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Camp preview: Who will RG3's targets be?

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Camp preview: Who will RG3's targets be?

The Redskins start training camp on Thursday. Were going around the team to let you know what were looking for when practice gets underway. Earlier today we looked at the offensive line, now the offensive backs and receivers are up.Anticipated starters:QB Robert Griffin III
RB Tim Hightower
FB Darrel Young
WR Pierre Garon, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson
TE Fred DavisIn the span of a few hours, one of the Redskins soft spots wide receiver became one of their strengths. The team acted swiftly on the opening day of free agency, nabbing Garon and Morgan, who received a combined 28 million in guaranteed money. Although critics will point out that the team still lacks a true No. 1, the Redskins seem to be hoping that a pair of No. 2s will suffice. Griffins third option figures to be Hankerson, a promising second-year receiver who says hes fully recovered from offseason hip surgery, while Santana Moss should add depth and veteran leadership.Key reserves:RB Roy Helu Jr.
WR Santana Moss
TE Chris CooleyWhile Garon, Morgan and Hankerson may appear set to start, it would be premature to count out Moss, who is coming off his worst season (46 receptions and 584 yards in 12 games) since 2002. During the offseason, the 33 year old showed the coaching staff he still is hungry for more by shedding 15 pounds and standing out in OTAs and minicamp as Morgan and Hankerson nursed injuries.On the bubble:WR Brandon Banks
WR Anthony ArmstrongNo position figures to be as competitive in camp as wide receiver, where 12 players are battling for six spots. Banks has been told by Coach Mike Shanahan that he must contribute at wide receiver and kick and punt returner, while Armstrong must rebound from a lost year. A deep threat with speed to spare, Armstrongs inability to beat bump-and-run coverage led to a dramatic reduction in his role last season (7 catches for 103 yards), down from 44 receptions for 871 yards in 2010.Three things to watch:All RG3, all the timeGriffin has navigated the first few months of his newfound fame and fortune flawlessly. But how will RG3 cope when each pass is dissected on sports talk radio, each comment parsed in the newspapers? With all apologies to the President, playing quarterback for the Redskins might be the toughest job in Washington.Captain Chaos set for a comeback?Chris Cooley says the problematic left knee that cut short his season a year ago is completely healthy. But the 30-year-old fan favorite costs 6.23 million against the salary cap and will face stiff competition from converted wide receiver Niles Paul for playing time behind starter Fred Davis. To beat out Paul, Cooley must prove that hes regained his (modest) speed and is the better blocker.Who will emerge from the trio of running backs?Tim Hightower, a Shanahan favorite, enters training camp atop the depth chart. But the versatile 26-year-old is coming off major knee surgery, raising questions about his ability to elude defenders. If Hightower falters, look Shanahan to give Helu (three consecutive 100-plus yard performances last season) andor Royster (two 100-yard efforts) the opportunity to step forward.

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Jay Gruden says QB Kirk Cousins will have to adjust to Redskins' taller wide receivers

Jay Gruden says QB Kirk Cousins will have to adjust to Redskins' taller wide receivers

The Redskins have added some height to their receiving corps in free agency but that doesn’t mean that coach Jay Gruden leans strongly towards the big guys.

“I like big receivers. But I also like little ones like Jamison [Crowder],” said Gruden at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. Crowder, 5-9, is the team’s leading returning receiver after he caught 67 passes for 847 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016.

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Still, adding the 6-4 Terrelle Pryor and the 6-3 Brian Quick along with the hoped-for return to health of last year’s top draft pick, the 6-2 Josh Doctson.

“It’s a great advantage to have,” said Gruden. “To have guys 6-foot-5, 6-foot-3, has a 42-inch vertical and you throw Crowder in there and you get that change of direction.”

Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ primary targets at wide receiver in the two years he has been the starter have been Pierre Garçon, who is six feet tall, and DeSean Jackson, who is generously listed at 5-10. They both departed as free agents. Garçon and Jackson receivers had many strengths in their games but going up and high-pointing the ball to make a catch over a defender was not one of them. That changes with Pryor, Doctson, and Quick.

“I think that’s something that Kirk has to really get used to,” said Gruden. “That’s going to take some time in OTAs and training camp. I think he’ll probe that and see what he can get away with.”

MORE REDSKINS: Doctson's short tweet delivers good news for Redskins

Gruden is wondering if he can get away with a pattern that they tried several times last year with very little success, a play that drew the ire of many fans on social media and talk radio.

“We can throw a lot of fades now,” said Gruden, laughing.

With some taller targets, they might actually have a shot at completing more of those. In any case, it will be very interesting to see how Cousins adjust to the team’s new type of receiver and what plays Gruden will call to take advantage of their height.

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.

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Redskins' Jay Gruden is looking for Kirk Cousins to become a coach on the field this year

Redskins' Jay Gruden is looking for Kirk Cousins to become a coach on the field this year

Gruden is looking for Cousins to become a Redskins coach on the field

While it’s still possible for the Redskins to trade quarterback Kirk Cousins, team president Bruce Allen has said that no talks have taken place and coach Jay Gruden is looking forward to having Cousins at the helm for the third straight year.

“He’s getting ready, he’s excited about the season, been in contact about what he wants to work on,” said Gruden on Tuesday at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. “We’ve addressed that so when OTAs hit we can hit hard. It’s great to have a guy who’s been in the system for two years now can just jump right in to hard core situational work, just really fine tune the other things like cadence, just the little things you want to fine tune without starting from scratch. He can be a big part in the teaching process also with the young players.”

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Actually, Cousins has been “in the system” for all three years that Gruden has been the head coach in Washington. He started five game in 2014 before turnover problems sent him to the bench. The following seasons Gruden named Cousins the starter at the end of August and he has played every meaningful snap since then.

Cousins has played well, passing for over 9,000 yards and leading the team to its first back-to-back winning seasons since 1997-1997. Gruden will be looking for more out of his quarterback, who will be making $24 million this year if he plays on the franchise tag.

“In a perfect world, you want your quarterback to be an extension of the coaching staff,” said Gruden. “I think that’s why you look at the great quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, they’re extensions of the coaching staff. The coach doesn’t have to go out and tell everybody what to do all the time. Sometimes the quarterback can just go right out and whisper it to them. It helps that we’re saying the same thing and speaking the same language and that takes time.

“It’s not perfect yet but being in the third year of the system I think he’ll be a lot more comfortable in that role. I hope he does because we can’t see everything out there on the field all the time and it’s good to have the corrections come within the team and not just from the coaches all the time.”

MORE REDSKINS: Doctson's short tweet delivers good news for Redskins

Although Cousins’ future with the team is very uncertain—even if he is around this year there is a good chance he will be able to leave as a free agent in 2018—the quarterback and Gruden will do the only thing that they can do. The will get ready for the coming season and let the chips fall where they may after that.

Gruden pointed out that Cousins is not the only player on the roster with just one year left on his deal. Indeed, WR Terrelle Pryor, OT Morgan Moses, CB Bashaud Breeland, and C Spencer Long are all set to be free agents a year from now.

“We’re going to have a number of guys on one-year contracts and I fully anticipate them coming in and working their tails off and being prepared and doing everything they can to win a championship,” said Gruden. That’s what it’s all about. And at the end of the year we’ll come back to the negotiating table to try to get something done. But ideally, you’d like to have everybody under long-term contracts and that’s obviously not possible.”

Gruden confirmed that Cousins was in Tampa yesterday along with some of his receivers including Pryor, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder getting in some work with Gruden’s brother Jon. It looks like it will be business as usual unless and until something happens change things.

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.