as a fiery motivator, something that will work well with Manusky’s similar style. The line was one of the weakest areas of the defense last year. They are likely to add some talent to the line this offseason and Tomsula is a good choice to coach them up.
The Redskins still need a defensive backs coach. They have a strong in-house candidate in Aubrey Pleasant and now attention will turn to getting a deal for him. It remains to be seen if they will fill Manusky’s former job or if current inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti will add the outside backers to his responsibilities.