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Redskins Combine Countdown: Oklahoma NT Jordan Phillips

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Redskins Combine Countdown: Oklahoma NT Jordan Phillips

The NFL Combine gets underway in Indianapolis in just 4 days. I will be there and in between now and then I’ll be doing a lot of work getting up to speed on the draft class of 2015. Along the way I’ll be sharing some of what I find out with Real Redskins readers. The focus will be on players in areas of need for the Redskins but I might look at players at just about any position since Scot McCloughan has said that he will take the best player available regardless of need.

Jordan Phillips
NT
Oklahoma

Height: 6-6
Weight: 334

What they’re saying:
What I liked: Well, we start with the size.  At that height and weight, he is just not a player you would see line up at nose tackle (0 tech) right over the center in most traditional spots.  He moves well enough laterally and forward to cause some issues in the gaps and can certainly demand double team attention to keep him from ripping into the backfield.  He spins pretty well and also feeds off stunts because the off-center opportunities are seized and he is quick to pop through and make a play against Tennessee.

What I did not like: He just doesn’t move a whole lot on most plays.  In fact, some plays he doesn’t move at all.  Against TCU, his battle with Horned Frogs center Joey Hunt was a real disappointing performance where he was single-teamed a lot and did not cause any real disruptive plays all day.  As the season went along, he was on the ground a bit too much making you wonder if he was at full health as his best football was in September for sure.  For me, I want to know about the production issues.
Bob Strum, Dallas Morning News

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have been using the undersized Barry Cofield at nose tackle since 2011. Cofield is about to turn 31, he has a high cap number and although he may survive this season his replacement needs to be found sooner rather than later. Phillips could be the player to do it.

“Big guys win” according to GM Scot McCloughan and at 6-6, 334 Phillips qualifies. But he’s not just a big body; he has the ability to use his size to great advantage with his quickness. He could at least contribute early if not become the full-time starter by midseason.

Potential issues: As Strum and others have noted, Phillips’ motor is not always running. It may be due to him being a year removed from a back injury that caused him to take a medical redshirt in 2013. Or it could be a case of him being like a lot of big players who just can’t generate the energy to keep their large mass in constant motion. In either case, Scot McCloughan has some investigating to do. The back issues will be examined by doctors in Indianapolis and then again if he is invited to Redskins Park for a visit. McCloughan will talk to a number of coaches, trainers and others in Phillips’ circle about his motivation.

His technique is flawed but that is normal for college players who can physically dominate the player lined up across from them. Coachability will be another aspect of his game that McCloughan will look in to.

As it stands now, the Redskins are not in a good draft spot to land Phillips. Right now it looks like his value is in the latter half of the first round, somewhere in the 20’s. He won’t be the right guy to take with the fifth pick and he could well be gone by the time Washington is up in the second round.

Bottom line: The demand for large, quick nose tackles always exceeds the supply. Phillips and Danny Shelton of Washington are the only two in this draft who are better than long-term projects. That may cause teams to overlook Phillips’ flaws and take a shot that he can hold down the middle.

Perhaps if the Redskins trade back to later in the first round they will take a good look at Phillips. If he is still on the board when the Redskins’ second-round pick rolls around, he may be too much of a value to pass up if his intangibles check out to McCloughan’s standards.

Previously in Combine Countdown:

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Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Some NFL players ooze confidence. They thrive on emphasizing what they do well and not speaking about weaknesses. In a game as tough and physical as pro football, some players need to feel bulletproof to survive.

Chris Thompson is not like that. He was one of the stars in the Redskins’ 27-20 win over the Rams on Sunday. He rushed three times for 77 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 29 yards. And while he enjoyed the win, he did not revel in his performance as he made a glaring mistake.

RELATED: JAY GRUDEN NOT INCREASING THOMPSON'S WORKLOAD

In the third quarter, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw him a perfect pass over the middle. The speedy Thompson had nothing but green grass and white stripes in front of him. But he dropped the pass, turning what likely would have been a 62-yard touchdown into an incompletion.

That play stuck with him despite his touchdown runs of 61 and seven yards.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “On the plane ride, getting dressed after the game, this morning watching film, when I was outside at practice, I was thinking about that one play. My first thing I wanted to do when I got out there in individuals with the quarterbacks was to run that route again and catch the ball.”

FANTASY: TO START CHRIS THOMPSON OR NOT?

Instead of reliving his glory, he went to work to correct one mistake.

This is not a lone instance of Thompson focusing on negative plays that he made. He said that mistakes stick in his mind more than good plays. During a few minutes talking to reporters on Wednesday, he recalled going the wrong way on a choice route against the Dolphins in 2015, costing a possible touchdown, making a similar mistake against the Browns last year, and errors that led to sacks of Cousins last year and of Robert Griffin III a few years ago.

“All of those things that I look back at that I did wrong, it helped me become a better player this year,” said Thompson. “I’ve been able to go back and look at that and see what went wrong and fix it now. As of late as I’ve become more confident in what I’m doing and more confident in my abilities I’m able to play better.”

Whatever Thompson is doing to become a better player is working. He signed a two-year contract extension earlier this month. Jay Gruden sings his praises whenever he’s asked about him. His teammates almost universally admire and respect him. In his fifth NFL season, many analysts around the league are starting to recognize him as a main cog in the Redskins’ offense.

It is unlikely that he will change his approach.

“I had to mess up a lot in order to get where I am now,” he said. Thompson will continue to perfect his game by putting his imperfect moments under the microscope. 

MORE REDSKINS: FIVE UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

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Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

One of the best offenses in 2016, the Redskins early returns so far in 2017 rank somewhere between underwhelming and underachieving. That does not mean good games aren't coming in the future, however, at least according to head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

"I would like to think that as the year goes on the offense gets better and better," Cousins said Wednesday. "Hopefully we take those steps going forward and we just hit our stride and play much better than we have the first two weeks."

RELATED: FIVE REDSKINS UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

In the first two games of the season, a loss at home to the Eagles in Week 1 and a win in Los Angeles over the Rams, Cousins hasn't played particularly well. Against Philadelphia, he played poorly, accounting for three turnovers and completing just 57 percent of his passes. In LA, he showed progress. No turnovers and his completion percentage jumped up nearly 10 points. 

More importantly, Cousins shined on the final drive of the game, going 3 for 3 and throwing the game-winning touchdown. It was that drive, and a number of near misses in both games, that has Gruden optimistic. 

The coach called the Redskins passing game "very, very close" to hitting on all cylinders.

"There is a lot we can improve on in the passing game, from Kirk to the routes to the protection. It’s a work in progress, but we will get there," Gruden said Monday. "We have total faith that we will get it done and his numbers will get better."

Considered in a certain way, he's right. 

In Week 1, the Redskins offensive line struggled and Cousins was sacked four times. The run game got nothing going, generating just 64 yards on the ground. Cousins was able to throw for 240 yards, and despite all the turnovers, the offense still had a chance to steal a win late in the fourth quarter. 

In Week 2, the Redskins line blocked better and the run game produced at a high level. Cousins' yardage total was quite low, only 179 yards, but a big gainer got dropped and a few other opportunities were missed. 

Cousins supporters will scream about passes being dropped in Weeks 1 and 2. Cousins detractors will scream about passes missed in Weeks 1 and 2.

READ MORE: KIRK COUSINS' HITS AND MISSES FROM WEEK 2

The truth is likely in the middle. There is a solid baseline of production from Cousins from the last two seasons, and clearly Gruden expects that to come. Perhaps Week 3 against Oakland will be the opportunity. 

"We’re just going to keep sticking with the plan, getting these guys open the best way we can and hopefully we give Kirk the protection and he sees the throws and makes the throws," Gruden said. "But we’re right there, really. I like the group that we have."

The 2016 Redskins finished third in the league in total yards gained. Obviously the team lost a ton of production with the exits of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Don't discount that, or the departure of former offensive coordinator Sean McVay. 

Despite all that, Cousins still has weapons. And talent. He knows he can be better, and knows he needs to be better.

"We have still done some really good things the first two weeks and have moved the ball, but I think there is more in the tank there that we have got to bring out,” Cousins said. 

To beat the Raiders, the Redskins will need to bring everything out of the tank. That likely means a 300-yard passing game from Cousins along with multiple touchdowns. 

The quarterback and the coach think the offense is ready, and close to a breakout game. Maybe they're right. 

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