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Redskins' RG3 & Cousins grow as rookie QB tandem

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Redskins' RG3 & Cousins grow as rookie QB tandem

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Not-so-breaking news: A rookie will start at quarterback for the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

Be it Robert Griffin III or Kirk Cousins, it will be a rookie who's been a part of a unique situation, part of a tandem that has learned the NFL through an offseason program and training camp specially designed by a coaching staff prepping two quarterbacks new to the league.

All along, the other rookie has been there by his side, at practices and meetings. Someone in the same situation. Someone to bounce ideas off of. Someone to grow with.

``I see him more than I see most anybody in my life,'' Cousins said. ``Because of how many hours we're here, because we're both rookies.''

If two is better than one, then the Redskins (7-6) should be in better shape than most teams turning to a first-year backup should Cousins have to start in place of Griffin against the Cleveland Browns (5-8).

``We've both had to learn a lot when it comes to living the NFL life, so we have done that together,'' Cousins said. ``They've had to install plays with both of us there, rather than being by myself if I was on another team with a veteran quarterback. You don't see it a lot - two rookie quarterbacks at one and two on the depth chart.''

The Redskins traded up to select Griffin at No. 2 overall and anointed him the starter shortly thereafter, while Cousins was chosen in the fourth round - a highly debated pick for a team coming off of a 5-11 season with needs elsewhere.

Yet, even if he does nothing else in 2012, Cousins surely validated the wisdom of his selection with his performance after Griffin was injured in the fourth quarter of the overtime win against the Baltimore Ravens.

Cousins stepped in and went 2 for 2 and ran in the game-tying 2-point conversion in the final minute of regulation of the 31-28 victory.

``It worked out like Coach wanted it to,'' Griffin said. ``You've got two guys coming in, so we're both having to learn the system.''

Griffin sprained a ligament in his right knee in the game and has been limited in practice this week. If he's not ready to go by Sunday, the Redskins like what they have in Cousins.

``You knew exactly how we felt about Robert when we made him the starting quarterback and gave up what we gave up,'' coach Mike Shanahan said. ``You have the opportunity to get a guy like Kirk, we thought that was the best thing for the organization - and I think that's proven out already.''

Cousins beat out veteran Rex Grossman for the No. 2 job during training camp - Grossman has been inactive for every game this season - and saw regular season action for the first time when Griffin suffered a concussion in Week 5. Cousins threw one touchdown pass but also had two fourth-quarter interceptions in the 24-17 loss.

But against the Ravens, Cousins stepped into a high-pressure situation and delivered, rolling right to buy time before hitting Pierre Garcon for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

``I said after the Atlanta game that as much as I hate the result, I would learn from it,'' Cousins said. ``And I think results this past Sunday prove that. I think part of the reason I left the pocket on the touchdown pass was the mistake I made against the Falcons in the second interception.''

Cousins said he received some 140 text messages after the Ravens win and responded to maybe two or three, saying to his brother: ``I went 2 for 2. Let's not get carried away.''

``It's a tough position,'' Cousins said. ``You go 2 for 2 and everybody loves you. If you go 0 for 2, everybody hates you. You say, `It's only two passes. That's not really much of a body of work to make a decision either way.'

``But the position that I'm in, being where I was drafted and the role I have, I'm not going to get a whole season or two seasons to show the NFL what I can do. I'm going to get a half of a game and a preseason game. I'm going to get two throws at the end of a Ravens game, so I have to be willing to accept that.

``It's not ideal. I would have loved to have been the 10th overall pick and have two or three seasons to see what I can or what I can't do, but that's not the luxury I have.''

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Keenan Questions?: 5 observations from Day 3 of Ravens training camp

Keenan Questions?: 5 observations from Day 3 of Ravens training camp

OWINGS MILLS – Five observations from Day 3 of Ravens training camp on Saturday, the first practice with players wearing pads:

1. Running back Terrance West looks slimmer, quicker, and impressive both running and pass catching.

West had another strong day of practice, and got plenty of reps with both Kenneth Dixon (knee) and Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) still out. Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, and Dixon are considered locks to make the 53-man roster. But West, a former Towson star and Baltimore product, could finally be realizing his potential after disappointing stops with the Browns and Titans. West could force the Ravens to keep four running backs, in addition to fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

2. Keenan Reynolds needs to step up his performance at wide receiver.

A host of wide receivers are performing better than Reynolds, who is trying to transition from Navy quarterback to NFL wide receiver. Reynolds had a couple of drops the first three days of practice, and has been unable to get open consistently. Meanwhile, wide receiver Chris Matthews had another strong day, as did Michael Campanaro. Reynolds can help the Ravens as a returner, but they have other players who can fill that role. For Reynolds to secure a roster spot, he needs to show he can help the Ravens as a receiver. Otherwise, the Ravens will face a difficult decision regarding Reynolds, a local fan favorite.

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3. The way Kamalei Correa and Zach Orr are performing, the Ravens may not need to sign a veteran inside linebacker.

Correa had a sparkling one-handed interception Saturday, showing his hands and athleticism. Orr has been reading plays quickly and keeping himself around the football. Even if Correa wins the job at inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley, there could be reps for Orr as well, giving the Ravens a promising young combo.

4. Saturday was not a crisp day for the offense.

The defense was the better unit, as the offense looked sloppy at times. There were a couple of bad snaps out of the shotgun from center Jeremy Zuttah, and a few false starts from the offensive line. There is plenty of time for cleanup before Week 1, but it’s not what the coaches want to see.

5. QB Joe Flacco and TE Dennis Pitta continued to look good.

Saturday made three straight days of practice for Flacco with no noticeable limping or discomfort. Flacco may be wearing a red jersey, but there have been no red flags regarding his surgically-repaired knee. Meanwhile, Pitta took a solid hit from Orr while attempting to make a catch, but Pitta jumped right to his feet. This was another good day for Pitta in his comeback from his second major hip injury.

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DT Jernigan leaves practice early, WR Moore does not practice

DT Jernigan leaves practice early, WR Moore does not practice

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan left Saturday’s practice early, while rookie wide receiver Chris Moore did not practice.  Coach John Harbaugh did not meet with the media after practice, and no reason was immediately given for either absence. ESPN reported that Jernigan suffered a minor rib area strain that was not considered serious.

Cornerback Jerraud Powers took the field for this first training camp practice, after finally passing the conditioning test. Powers was the lone player remaining who had not passed the test.

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In addition to the five players on the PUP list, tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) did not practice.

In a roster move, the Ravens signed punter Michael Palardy to fill their open roster spot. Sam Koch, a Pro Bowl selection in 2015, is firmly entrenched as the Ravens’ punter. However, Palardy can take practice reps while the Ravens work their punt returners, reducing some of the strain on Koch’s leg.

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Why Yanda knows offensive success hinges on ability to protect Flacco

Why Yanda knows offensive success hinges on ability to protect Flacco

OWINGS MILLS - One of Marshal Yanda’s top priorities is to make sure the offensive line does its best to keep Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco healthy, unlike 2015, when Flacco suffered a season-ending knee injury. Having made five straight Pro Bowls as a right guard, Yanda is beginning his 10th NFL season, and his ninth season with Flacco as his quarterback. Yanda knows that much of the Ravens’ offensive success depends on Flacco staying healthy.

“We haven’t really talked about it specifically,” Yanda said. “But obviously, you know as an offensive line, we talk about it, and you coach it. You’re going to keep your guys as far away from the quarterback as possible. Obviously, there is probably more emphasis this year with the knee.”

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When Flacco sees game action for the first time this season, Yanda doesn’t expect his quarterback to play tentatively due to his knee.

“He’s going to have to make his read,” Yanda said. “We have certain plays where he is going to be on the move, no matter what. We know about it: it is conscious in my mind; it is conscious in the offensive line’s mind and his mind, too. I feel like he just has to play through that. I had a knee (injury) once before, and he just has to get reps and get comfortable with the way it is feeling now. It will always feel a little different. That is just normal. It will continue to get normal as he keeps playing.”