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Conspiracy Theory: Believe What You See

Conspiracy Theory: Believe What You See

It didn’t quite seem to add up.

The members of the media were allowed to watch practice for the first 45 minutes on Thursday. It’s not unusual to see injured players out of the field riding a stationary bike (that’s not something that TO has a monopoly on; LaVar Arrington did it quite a bit the last couple of years) or, as Shawn Springs was on that day, standing out there in shorts and a jersey, playing catch, watching drills, doing what he could to stay engaged and involved even though it was unlikely that he would play.

It’s also not unusual for an injured player not to be out there, as was the case with Clinton Portis. Players often stay in the facility for treatment.

What is very unusual, however, is for a player to be inside the building for the beginning of a practice but a participant in the latter part of the session, the part that takes place after the press is booted out. But that was what happened with Portis on Thursday.

We came downstairs and went out to catch some of the players coming off the field to talk to them and to talk to Joe Gibbs. We expected to be able to talk to Portis but we were thought we would find him inside near the locker room. It was a mild day and all of those coming off the field were still wearing their shoulder pads. All except for Portis, that is, who approached the building dressed in sweats, no pads or helmet. It was only after we had talked to him for a few minutes that it was revealed that he had not only practiced but he had done so in pads. That particular bit of information was not revealed without prompting and the question almost went unasked because we had all assumed that he had just worked out, not practiced.

While this did have some of us curious, this feeling was dampened by what we heard Portis and Gibbs say. The story that was written and broadcast was on what we heard, that Portis was just 75%, and not on what we saw, that he had practiced in pads. Portis probably wouldn’t play on Monday night. A downgrade from questionable to doubtful or out seemed to be imminent.

In this space, I thought about writing about what I saw as opposed to what I heard, but I wasn’t all that convinced that Portis would play. It would have been a wishy-washy story and those usually aren’t very interesting. To pat myself on the back a bit, however, I did choose to take a wait and see stance on it, not amplifying the smokescreen or contradicting my earlier article and my gut feeling by writing that Portis was out.

Of course, most of the folks who wrote the “Portis is out” stories did not have the luxury of making that choice. They had to write something about it and the purpose here is not to fault their judgment in writing what they did. They went with the preponderance of the evidence even though there was some cause for reasonable doubt in plain view.

On Friday Portis again practiced and proclaimed that he was thinking along the lines of coming back in a week in Dallas. Again, the fact that he practiced was lost in the verbiage. Why the team would waste valuable practice time on reps for a guy who was virtually certain not to play was a question that went unasked.

The smokescreen continues, of course. We don’t know—and, more importantly, the Vikings don’t know—who will start and we don’t know how much Portis will play. But the “if” part of the smokescreen is over. Portis has been upgraded to probable and the Redskins would not risk the league scrutiny that would ensue in the wake of falsifying the official injury report. Barring a legitimate setback, Portis will play.

There are those out there who think that if Portis is not well enough to start that he should sit it out. The fact is that who starts is not relevant. What matters is how many carries Portis gets. I think he’ll get about 15 to 18 regardless of whether he starts or comes in off the bench.

Why not wait a week and have him come back against Dallas with a little more rest? First, you can’t go into any NFL game saying that you don’t need the services of one of your best players in order to beat that week’s opponent. Minnesota is a good, solid team that is very capable of springing what would be just a mild upset on Monday. Also, Portis had just a couple of weeks of training camp and he hasn’t played facing live contact save for those few plays almost a month ago. It is unlikely that he will carry a heavy load in his first game back regardless of whether it’s this week or next. He’ll need this game to get back into game shape if he’s going to return to his customary role of carrying the load against Dallas.

It appears that this was the plan all along. That’s my conspiracy theory and I’m sticking to it.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when the moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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Redskins coaching staff believes backups on O-line will be 'ready to roll'

Redskins coaching staff believes backups on O-line will be 'ready to roll'

All signs point to the Redskins starting Arie Kouandjio at left guard this weekend against the Eagles, and the coaching staff knows it's a big chance for the second-year man.

Incumbent starter Shawn Lauvao injured his groin last week against the Cardinals, and has not practiced all week. Assuming he doesn't play, this would mark Kouandjio's second start this season. He also got the start against the Browns in Week 4.

Washington coach Jay Gruden did not speak glowingly of Kouandjio's play against Cleveland, but it wasn't a negative review, either.

"He’s played one game, he played OK," the coach said. "He has another great opportunity for him. He’s waited his turn, done what’s asked of him. Practiced hard, played hard, and it’s a great opportunity.”

With center Spencer Long currently in concussion protocol and backup John Sullivan started to go in the middle of the Redskins offensive line, the group will have a number of new faces against the Eagles. The right side of the line, with guard Brandon Scherff and tackle Morgan Moses, will be the same as its been all year, though both of those players are nursing ankle injuries. 

"We have confidence in the guys that if some of those guys that are backups need to step up and be ready to roll," offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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One stat that should make DeSean Jackson very dangerous against Eagles

One stat that should make DeSean Jackson very dangerous against Eagles

The Eagles defense is on a big-play streak, but not one that defensive coordinators will like very much, and it could be very good news for the Redskins and DeSean Jackson. 

At this stage of his career, Jackson is a well-known deep threat. While much of the 2016 season has been disappointing for Jackson, in back-to-back weeks, the vertical passing attack has worked. In Arizona last Sunday, Jackson only caught one pass, but it went for 59 yards. On Thanksgiving in Dallas, Jackson hauled in a 67-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins as part of his season-high 118 receiving yards.

"What he brings to this football team, he brings something that not a lot of people can bring, and that’s obviously the speed and the big play ability," 'Skins head coach Jay Gruden said of Jackson.

The last two games moved Jackson's yards-per-catch average back in normal range with the rest of his career at 16.5. Halfway through this season, Jackson was averaging below 14 YPC, which would have been by far the worst of his career.

"A lot of people think that we haven’t utilized his speed quite like we should, but I think he has had a major impact on this football team," Gruden said. "His deep threat has an impact on the defense. It opens up areas for Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder and the backs sometimes. He’s been a major influence for this football team in a good way."

Beyond just the big plays, the Eagles defense has given up 645 passing yards in their last two games. Cousins has historically played well in Philadelphia, and should be in good position to do the same this weekend.

And based on the Eagles' past six games, expect Jackson to have another big game at Lincoln Financial Field. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!