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Kyle: Hankerson's progress has cut Morgan's playing time

Kyle: Hankerson's progress has cut Morgan's playing time

The NFL is often a zero-sum game where one player’s gain must mean another player’s loss.

The starkest example of this dynamic is in roster spots. There are 53 of them and each one that is claimed by one man means that the opportunity is lost to another.

But sometimes the zero-sum deal is subtler. There are only 22 starting spots and one player earning a job means that another one loses his. The number of passes that a team throws in a game is more flexible but, still, each one thrown to Player A can’t go to Player B.

Josh Morgan of the Redskins is not happy with his diminishing playing time and opportunities. He started the season opener but he has played about a third of the Redskins’ snaps this year. And the wide receiver has been mostly in a blocking role. He was targeted for passes a total of 10 times in the first two games. In the seven games since then he has been targeted a total of seven times.

What is frustrating to Morgan is that he doesn’t believe he has done anything wrong. And, according to Kyle Shanahan, he hasn’t. It’s a matter of Leonard Hankerson earning more chances to take snaps and catch passes.

“It’s more that Hankerson has been stepping it up so we’ve given Hank more reps,” said Shanahan when asked about Morgan’s reduced role. “It’s something we said back in training camp – those guys have been competing since the starting of OTAs this year through camp. They were always neck-and-neck. Right when one guy would take a step up the next day he would take a step back and they were always right here and that’s how it was kind of at the beginning of the year. We just felt on the practice field that Hank had been stepping it up so we’ve been giving him a few more opportunities, especially on third down and stuff – more passing situations – and that’s how it’s been.”

Hankerson, a third-round draft pick in 2011, has participated in 58 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Robert Griffin III feeds him a steady diet of opportunities. In seven of the team’s nine games, Hankerson has been targeted either five or six times. His 29 receptions and 370 receiving yards are both second on the team.

Even if Morgan and Hankerson perform equally well in practice there are practical reasons to give Hankerson more playing time. He is four years younger than Morgan and he is under contract next year. Morgan is a free agent and his future with the team is uncertain.

So it’s possible that Morgan will have to clearly outperform Hankerson in practice in order to change the status quo. A tie would likely go to Hankerson.

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Cousins believes "a lot rides" on the coming Redskins season

Cousins believes "a lot rides" on the coming Redskins season

RICHMOND—While Kirk Cousins has had a lot of success in his first two seasons as the Redskins’ starting quarterback, he and the team didn’t finish last season the way they wanted to. They lost four of their last six games to finish out of a playoff spot. With the game on the line in the season finale against the Giants, Cousins threw an interception as the team was driving for a late score to win or tie the game. The loss was the final blow to their playoff hopes.

As with any disappointing situation, Cousins and the team must walk a line between learning from the mistakes that were made—and there were many beyond the Cousins interception—and dwelling on the past. Cousins said today that the failure to make the playoffs will help drive the team this year.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

“I think what it does is it gives us an edge, because we stay humble and hungry because we left the season realizing we do have a long ways to go,” Cousins said of the late-season woes. “We do need to improve if we want to go in the direction that we all believe we can. In that sense we’ll take the silver lining that nobody is content, nobody is entitled, nobody feels like we can rest on what we’ve done in the past.”

While they can focus on the silver lining for now, Cousins says that they realize that coming close to the playoffs but missing out year after year won’t cut it. That’s what gets coaches fired and leads to players losing their jobs.

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, the final update

“We do feel like a lot rides on this season up ahead,” he said. “Hopefully, that gives us a sense of urgency all through training camp to be really focused, and as a result gets the best out of every one of us so that our team can play as well as we possibly can.”

Cousins is playing on the one-year franchise tag. He has been quick to point out that many of his teammates are either on one-year deals or in the final season of a multi-year deal. Cousins is one of over a dozen starters or key contributors who will become free agents in 2018. If they are going to stay around they can’t go 2-4 down the stretch like they did last year.

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' Cousins says he bets on the system, not on himself

Redskins' Cousins says he bets on the system, not on himself

RICHMOND—As Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins goes into playing under the franchise tag for the second straight season, the phrase commonly used about him is that he is betting on himself, eschewing the long-term security of a multiyear deal in favor hoping to improve his leverage by playing on the tags.

However, Cousins said that is a misconception.

“I don’t know that I ever bet on myself, I bet on the system, he said. “It has nothing to do with myself. I’m just going out and playing and there’s never been anything but positive feelings. I’m excited to get to work here. As I’ve said, my wife and I love it here and we’re in a good place.”

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Ever since the deadline for him to sign a long-term contract this year came and went without a new deal, Cousins has been trying to debunk the notion that he has a desire to leave the Redskins as soon as he can. Appearing on 106.7 The Fan last week, Cousins said that the Redskins are his “first choice” to be his team going forward. He talked positively about his future in Washington again today after the Redskins first training camp walkthrough.

Although there was talk that the contract negotiations took a sour turn at the end after team president Bruce Allen revealed some of the details of the team’s final offer to Cousins, Cousins indicated today that everything is fine.

“W e’ve done a good job communicating between me and the team,” he said. “We’re on the same page and we’ve done everything we can possibly do to get that settled and move forward. I think we’re all in a good place right now and we’ve got enough to worry about getting our offense playing at the level we need to have a great season so I can be back in future years.”

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, the final update

What it really comes down to, what Cousins believes will make things good in the future for him and the Redskins, is success on the field.

“If you win football games, everything else takes care of itself,” he said.

“In the offseason, the ball’s in the team’s court. But from Week 1 to Week 17, the ball’s in my court and I’ve got to go play football well. That’s where my focus is.”

There likely will be more talk of Cousins future beyond the 2017 seas in the coming weeks and months. It appears that for right now that is the furthest thing from Cousins’ mind.

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.