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Redskins-Bucs preview: Plenty of players with lots to prove

Redskins-Bucs preview: Plenty of players with lots to prove

What: Redskins vs. Buccaneers
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When: Tonight, 7 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet, NBC 4Robert Griffin IIIand the Redskins other starters are not expected to touch the field once tonights preseason finale against the Buccaneers kicks off.But if you think that makes the game meaningless, just askDezmon Briscoehow hes approaching it. For players like him, the contest represents their best chance of snagging a job in the NFL this season. Play well, earn a job. Struggle, get cut Friday, when teams must pare rosters from 75 to the regular season maximum of 53.So dont tell Briscoe tonight doesnt mean anything.Keep reading for a little more on Briscoes tenuous grasp on one of the final wide receiver jobs and a few other positions the crew atwww.csnwashington.comwill be keeping tabs on.1) Against the Bears and Colts, Briscoe used his 6 foot 2, 210-pound frame and sure-handedness to haul in a combined five receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns and leave an impression on the coaches, as well.Against the Bucs, though, Briscoe must show he can excel on special teams, too. He said he expects to line up on kickoff, kick return, punt and punt rush teams. He started as the off-returner last season in Tampa Bay.A strong showing on teams could be the edge Briscoe needs to beat outAnthony Armstrong,Brandon BanksandTerrence AustinandAldrick Robinson. Those five are battling for what appears to be two final spots at wide receiver.Im looking forward to showing the coordinators what I can do, Briscoe said. Going into my third year, Ive realized that special teams is a huge, huge priority for people in the situation Im in. I have to go out there and prove that I can play special teams.2) It will be interesting to see how CoachMike Shanahanhandles his running backs. If rookie Alfred Morris watches from the sidelines with the other first team players, does that mean he's claimed the starter's job? Last week's107-yard performance against the Colts clinched his spot on the 53-man roster.But how much will Tim Hightower play? The veteran returned from a 10-month layoff due to a knee injury Saturday, but carried the ball only five times (for a total of 28 yards) and was sore Monday. What aboutEvan Royster? He was sidelined with a minor knee injury last Saturday but said this week he hopes to play.The status ofRoy Helu Jr.(two sore Achilles tendons) remains unclear.More and more, it appears Shanahan will keep four running backs. The question now is who starts and how playing time will be divided among the other three. We ought to have some answers later.3) The team jettisoned two cornerbacks on Monday, waivingMorgan Trent(injury settlement) and tradingKevin Barnesto the Lions for a conditional draft pick.That leaves the team with seven corner backs and as many as five spots to fill.DeAngelo Hall,Josh WilsonandCedric Griffinwill be three of them. But who are the others? Seventh-round draft pickRichard Crawfordhas enjoyed a strong camp. But what aboutBrandyn Thompson,David JonesandTravon Bellamy?Thompson, Jones and Bellamy have 60 minutes to make a strong closing argument for the final spot.4) The kicking competition betweenGraham GanoandNeil Rackersnever gained much traction this preseason. Now the job belongs toBilly Cundiff, who no doubt will seek to make a strong first impression.Cundiff, long snapperNick Sundberg, holderSav Roccaand the rest of the field goal unithave had exactly one practice to get on the same page. Will it be a seamless integration, or does the unit need a little polish?The bright side for us is after this game, weve got nine practice days until we play New Orleans, said Sundberg, who added that he worked with Cundiff previously in Baltimore.I know how he works, he knows how I work, so I think it will be a quicker transition than we originally thought.

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DeSean Jackson wants to play with a great QB, and says Kirk Cousins fits that

DeSean Jackson wants to play with a great QB, and says Kirk Cousins fits that

Like a point guard and a shooter or a pitcher and a catcher, a quarterback and a wide receiver rely on each other. Free-agent-to-be DeSean Jackson understands that, and it's clear that the skill level of the signal caller will factor in to his decision when it's time to sign his next contract this March.

"I would love to play with a great quarterback," he told Adam Schefter in a podcast interview with the reporter. "I think Kirk Cousins is a great quarterback, he's done some great things these past couple of years as far as statistics. If it is another team out there that I'd have to go to or however it goes, we definitely know the business of the NFL. I would love to play with a great quarterback."

As is the case with any other passer and pass catcher, Cousins and Jackson miss on throws, or Cousins will look elsewhere on a certain play and Jackson will throw his hands up, exasperated that he wasn't the QB's target on that down. In the past three seasons, though, and especially the last two, the pair has connected on plenty of deep balls to add an electric element to what used to be a slogging Redskins offense.

But Cousins isn't the only NFC East quarterback the 30-year-old receiver respects.

"Carson Wentz, he came in and had a heck of a year," Jackson said of the Eagles promising young prospect. "He killed it. He showed he can do it, and he has all the intangibles of being a big-time quarterback in this league."


That statement, of course, acted as a perfect transition to Schefter wondering how the ex-Eagle felt about possibly returning to Philadelphia.

"It definitely is a great story and ending, I guess you could say," Jackson said about the idea. "You just kind of think about all that, you started somewhere and maybe you want to finish it. There's a lot of speculation of a lot of thoughts. It all sounds good, but you never really know until the final decision is made."

Going off of those quotes, two conclusions can be made. The first: If the Burgundy and Gold don't re-sign or franchise tag Cousins, Jackson's interest in staying in D.C. would likely take a huge hit. With respect to the other options on the roster, Cousins is the only reputable quarterback on the Redskins, which Jackson said matters to him.

The second, meanwhile, would've been hard to fathom a few years ago: A reunion with the Eagles isn't a stretch at all. Wentz is an up-and-comer under center, and Jackson respects head coach Doug Pederson. 

Later in the interview, Jackson said he can thrive for another four or five years in the league. Whether he can accomplish that isn't the only question; what uniform he'll be wearing as he looks to play into his mid-30s is still up in the air as well.


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Redskins draft countdown: Washington safety Budda Baker

Redskins draft countdown: Washington safety Budda Baker

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 65 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players Scot McCloughan will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Budda Baker

Height: 5-10
Weight: 180
40-yard dash: TBD

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Tremendously explosive and passionate in his play. Former high school track sprinter with good play speed. Screams off the edge as a blitzer. Always bouncing on balls of his feet just waiting to race to the action on a dead sprint. Plays with smooth backpedal and diagonal shuffle. Has a shiftiness that allows him to mirror change of direction in space . . . Scouts use terms like "winner" and "top notch person" to describe him.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

How he fits the Redskins: This doesn’t take a whole lot of explaining. The Redskins have not had a reliable pair of safeties since they lost Sean Taylor 10 years ago. Su’a Cravens is moving into the strong safety spot. A pick line Baker could solidify the position for years to come.

His passion for the game is a big resume enhancer for McCloughan. He wants players who love football and Baker appears to fit that mold.

Baker plays fast, as in fast enough to cover slot receivers when called upon. McCloughan doesn’t much care for 40 times; he will judge a player’s speed off the tape. But it will be interesting to see how Baker runs at the combine.

At Washington, they sent him after the quarterback on occasion and I could see the Redskins doing that as well. Baker had three sacks last season and in a game I watched him play against USC he had two quarterback hurries that led to interceptions by his teammates.

Potential issues: At 5-10, 180 he is on the small side for a safety, at least one that McCloughan might prefer. His size gives him trouble if he must tackle a tight end or a big running back.

His play against the run is inconsistent. At times, he takes bad angles, can’t get off blocks and misses tackles. But at other times he sniffs out a play and makes a tackle in the backfield.  

Baker might grade out to be more of a late first- or early second-round pick. McCloughan will stick to his draft board for the most part and if the value isn’t there in his opinion he could bypass Baker in favor of a higher graded player despite the need. Or perhaps he can execute a trade and end up with Baker with a pick somehwere in the twenties. 

Bottom line: Right now Baker is Mike Mayock’s fourth-ranked safety. Malik Hooker of Ohio State and Jamal Adams of LSU are likely to be gone by the time the 17th pick is on the clock. Jabrill Peppers, Mayock’s No. 3 safety, is too similar to Cravens and many think he might be a better fit on offense. If they want to get a first-round safety it appears that Baker is the guy.

Certainly, Baker’s size will give McCloughan pause. They can bulk him up some but he could have a problem carrying as many as 200 pounds. Not only could he have problems dealing with bigger players, he could deal with injury problems.

In Baker’s NFL.com profile they compare him to former Colts safety Bob Sanders. Every season in which Sanders played more than 10 games he was a first-team All-Pro. Problem was, he only managed to play in double-digit games in two seasons. The Redskins will be wary of the possibility of getting bursts of great play from someone like Baker with some stints on injured reserve.