Redskins are holding on to the ball this year

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Redskins are holding on to the ball this year

The Redskins have become much better at a very important aspect of football—holding on to the football.

Last year they turned the ball over 35 times. As is usually the case with most teams, the quarterback position was responsible for the lion’s share of the giveaways. Rex Grossman threw 20 interceptions in 13 games while John Beck was picked off four times in three-plus games. Grossman lost five fumbles for a total of 25 turnovers while Beck lost one for a total of five.

The rest of the team managed to hold on to the ball pretty well. Roy Helu Jr. lost two fumbles while Jabar Gaffney, Terrence Austin, and Fred Davis lost one each.

The turnovers did not come in bunches, they were spread out over the season. The Redskins tied a record by having at least one turnover in every game they played.

(I had a Twitter exchange with @redskinfootpaul. He said it felt like there was a turnover every half. I checked the records and found that he wasn’t quite right. Of the 32 halves of football the Redskins played in 2011, they went turnover free in seven of them.)

This year it is a different story. Through 10 games, the Redskins have nine giveaways. On their current pace they will finish he year with 14 or 15 turnovers.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III is responsible for most of the turnovers. He has thrown three interceptions and lost two fumbles. The other giveaways came on two Kirk Cousins interceptions and lost fumbles by Alfred Morris and Santana Moss.

A good chunk of the Redskins’ turnovers this year came in one half. Four came in the second half of the game against the Giants.

They have had five turnover-free games, including the last three in a row. 

No brawl, just competition between Josh Norman and Kirk Cousins

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No brawl, just competition between Josh Norman and Kirk Cousins

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."

RELATED: TEAMMATE BELIEVES JORDAN REED IS NFL'S BEST ROUTE-RUNNER

Redskins teammates already putting Jordan Reed in elite class

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Redskins teammates already putting Jordan Reed in elite class

Jordan Reed is expected to be front-and-center for the Redskins' offense in 2016, and with good reason.

The athletic tight end had his best season as a pro in 2015, hauling in 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Reed was also the healthiest he's been since he entered the league in 2012.

The organization has made it clear that Reed is a key cog in their machine, signing him to a five-year, $50-million contract extension earlier in the month

Simply put, Reed is a matchup nightmare. He is part of the new breed of tight ends: Physical freaks with uncanny athleticism and unparalleled agility for someone of that stature.

But where Reed really stands out is in his route-running.

Reed's route-running isn't just good, it's great.

Former Maryland standout and two-time Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis was signed by the Redskins this offseason to provide guidance and depth to the position. He's had very little time to work with Reed, but it's clear to him that Reed's ability to run routes isn't just the best among tight ends, but the best among every pass-catcher in the NFL.

"I think Jordan Reed runs routes better than the best wide receivers in the National Football League," Davis told reporters following OTAs on Wednesday. "Route-running is his super power."

It may be hard to fathom given the type of season Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown had a year ago, or just how easy Cincinnati's A.J. Green and Atlanta's Julio Jones makes it look. On top of that Reed has to be compared to Seattle's Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. But the praise coming from a standout tight end like Davis should be evident to just how good Reed is. But Davis isn't the only teammate effusive in praise.

Kirk Cousins looked Reed's way often last season, and very rarely did the decision to do so end up in an incompletion. During the last four games of the season, in which the Redskins went 4-0 and locked up an NFC East championship, Cousins threw to Reed 31 times, and Reed caught all but two of the passes. 

When asked if Reed still needs to improve, Cousins was quite honest. "Does he have to improve a lot?" he quipped at the pool of reporters at the Redskins' facility.

"Well, he was pretty good last year."

RELATED: WHEN WILL DESEAN JACKSON SHOW UP?

Redskins rookie WR Josh Doctson held out of OTAs

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Redskins rookie WR Josh Doctson held out of OTAs

Everybody wants to see what first-round rookie WR Josh Doctson can do when out on the field with Kirk Cousins and the Redskins first-team offense - but they were forced to wait on Wednesday. Washington decided to keep their prized rookie off to the side working with trainers while the team took part in individual and team drills.

"Just kind of Achilles got rolled up on, and I’m just taking it easy," Doctson said after the OTA session. "It happened back in minicamp, so I’m just trying to take it easy for the day. I’ll be back out there tomorrow."

'Skins coach Jay Gruden echoed Doctson's comments, saying the team was using precaution with the rookie.

"Sore Achilles," the coach said of Doctson. "We're just trying to be smart with him. We don't want it to reoccur."

While Doctson battled a broken wrist last November in college, the Achilles injury is new, though both coach and player did not seemed alarmed. 

DeSean Jackson also missed Wednesday's practice session, leaving the Redskins WR group down two of their most explosive players. 

"I’ll go tomorrow," Doctson said. "Just a small tweak."

As for the missed OTA session, the rookie still tried to absorb as much as he could.

"I’m trying to learn, take mental reps. Everything’s going pretty easy right now, learning from the older guys and just watching them," he said. "I’m not happy I ain’t get to practice today, but I understand I gotta take it easy."