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Browns coach Shurmur battles on despite criticism

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Browns coach Shurmur battles on despite criticism

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur still loves rookies Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden - even in defeat.

Shurmur would prefer Richardson, his starting running back, to focus on regrouping rather than being critical, however. And the embattled coach also would like Weeden to be more consistent at quarterback.

All told, though, he will gladly take both of them as the Browns move past a disappointing 38-21 loss to Washington on Sunday, an effort that snapped a three-game winning streak.

``I'm not saying you never go to the backup quarterback,'' Shurmur said. ``But I didn't consider it (Sunday).''

Shurmur has directed a young team through a rollercoaster season that included a change in ownership. With a chance to finish strong, the Browns' flop Sunday ended their slim playoff hopes, raised more questions about Weeden and had Richardson contemplating his coach's decisions.

Richardson had two touchdown runs, but gained only 28 yards on 11 carries and said after that he thought Shurmur abandoned the game plan. Shurmur wasn't pleased by the comments, but said Monday, he is not angry.

``I'm not upset with him,'' Shurmur said. ``I did talk to him. I asked what he meant by what he said. I explained to him that when we're all in a state of disappointment because we lost, it is important to keep our focus and, No. 1, regroup and get ready to play the next game.''

Shurmur has two more chances to make a positive imprint, as new owner Jimmy Haslam III ponders offseason moves. Haslam bought the team over the summer, and together with new CEO Joe Banner, will evaluate all aspects of the organization after another largely disappointing season.

Cleveland began the season 0-5, and even though Shurmur's Browns have persevered through the troubles, they are still just 5-9 with two difficult games approaching - Denver (11-3) and Pittsburgh (7-7).

Shurmur expects better play from Weeden regardless of the opponent, saying the 29-year-old is not too old to develop.

``I've never thought about his age,'' Shurmur said. ``I think of him as a rookie and he'll be better his second year. I'm looking forward to him having a much better game this week against Denver.''

Weeden was 21 for 35 for 244 yards, one touchdown, and two costly interceptions against the Redskins.

``We had two turnovers turned into 14 points and you can't do that,'' Shurmur said. ``On the second (pick), he tried to put it over the linebacker and the ball didn't go where he wanted.''

Shurmur said he evaluates every throw by Weeden, but would not reveal his grading scale. Weeden, a first-round pick, was clearly outplayed by fourth-round choice Kirk Cousins on Sunday. Cousins, making his first start in place of injured Robert Griffin III, threw for 329 yards and two scores.

The Redskins picked up big chunks of yardage when Cousins rolled out and found open receivers. It appeared that the Browns simply did not adjust. Shurmur said that was not the case at all.

``We were prepared for their style of offense, but they did a very good job,'' Shurmur said. ``It was not the same play every time.''

Shurmur believes the Browns will benefit by Richardson refining his game, too. Picked No. 3 overall last spring, the former Alabama star leads the team with 897 yards on the ground. And with 11 rushing touchdowns, he has already surpassed Hall of Fame standout Jim Brown's 55-year-old team rookie record.

``He's getting the ball in the end zone,'' Shurmur said. ``His yards per rush could be better.''

Richardson is averaging 3.5 yards a carry, but Shurmur noted that has been accomplished while playing injured. Richardson has played with injured ribs since mid-October and missed the preseason after having minor surgery on his left knee.

``I don't think his style has been defined yet,'' Shurmur said. ``He's still learning to play in the NFL.''

NOTES: The Browns waived DB Dimitri Patterson, who joined the club as an unrestricted free agent in 2011. Patterson appeared in seven contests this season with four starts. He finished with 28 tackles. ... Shurmur did not have injury updates on DB T.J. Ward (knee) and DL Frostee Rucker (groin). ... Cleveland finished 0-4 vs. the NFC East.

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Redskins Playbook: 3 under-the-radar players who could make big impact

Redskins Playbook: 3 under-the-radar players who could make big impact

Much of the Redskins offseason has been focused on players like Josh Norman and Kirk Cousins, or the addition of guys like Terrelle Pryor and Zach Brown. Further down the roster, however, is where games are won. Here's a look at three players that will have the opportunity to make a big impact in 2017.

  1. Kendall Fuller - Let's be honest: the second-year Hokie had a tough rookie year. He started the season injured, and probably wasn't all the way up to speed when he began playing Week 4. Early on he produced at a good level for a rookie, but quickly, the league saw how to beat him. In a November game against the Vikings, Fuller repeatedly got beat on the inside by Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs. After that, the Redskins coaching staff looked elsewhere for a slot corner. 2017 is a new season, and Fuller will be a full year removed from his knee injury. He still has good vision and hips, an NFL pedigree, and should have the first crack at the slot corner role. If he can produce like many expected from him in 2015 - when he was an assumed first-round pick - Fuller could make a big difference for the Washington defense. Third round draft pick Fabian Moreau might also push for snaps at corner, once he gets healthy. 
  2. Stacy McGee - A new addition to the defense, McGee might be the answer Redskins fans want at nose tackle. Last season was by the far the best of McGee's career, and he emerged as a strong run stopper in Oakland. With his frame, and Jim Tomsula's coaching, McGee might play a big role this fall. His biggest hurdle? Staying healthy. In four seasons in the NFL, McGee has only played 16 games one season. Last year, he was limited to just nine games.
  3. Spencer Long - A free agent at the end of the season, Long comes in to 2017 looking to prove he can be a top tier center in the NFL. He excelled in pass blocking and calling the assignments on the Redskins line, but his run blocking could improve this fall. The literal centerpiece of a strong, young 'Skins line, 2017 will be a big opportunity for Long. Don't forget Washington moved up to draft Chase Roullier from Wyoming in the 6th round, and he played center and guard in college. Life in the NFL always has pressure, and Long will be facing some.

Always something on social: Enjoy the weekend folks.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Who will surprise, who will play NT

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Who will surprise, who will play NT

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 27, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

It’s been 146 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 106 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 17
—Training camp starts (7/27) 61
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 75

The Redskins week that was

Here are some of the most popular post from the last week on www.CSNmidatlantic.com and on www.RealRedskins.com

How well will the Redskins' defense adjust to six new starters? The Redskins unquestionably got an infusion of defensive talent but as we have seen in the past that does not guarantee better results. Throw a new defensive coordinator into the mix and it could take some time for this unit to reach its full potential. I think that there will be struggles early in the season and a better (but not dominant) unit by the time November rolls around.

Which Redskins will surprise in 2017? Every player carries expectations into the season. Some will be better than we believe right now (think of what many thought Vernon Davis would do last year) and some will play worse (Josh Doctson). I take out the crystal ball to figure out who will exceed expectations and who will fall below them.

Don't count out 3rd straight franchise tag for Cousins—Yes, Bruce Allen said that he is willing to franchise tag Kirk Cousins for a third time next year, a move that would cost $34 million for one season. But I think that’s a total bluff; the Redskins’ salary cap situation for 2018 would make such a move very difficult for them to pull off. The best hope for Cousins being a Redskin in 2018 is getting him signed to a long-term contract by July 15 of this year. The tone of the conversation regarding a new deal has been positive lately but the team must come up with a serious offer for a deal to happen.

For Redskins, finding a nose tackle needs to be a priority—Well, it’s up to Jim Tomsula to “make” a nose tackle. Phil Taylor is a true NT and he will get a shot. But he hasn’t played a snap since 2014. Undrafted free agent Ondre Pipkins also has nose tackle size at 6-3, 325. But he is a long shot, as are the Redskins’ chances of being significantly better against the run if they don’t find someone, anyone to be an adequate solution as the nose tackle.

Did Vernon Davis make the NFL change celebration rules? Although I prefer the John Riggins way of celebrating a touchdown—hand the ball to the referee because you’ve been in the end zone before and you expect to be back again soon—elaborate celebrations don’t bother me. After a TD in a game I’m covering I’m focused on writing about the scoring drive. When I’m watching at home, my attention goes to Twitter or to the refrigerator. I do think that it was dumb for the Redskins to lose 15 yards of field position because Vernon Davis put a jump shot over the crossbar so that’s why I’m glad that the NFL changed the celebration rules.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.