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Play of the Day: Redskins running back depth chart on display

Play of the Day: Redskins running back depth chart on display

RICHMOND—The Redskins don’t put out their first unofficial depth chart of the season until early next when they distribute the media notes for their preseason opener against the Falcons. But on Thursday it was apparent how the depth chart at running back stacks up.

Matt Jones, who is the unquestioned No. 1 back, was out of practice, resting a sore knee. Chris Thompson, the senior member of the running back corps at the age of 25 with three NFL seasons under his belt, ran with the first team. He popped a few nice runs and did a good job protecting the football from the constant efforts of the defense to strip it out.

That makes Thompson No. 2 on the depth chart. But that is not a spot that he seems to be particularly anxious to hold on to as he indicated in a couple of interviews (here and here). For now, if only by default, there he is.

Running the Colt McCoy and the second-team offense was undrafted rookie free agent Robert Kelley. At 6-0, 228 Kelley is four inches taller and about 30 pounds heavier than Thompson. He was the surprise star of OTAs and minicamp and he has kept it up so far in Richmond. Kelley was back in the lineup after missing a couple of days with a hamstring pull.

With Nate Sudfeld and the third team was Mack Brown, who spent a little time on the Redskins practice squad this year. He struggled some but the threes on the offensive line didn’t give him much help.

That left Keith Marshall to grab reps where he could. The seventh-round pick had only a few carries but he did show some power and speed on one run up the middle.

To sum it up, there is Matt Jones at the top of the depth chart going into the first preseason game followed by Thompson, Kelley, Brown, and Marshall. It’s hard to see it remaining like that when Week 1 of the regular season rolls around. It seems likely that one of two things will take place.

Kelley could move into the No. 2 spot. I’m not sure if he has gained the trust of the coaches just yet but he has four preseason games and about 25 practices to make that impression.

Or, they could sign a veteran running back. Such a move has been much discussed but it doesn’t seem to be imminent.

The situation is opening the door for Kelly, Brown, and Marshall to grab some NFL playing time. We will see how the rotation stacks up when they open the preseason in Atlanta six days from today.

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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

After he signed the franchise tag a couple of weeks ago, the speculation, rumors and, for some fans, panic around Kirk Cousins has largely quieted down.

The Redskins can ink their quarterback to a long-term deal any time between now and July 15, but talks may not pick up until summer rolls around. A trade can also occur, but no recent reports have indicated that one is in the works.

Therefore, it currently looks like Cousins and the franchise that drafted him back in 2012 will be together for at least one more season. And according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that's a wise choice by the Burgundy and Gold.

"I think they did the absolute right thing in making sure Kirk Cousins is gonna be their quarterback this year," King told CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix. "I absolutely, unequivocally would not trade him. That's a white flag." 

As for why King wouldn't move on from No. 8, his explanation was very simple.

"You don't get rid of a guy who's got the second-most passing yards in football over the last two years," he said.

MORE REDSKINS: WILL JAY GRUDEN'S ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING EXPAND THIS YEAR?

Finlay also gathered input on the Redskins' and Cousins' relationship from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who's another major voice in the league's media. Rapoport first stated that he would be "beyond stunned" if the 28-year-old was not in D.C. for the 2017 campaign and then laid out how he envisions the year unfolding.

"I do not believe he will sign the extension before the season," he said. "So, he's going to go out there, play on another one-year deal, bet on himself like he did last year. You hope it's the same thing. And then we'll see, because I know there's some talk about him not signing an extension — I'm not so sure about that. Everyone has a price, right?"

"If they offer him $25 [million] a year, Andrew Luck's deal, I would imagine plans would change pretty quickly, right?" Rapoport continued. "So you get to the end of the season, assess where you are, assess the value and see if you can make a business deal. It's terrible to have to pay so much money to your quarterback. The only worse thing is not being able to pay so much money to your quarterback." 

King and Rapoport are clearly both in agreement that losing their rising signal caller would be a huge blow to the Redskins. But while King says Washington should keep Cousins because of his production, Rapoport took a different route when concluding how the negotiations will end up.

"Really good quarterbacks never leave their team. It just never happens," he said. "So I would think there's a way to work this out."

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