When training camp began 2 weeks ago, the Redskins expected a trio of running backs to compete for playing time.After Thursdays preseason opener in Buffalo, a fourth contender has emerged: rookie Alfred Morris.Morris, a sixth round draft pick in April, led all rushers at Ralph Wilson Stadium, carrying the ball 15 times for 54 yards, including three runs that went for six yards apiece. Although the majority of those gains were made against the Bills reserves, Morris performance left Coach Mike Shanahan wanting to see more of the Pensacola, Fla. native.You can see hes got good running skills and hes got that forward lean, Shanahan said after Saturdays practice. Hes got good instincts. Its going to be fun to see him over the next three games, see if he still plays at a hard level.I anticipate he will, the coach added.Last week, Sports Illustrateds Peter King posted a potentially telling comment on his Twitter account the same day he visited with team brass at Redskins Park.Florida Atl rkie Alfred Morris solid darkhorse for RB job, Kings tweet read.Thursdays effort in Buffalo, it would appear, only enhanced Morris chances of posing a legitimate threat to incumbents Tim Hightower, Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr., who currently occupy spots 1-3 on the depth chart, respectively.Weve got a number of guys that can play in the National Football League, Shanahan said. As each game goes by, well get a chance to evaluate these guys more. But Morris sure didnt hurt himself.At 5-foot-10, 218 pounds, Morris boasts a no-frills, physical, north-south style that sets him apart from the others.You can see he puts his foot in the ground, said fullback Darrel Young, who has tutored Morris on details of the pro game, such as pass protection. A lot of guys cant do that. He can make one cut and get up field, as opposed to rounding a cut off.With five consecutive carries in the third quarter, Morris also displayed the workhorse reputation that helped define his career at Florida Atlantic. On that series, Morris made inside runs for gains of 6, 3, 3 and 6 yards before being stopped for a one-yard loss.It just shows my endurance and my willingness, no matter how tired I am, to play my hardest every single play, Morris said.Although he hoped to have a pass or two thrown his way, Morris said he was pleased with his performance against the Bills.My whole objective was to not make any mental mistakes and did just that, he said Saturday, as he participated in a time-honored rookie initiation, hauling Hightowers shoulder pads and helmet from the practice field to the locker room along with his own. I was able to show a little ability out there on the ground.The film revealed the type of runner I am, Morris added. Im a physical guy, Im a one-cut-and-get-north-south kind of guy. I have good balance, bouncing off tackles and have that willingness to get every yard possible each and every down.If he doesnt make the 53-man roster, Morris would seem to be an ideal candidate for the practice squad.Competition always makes us better, Morris said. With backs like that in front of me, its only going to make me better. Regardless of what happens, whether Im cut, whether they keep me, at the end of the day, if I knew I gave it my all, Ill be able to sleep that night.
It still seems like a long-shot the Redskins trade Kirk Cousins, but if there is one persistent rumor, it's that the San Francisco 49ers want the Washington passer. The story is too familiar at this point: New Niners coach Kyle Shanahan was in D.C. when Cousins was drafted and wants the quarterback to come run his offense in San Francisco. With the second overall pick, the 49ers have a tremendous asset they can dangle in trade talks.
Whether or not any of this rumor is true, it sure makes for engrossing speculation. With the NFL Draft Combine next week in Indianapolis, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said he wouldn't be shocked to see the trade go down.
That's the backdrop. Beyond the debate of the merits of trading an established QB like Cousins, which is a very serious debate, there's also the notion of what player the 'Skins would select with the second overall pick.
MORE REDSKINS: 2017 top heavy Cap could be a problem
It's worth examining the impact players available to Washington with the second selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, and the options are varied, including perhaps a new QB. Check it out.
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It seems almost inevitable that the Redskins will put the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins between now and the March 1 deadline. This will set the Redskins up to have a very top heavy salary cap structure.
As the website Spotrac noted yesterday, if the Redskins do tag Cousins, giving him a cap hit of $24.9 million, he, Josh Norman ($20 million cap number) and Trent Williams ($15.1 million) will account for a total of $59 million against the cap or 35 percent of the estimated $168 million cap for the 2017 season.
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That’s a lot of money to go to 5.6 percent of the players on the roster. To compare, the top three players on the Cowboys’ cap account for 34.2 percent of the cap. The top three with the Giants take up 29.7 percent and in Philadelphia it’s 17.8 percent. In fact, a check around the league shows that none of the 2016 AFC or NFC playoff teams has a higher percentage of their cap expended on its top three than the Redskins have on theirs.
This caused some consternation among Redskins fans and while it’s something to keep an eye on it does not present a big issue for the team at this time.
For one thing, the Redskins still have a good amount of cap room. If you assume the Cousins tag, they still will have about $40 million in cap space with the ability to create perhaps $10 million more by releasing some veterans and/or redoing some contracts.
Also, it’s a temporary situation. Let’s say that the Redskins hang on to Cousins with a long-term deal and he has a $22 million cap number in 2018. If that the case then Cousins, Norman ($17 million), and Williams ($13.9 million) would still be the top three players on the cap number list and they would total $52 million. On a cap that is projected to be $178 million that would be 29.2 percent of the total. That’s still on the high side but certainly manageable.
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And if you are going to have three players taking up a high percentage of the cap they should be your quarterback, left tackle, and No. 1 cornerback. Those, along with an edge rusher, are the most important players on the team and it’s appropriate to have them among you highest-paid players.
Still, the Redskins must be careful. Signing another free agent with a cap hit like Norman’s is out of the question. And as key contributors like Morgan Moses, Trent Murphy, Jamison Crowder, and Brandon Scherff become eligible for contract extensions or for free agency over the next couple of years, the organization needs to be sure that there is room to retain their own players when the time comes.