As I wrote yesterday, my first step in pre-training camp prep for the upcoming season was to study the Las Vegas odds.Step No. 2? Plunk down 50 at the local bookstore for a stack of preview magazines so you dont have to, assuming, of course, youre only interested in the CliffsNotes version.Heres a brief on the four previews I picked up:Athlon SportsRedskins predicted finish in NFC East: Last.Money quote: The Redskins return everyone in the defensive front seven, which was their biggest strength in 2011. also upgraded a punchless receiving corps. Considering that they lost six games by only one possession last season, dont be surprised if the Redskins compete for a playoff spot.Intriguing nugget: Robert Griffin III was tapped best rookie QB over Indys Andrew Luck and is predicted to be the NFCs offensive rookie of the year. Griffin will have more talent around him than him, the magazine says, Thus, Griffin should have more success this season than Luck. But, it continues, RG3 better bring his Superman socks to D.C.Lundys Predicted finish: Last.Money quote: Thanks to tackling machine London Fletcher and new comers Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins were much improved in 2011. Rookie running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster showed promise. But after three straight-double digit losing seasons and four consecutive last-place finishes, hopes for a turnaround in Washington are in Griffins hands.Intriguing nugget: On Coach Mike Shanahans future: Turning the offense over to Griffin should buy Shanahan the fourth year on his contract. However, the 60-year-old Shanahan knows this is the last season hes playing with house money.Pro Football WeeklyPredicted finish: Last.Money quote: Robert Griffin III could be this years Cam Newton or Andy Dalton, and the Redskins weapons appear to be stronger. It could come down to the play of two key units the offensive line and secondary to determine whether this is a comeback season or another hear at the bottom of the still-loaded NFC East.Intriguing nugget: No position earned a grade higher than a B, which went to the defensive line and linebackers. Running backs received the lowest grade, a C-.Phil Steeles Pro FootballPredicted finish: Last.Money quote: Factors pointing upward this year are that they were -14 in turnovers last year, had two net close losses, were only -3.1 yards per game (like an 8-8 team) and had 65 starts lost to injury. On the negative side of the ledger us that the schedule gets a lot tougher this year (18 to 3) and they play in the same division with a pair of Top 5 NFL teams (NYG & PHI)Intriguing nugget: In Shanahans 32 games as the WAS HC, his QBs ran the ball 61 times total! The team wants Griffin to improvise on third down but also stay in the pocket as much as possible.As you can see, there are two common themes in each of the four previews: the Skins are expected to be division basement dwellers once again, but theres also optimism that RG3s arrival could signal the start of a turnaround.
The majority of highlights from Sean Taylor's career, whether he's walloping a helpless receiver or intercepting a pass from a quarterback foolish enough to test him, come from the days when he wore No. 21. However, some may forget that the gifted safety actually donned No. 36 as a rookie back in 2004, before transitioning to his more familiar digits in 2005.
Nowadays, Taylor's 21 isn't officially retired, but's it's essentially untouchable. So for Redskins players who want to honor the talented defender — Ryan Clark is a recent example of one who did — they have to go about it in creative ways (Clark, for one, sported the famous number in practice).
Well, rookie Su'a Cravens, who was drafted by the franchise in the second round on Friday, is getting creative. On Sunday, the USC standout announced he was going to pay respect to the Burgundy and Gold legend in his own right by taking the field in the same No. 36 that Taylor debuted in. The news came around the time that it was revealed the versatile Cravens would be listed on the roster as a safety, another thing that he shares with the Pro-Bowler he idolizes.
Here are some tweets from the 20-year-old detailing his decision and what it means to him:
Showing love to Taylor is nothing new for the Los Angeles native, though. It was something he did in college as well:
Respect. pic.twitter.com/hSHncVh71V— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) April 30, 2016
Cravens has certainly wasted no time since getting every prospect's dream phone call in endearing himself to his new team's fans. He's already said that he's "so damn hyped to be a Redskin" and called the passion of Washington's supporters "unreal." But it's his latest choice that will really have people enthused, as understanding and acknowledging Taylor's talents are surefire ways to become a favorite in D.C.
It's clear Cravens knows his uniform selection means a lot to the city he'll be suiting up for. And it's clear he's ready for the expectations that'll come along with it. Sure, he's only been a Redskin for a few days, but Cravens is already making an impression.
Robert Griffin III signed with the Cleveland Browns presumably to be the starting quarterback there, but he is going to have to beat out rookie Cody Kessler for the job.
After drafting Kessler in the third round of the draft on Friday, Browns head of football operations Sashi Brown would not declare Griffin the starter for the upcoming season and said the starting job would be an open competition.
"I do think Cody is a guy that I would not want to sleep on at all if I wanted to be the starting quarterback of the Browns," Brown said at a press conference on Saturday (via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com). "He's going to come in serious ready to work. Robert has four years of NFL experience, is tremendously athletic and serious about becoming a starting quarterback in this league. There's no reason he can't, but this is going to be a competition.''
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Griffin signed a two-year contract for $15 million in the offseason with $6.75 million guaranteed. Those numbers suggest this is a "show me" deal for Griffin so it is perhaps no surprise to see the Browns bring in another arm in the draft. Considering Griffin's history in which the Redskins drafted Cousins in the same year they drafted Griffin in the first round, it is interesting to see Cleveland bring in another quarterback to compete
Kessler was very accurate in college while starting for USC, but is considered a project the team will have to develop over several years. It seems unlikely that he would be able to beat out Griffin for the job as a rookie.
"We would not have made the investment we made in (Griffin) if we didn't feel like he was capable of being our starter,'' Brown said.
The issue, however, is what happens if Griffin gets injured.
Griffin certainly has struggled to stay healthy in his career and has yet to play a full 16 games in any of his seasons. If the Browns believe they have the quarterback of the future and he does well in Griffin's place, will Griffin ever get the starting role back?
It's an interesting question and one that has to be on Griffin's mind as he prepares to try and rejuvenate his career. Before he worries about getting replaced, however, he still has to win the job.
Said Brown, "I hope the best for all of our quarterbacks. We'll let it play out.''
MORE REDSKINS: NEED TO KNOW: HOW MUCH HAVE THE REDSKINS IMPROVED?
The Redskins added seven players in the draft class of 2016 and many of them share some common traits.
“I'm very excited about these guys, really,” Jay Gruden said to the media after the draft was over. “I think the theme is we got some football players. We got some versatile guys who can do a lot of different things. Tough guys, who love the game of football. We're excited about them, they all bring great attitude to this organization. They're going to play hard and they're good people.”
Gruden seems to be particularly impressed with a pair of defensive players, fifth-round lineman Matt Ioannidis out of Temple and inside linebacker Steven Daniels, a seventh-round pick out of Boston College.
“Steven Daniels is very tough,” said Gruden. “When he hits you, he thumps you.”
Like Daniels, Ioannidis was the captain of the defensive unit. Gruden said that he loved his relentless play and said that “he’s a tough guy.”
Ioannidis and Su’a Cravens, the team’s second-round pick out of USC, will both play a number of roles on defense. Ioannidis could add 15-20 pounds (he is listed at 299) and play nose tackle or he could play all along the line. Cravens is a dime linebacker but he could play outside linebacker and strong safety in other situations as well.
Gruden said that the Redskins were able to emphasize toughness and versatility because they weren’t buttonholed into being forced to draft particular positions because they didn’t have anyone there.
“We didn't have a lot of glaring needs, like 'oh, my gosh we're totally incompetent at this position,’” he said. “I felt really good about the depth on our footbal team already, now that the draft is about adding a lot of good football players and adding guys that are tough.”
The team used toughness and other factors as tiebreakers when selecting among players.
“When you're in the draft and it's close between a couple of different guys, the toughness, maybe the special teams factor, the versatility, being a captain, all that stuff factors into it,” said Gruden. “You're always going to err on the side of tough, loves football.”