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Richardson, Morris renew rivalry in NFL

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Richardson, Morris renew rivalry in NFL

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Trent Richardson remembers Redskins running back Alfred Morris with long hair and one of his teammates stupidly yanking on it before a game.

``He got so hot and everyone was so scared of him,'' Richardson said. ``Nobody would touch him. He was a big guy. He was the biggest dude out there.''

Morris, too, can picture Richardson a bigger-than-average kid, years before he started carrying the ball for the Browns.

``He had calves of a grown man,'' Morris said.

The two rookies, who began their football careers bashing their way to stardom on sandlots in their hometown of Pensacola, Fla., - a football talent hotbed - took dissimilar paths to the NFL. But they'll cross paths again and renew their rivalry Sunday when the Browns (5-8) host the Redskins (7-6).

Richardson was expected to have an immediate impact on the Browns, and despite playing for weeks with a rib injury that won't be fully healed until the offseason, the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft has lived up to projections. He's rushed for 869 yards and matched the team rookie record with nine rushing touchdowns, a mark he shares with Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who caused a controversy when he called Richardson ``ordinary'' after the Browns selected him.

Richardson has been special.

Morris has been even better for the Redskins.

The sixth-round pick (No. 173 overall) from Florida Atlantic enters this week's game with 1,228 yards and seven scores. Morris is fourth among the league's top rushers and he's the latest in a long line of young backs to thrive under Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who had four rookies top 1,000 yards rushing in Denver.

Shanahan's system has helped Morris, but the humble 24-year-old has earned every yard through hard work and dedication - values he developed in Pensacola, also the home of career rushing leader Emmitt Smith.

Morris arrived at Redskins camp driving a 1991 Mazda, and although he can now afford to replace the car with 125,000 miles on the odometer, Morris has no intention of splurging. And when he visits his parents' home, he usually stays on the couch.

``I actually like the couch,'' he said. ``It's pretty comfortable.''

He's equally relaxed in the same backfield with dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III, giving the Redskins an offense that's become one of the league's most potent attacks.

Morris is outshining Richardson, but he's not gloating about any statistical advantage over his longtime peer.

``That's not a pride thing,'' he said. ``We're in two totally different situations, two different divisions. I don't take pride in having more rushing yards. I really don't even think about it. I'm just happy that he's doing good and that I'm doing good and just to make it this far coming from where we came from is just an accomplishment in itself.''

There are currently more than one dozen players from the Pensacola area on rosters throughout the league. Browns defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin attended the same high school as Richardson, who was raised by his mother and knew at an early age he wanted to provide for his family.

``People are just really hungry and want to better their lives and want better for their family,'' Richardson said. ``Growing up, I always wanted to make sure my mama didn't have to work again. My mama was working two or three jobs when I was growing up. Seeing my grandma work and care for us, it was nothing but more motivation for me. Pensacola, it's a place where you can feel like, `I'm glad I'm from here because it made me.'

``It pushed me to strive for much that I want in life.''

Morris' success may be surprising to those who didn't see him run over other players for years. Richardson has been watching the 5-foot-10, 218-pounder cause destruction inside the hash marks for most of his life.

``We've always been rivals,'' he said. ``He was the reason why I never made the (high school) playoffs. Then his little brother Shawn was the next reason. I've been playing against Alfred my whole life and him and his little brother have been on the same team. They were the reason why I didn't make it to the playoffs.''

That could happen again.

The Browns are a longshot to make the AFC playoffs, and need to win their final three games to have any chance at the postseason. Cleveland's defense will have to contain Griffin, assuming he plays, along with Morris, who needs 288 yards to surpass Clinton Portis' team single-season rushing record.

Morris didn't have records in mind when he was drafted. His only objective was to win a job with Washington.

``I wasn't guaranteed a spot on this team, so I had to bust my butt in camp,'' he said. ``My goal was to make the team. And, after that, the opportunity will come and when it does come make the most of it.''

He's done that.

There were skeptics who doubted Morris could play at the game's highest level. They looked at his size and college and wondered.

They should have talked to Richardson.

``He didn't get that much recognition because of the school he was at,'' Richardson said. ``They didn't get seen a lot. But Alfred has always been a baller to me and he's always had a nose for the end zone.

``He's always been a baller to me.''

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NOTES: Browns coach Pat Shurmur believes Shanahan will commit to one quarterback Sunday and won't rotate Griffin with rookie Kirk Cousins, who came off the bench last week when Griffin sprained his right knee. ... Sunny skies and temperatures in the 40s allowed the Browns to practice outside for the second straight day. ... Richardson wasn't upset he only averaged 2.3 yards in last week's win over Kansas City. ``It doesn't bug me because we won,'' he said. ``If we didn't win, it would bug the mess out of me.''

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Bucs QB Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

Plenty of teams will line up for the services of soon to be free agent DeSean Jackson, but Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston made clear he wants D-Jax with the Bucs. 

"You better believe we want DeSean here," Winston told the the Tampa Bay Times. "I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean."

Jackson has been clear he looks forward to the free agent process. He's only hit the open market once, and that was under inauspicious terms. The Eagles released Jackson well past the start of free agency in 2014, and the Redskins moved quickly to sign the speedster. 

In three seasons with the 'Skins, Jackson has been a solid teammate and strong player. In 37 starts for the Burgundy and Gold, Jackson has more than 2,700 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. 

RELATED: DeSean Jackson wants to play for an elite QB

With elite speed and arguably the NFL's best ball tracker, Jackson makes sense for a lot of teams. Tampa, in particular, could use a deep threat to play alongside Mike Evans. Teamed with Winston, who has a strong arm and loves to go deep, the Bucs offense would be formidable. 

That does not mean Tampa is a sure thing.

While ESPN's Josina Anderson reported the Bucs could be a  "possible destination" for Jackson, Philadelphia has long been rumored to want him back. His old coach Andy Reid is in Kansas City. Former 'Skins offensive coordinator Sean McVay is now running the show in LA. For a player like Jackson, just about any potential destination could make sense. 

Like it almost always is in NFL free agency, guaranteed money will be a major factor in DeSean's decision. At 30 year's old and with a game reliant on speed and quickness, this could be the last big contract of Jackson's career. Odds are he will land a big deal, and the team with the biggest bag of cash may prove the most tempting. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Redskins draft countdown: Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell

Redskins draft countdown: Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 63 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.

Malik McDowell
Defensive line
Michigan State

Height: 6-6
Weight: 276
40-yard dash: TBD

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Slippery and long. Combination of arm length and flexible torso allow him to slither into gaps and create disruptions for blockers. Freaky combination of size and athleticism. Can overwhelm blockers with pure strength and explosiveness when his feet are right. Strong enough in lower half to play through contact and cause stress in the pocket. Has tremendous amount of untapped potential waiting to be unlocked.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

How he fits the Redskins: If you’re reading this, you know that the 2016 Redskins’ defensive line was manned by one pretty good player in Chris Baker and a cast of journeymen and youngsters with some potential but little immediate production. They need to add at least one top-flight D-lineman in the draft and McDowell could be the guy.

If you are spending a top draft pick on a D-lineman you want one who can be an asset against the run and be able to rush the passer. McDowell’s profile fits that job description. He could defend the run as an end in the base 3-4 defense and kick inside to provide pass rush up the middle in nickel situations.

McDowell is generally rated behind Jonathan Allen of Alabama and Caleb Brantley of Florida among interior defensive line prospects. Allen and Brantley are likely to be gone by the time the Redskins pick at No. 17 but McDowell should be there as an option.

MORE REDSKINS: Will Chris Baker be back in 2017?

Potential issues: His production was inconsistent and his technique needs a lot of work. The fact of the matter is, I can probably copy and paste that sentence into the write up of virtually any defensive lineman in the draft. The college linemen who are NFL prospects are generally just bigger and stronger than the players trying to block him.

A look of some plays in the Spartans’ game against Notre Dame shows McDowell’s inconsistency. At times, he can’t disengage from a single blocker and a few plays later he was able skirt around three blockers and make a tackle for a loss. He also was good at getting push upfield when he rushed the passer but too often the pressure was not in the direction of the quarterback.

McDowell also had some issues with major penalties. He drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag in the Notre Dame game, although the film didn’t show what he did to earn it. Later in the year he was tossed from a game against Indiana, a game his team lost in overtime. Since the ejection came in the second half, he had to sit out the first half of Michigan State’s next game.  

Bottom line: Interviews with his coaches, MSU weight room staff, etc., will be keys in the evaluation of McDowell. If the Redskins try to teach him the proper fundamentals of line play will he absorb it? Will consistency come with maturity (he will be 20 on draft day)?

It seems like a good fit as if McDowell is believed to be coachable he may be the best player available at No. 17 and even if the Redskins manage to retain Chris Baker and sign another veteran or two the position will need an infusion of youth. We will see if it works out

Previously in Redskins draft countdown: