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Redskins have help wanted sign up at outside linebacker

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Redskins have help wanted sign up at outside linebacker

As free agency plods into its third week, most of the focus has been on the Redskins’ defensive backfield, the safety spot in particular. But there is another area on defense that will need to be shored up prior to the start of the season.

Outside linebacker is a vital position in the 3-4 defense and the Redskins find themselves a bit thin there at the moment. Starters Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are in place but the depth is lacking.

There were three backup OLB’s on the depth chart last year. Brandon Jenkins, last year’s fifth-round draft pick, is back. He played on defense in only four games last year, logging 41 snaps. The coaching staff talked him up all year as a player who would have been a first-round draft pick had he not missed his almost all of his senior season with a Lisfranc injury. He had eight sacks as a junior at Florida State.

Jenkins could be lining up with the starters when the offseason workouts start in two weeks. Orakpo hasn’t yet signed his franchise tag tender and he can’t participate until he does so. There has been no word on whether or not he plans to sign.

Chances are that Orakpo eventually will sign and when that happens Jenkins will remain somewhere on the depth chart. But it appears that the Redskins will have to replace the other two backups. Darryl Tapp, who played 86 snaps last year, has signed with the Lions. That’s a relatively minor loss.

The bigger departure would be that of Rob Jackson. He played 186 snaps last year and would have played a larger role had he not been suspended for a violation of the league’s PED policy for the first four games of the season. Although he hasn’t signed anywhere else yet, the word is that he won’t be back.

That leaves the Redskins in search of at least one backup outside linebacker. During the first week of free agency they had Anthony Spencer in for a visit and after some fairly extensive negotiations he left without a contract. He is still a free agent and he remains a possibility. But he is not yet fully recovered from microfracture surgery and the latest information is that he should be ready for training camp.

The Redskins were talking to Spencer in part because the pickings on the free agent market are quite slim. Shaun Phillips is the top 3-4 outside backer on the market and he’ll be 33 in May. Former Steeler and Bengal James Harrison is still a free agent but there hasn’t been any connecting of the dots between him and former Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden at this point.

The draft is another possibility. Since the starters are set they likely would shy away from taking an outside linebacker with their top pick. But if someone like Jeremiah Attaochu of Georgia Tech or Dee Ford of Auburn or Louisville’s Marcus Smith is there when their third-round pick rolls around it would not be surprising to see Bruce Allen nab him.

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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.