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Receivers try to gain separation from the pack

Receivers try to gain separation from the pack

It is important for wide receivers to get separation.But for most of the past month none of the five players chasing after the remaining wide receiver jobs with Redskins has been able to gain any separation from the pack.That is, until last Saturday.Since the spring, the identities of the top four wide receivers have been known. They gave Pierre Garon and Josh Morgan big contracts. They have been waiting to see Leonard Hankerson reach his potential since his season ended prematurely with a hip injury last year. And if there were any doubts about the 33-year-old Santana Moss, long the teams leading receiver, he put them to bed by showing up 15 pounds lighter and catching everything in sight.Most figure that the Redskins will carry six wide receivers this season. The number is not set in stone; last year they had seven wideouts on the roster for most of the year plus return specialist Brandon Banks. But they could do that in part because they only carried two quarterbacks and it seems nearly certain that both Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman will back up starter Robert Griffin III.If we go with six wide receiver roster spots there are two up for grabs. And through training camp and the first preseason game, none of the five realistic candidates for those two spotsBanks, Anthony Armstrong, Aldrick Robinson, Terrence Austin, and Dezmon Briscoeperformed well enough to put in a legitimate claim on one of the two jobs. They all had enough good moments to stay in the conversation but enough negative plays on film to keep the competition wide open.That changed on Saturday night in Chicago. Robinson caught six passes for 104 yards and touchdown. Briscoe had 51 yards on three receptions including a nice grab at the goal line for a touchdown. And Banks didnt see any action at receiver but he helped himself with a 91-yard punt return.Meanwhile, Austin caught just one pass for 11 yards and Armstrong, still ailing from a shoulder in jury that kept him out of the first preseason game, played very little.Robinson seems to have helped himself the most of all, at least in the eyes of Mike Shanahan. On Monday and again on Tuesday the coach raved about his touchdown catch and run, which came on a deflected pass.It looks like Robinson took a giant step towards earning a roster spot and Briscoe and Banks helped their cases a great deal. And it looks like Armstrong and Austin are on the outside looking in. Nothing, however, is set in stone. Armstrong should get more playing time against the Colts and over the past two years Austin has had a knack for coming through with a good performance just when he needed it most.The competition will continue through practice next week and the preseason finale against the Bucs. Making the final decision here will have the coaches up late into the night.

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Redskins vs Giants Preview: 5 things you need to know as 'Skins get desperate

Redskins vs Giants Preview: 5 things you need to know as 'Skins get desperate

The Redskins travel to take on the Giants, and despite recent history holding them down in New York, at 0-2 Washington is desperate for a win. Not only are the Redskins winless and the Giants undefeated at 2-0, New York already has a NFC East division win, pushing Jay Gruden's bunch further down the standings. Here are five things to know for Sunday's action, which kicks off at 1 p.m. from The Meadowlands. Weather looks good for the game, and all the coverage starts at noon on CSN.

  1. No more talky talky - All week, it seemed New York players were taking shots at the Redskins. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins had choice words for DeSean Jackson, and former Washington linebacker Keenand Robinson sounded off about the 'Skins a few different times. That doesn't even bring into account the mountain of trash talk exchanged between Odell Beckham and Josh Norman since last year's heated matchup between the two. Finally, on Sunday, the talk will end and the gmae will start. 
  2. Got to get over the hump - The Redskins struggles this season can be attributed to multiple factors, but a big one is the offense's inability to score touchdowns. Kirk Cousins has passed for nearly 700 yards in just two games, the Washington offense has moved the ball well until they get in the Red Zone. "We’ve got to be ready to execute," offensive coordinator Sean McVay said of scoring TDs. "We did put a little extra emphasis specifically on some of those things."
  3. Giving up ground - Look at the box scores from Week 1 and 2 and it's clear the Redskins do not run the ball enough. Matt Jones has 20 carries in two games; ideally a running back would get close to 20 carries per game. Repeatedly Gruden and McVay have said they strive for a run/pass balance, but don't expect that to come this week. "We want to run the ball, we want to be balanced there’s no question about that, I think every team does. But, really at the end of the day, the best way we think to attack will be shown on Sunday," Gruden said. The Giants are giving up about 70 yards per game on the ground, and while the 'Skins absolutely need to commit to the run, this might not be the week it starts.
  4.  Man on Manning - For the second time in three weeks, the Redskins face a potential Hall of Fame quarterback in Eli Manning. Manning has had an impressive start to the season, completing nearly 74 percent of his passes with 3 TDs and just one interception. If Manning has a weakness, like any quarterback, it's when he gets rushed and hit consitently, and the Giants offensive line is not a strength. The Redskins pass rush has not been particulary effective yet this season, but team sources suggested some changes could be coming, particularly on third downs. Trent Murphy showed good burst last week against Dallas, and if he can maintain that pace and Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith play at their top level, the pressure could mount on Manning. 
  5. Playing slots - With Beckham, Cruz and Shepard, wide receiver is obviously a strength for the Giants. That said, cornerback should be a strength for the Redskins as well. Much has been made of the potential Norman-Beckham matchup, but look for the Redskins to show new looks in nickel coverage, perhaps even bringing Bashaud Breeland into the slot to combat Cruz and/or Shepard. 

Numbers & Notes:

  • The Redskins have not won in New York since 2011.
  • If Kirk Cousins throws one TD pass he will tie Gus Frerotte (48) for eighth-most career touchdown passes in Redskins history.
  • Pierre Garçon is nine catches away from 500 career receptions.
  • Ryan Kerrigan is one sack away from 50 career sacks.

Want more - listen to #RedskinsTalk Podcast below for Giants preview with Ralph Vacchiano.

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Redskins Gruden on rookie Kendall Fuller: He's just the odd man out, for now

Redskins Gruden on rookie Kendall Fuller: He's just the odd man out, for now

When the Redskins drafted Kendall Fuller out of Virginia Tech, many considered it a steal. Widely considered one of the top corners in the country going into the 2015 college football season, Fuller's draft stock fell after a knee injury, allowing the Redskins to poach the Hokie in the third round. 

The good news for Fuller and Washington is that his knee has not been an issue. Fuller played throughout training camp and the preseason, showing the rookie learning curve at times while making plays and strong tackles in other spots. Through two games, however, Fuller has not made the 'Skins active roster.

"Right now he’s just the odd man out, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be forever," coach Jay Gruden said of Fuller. 

In losses to Pittsburgh and Dallas, the Redskins pass defense has struggled in spots. Josh Norman has been stout, but the rest of the defense has looked confused in assignments and missed some coverages at times. A rookie like Fuller is unlikely to be the solution, but it is possible he could help, especially facing a Giants offense with Eli Manning throwing to Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard.

Gruden did not rule out Fuller playing this week, but it didn't sound like a ringing endorsement either.

"It could be just for this week, might be next week," Gruden said, "he’ll be up and ready to roll."

The coach explained that Fuller is getting good work on the scout team and working on his readiness.

"He’s mentally getting himself there. Physically, I think he’s starting to feel really, really good. I think it’s just a matter of time before he gets up.”

On game days, the 'Skins have dressed Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Dashaun Phillips, Quinton Dunbar, and Greg Toler at corner and then DeAngelo Hall, David Bruton, Deshazor Everett and Will Blackmon at safety. Duke Ihenacho dressed for the second game but was inactive Week 1. What hurts Fuller is that some of the safeties can also play corner as needed, certainly Hall and Blackmon, and Everett is a special teams star while Blackmon works as kick returner.

Versatility is a key that for now is slowing down Fuller's progress. Coming off a knee injury, and with potential of being a top-tier corner, the Redskins are unlikely to ask much of Fuller on specials. 

Whether Fuller plays Week 3 in New York, or doesn't make the active roster until later in the season, the Redskins brass still views their rookie as a long-term asset. Impatient fans tired of watching the Washington defense give up pass completions may want to see Fuller sooner.