Josh Norman and Jordan Reed both did individual drills in practice for the Washington Redskins on Wednesday in a potentially promising sign both players will be available to play Sunday against the Bengals in London.
Norman suffered a concussion during the Redskins’ loss to the Lions on Sunday and remains in concussion protocol. Reed, who practiced in limited fashion last week, also remains in concussion protocol after missing last week’s game. They were both officially limited Wednesday.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he hopes Norman and Reed will be cleared to play by Thursday when the team flies to London. He added the Redskins jerseys will assess if Norman and Reed should travel to London if they haven’t cleared concussion protocol by then. Although each player was limited, having them both back on the field bodes well for a Redskins squad that certainly could use their star power.
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Matt Jones is getting used to more than just the poor conditions — he’s also adjusting to life as Washington’s starting running back. The 2015 third-round pick bent his fingernail back in Washington’s first practice in the pouring rain, which forced him to take his gloves off and miss a few plays.
Those types of nicks and bruises will become the norm for Jones as he takes the reins in the Redskins’ ground attack. The Florida product acknowledged that this bigger role has come with a distinctive change.
“Yeah, very different. It’s a different approach you got to take,” Jones admitted to Around The NFL on Monday, when asked about being the team’s starter. “The ownership you got to take, the liability you got to take. You got to do everything. You got to be a leader.”
In his inaugural NFL season, Jones rushed for just 490 yards on 144 carries while splitting time with veteran Alfred Morris. With Morris having signed in Dallas, Jones will assume a more prominent place in the offense, which comes with both added leadership duties and greater accountability. These are burdens that could be considered a bit much for a second-year pro, but Jones gladly accepts the challenge and is not afraid to lean on others for guidance.
“I think I’m becoming a great leader,” Jones said. “Just learning from [quarterback] Kirk [Cousins], learning from [defensive end] Chris Baker and learning from all these leaders out here on the team and all these old veterans on the team, how they do stuff with wholesale jerseys; there’s always room for learning. And I feel like I’ll become a great leader in the future.”
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Yes, Jones’ pro output thus far represents a small sample size, but he showed glimpses of promise for a rookie. He broke out in just his second NFL contest, doing a great impression of Rams great Eric Dickerson — on whom he models his game — by running all over the Rams’ defense for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
It would prove to be his lone 100-yard rushing performance on the season. Jones proceeded to hit the proverbial rookie wall, topping 60 rushing yards just once and scoring only one more rushing touchdown the rest of the way. He played in just 13 games, missing time due to a toe and a hip injury, with the latter malady forcing him to skip the Redskins’ wild-card loss to the Green Bay Packers jerseys.
As Washington’s new feature back, Jones is preparing to be more than just a one-game wonder.
“Every day I come out here, I’m getting better, and the whole offense is getting better,” he said. “As a whole, we got so much chemistry right now. We feel better about going into the season.”
Notably, the Redskins are entering as the reigning NFC East champs for the first time since 2013. Outside of Washington’s locker room, most deemed the 2015 campaign a success. But Jones isn’t resting on his laurels after the surprise ascension to the top of the division.
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“Really, my No. 1 goal is that I want to win. I want to be a winner. Going off last year, going 9-7 and winning the [division] — it was big, but it wasn’t big enough,” Jones admitted. “It felt good to be a winner of something and going to the playoffs, but I want more. I want to win more and I want this organization to win more.”
Jones’ coach had positive things to say about him on Tuesday.
“He’s sticking his foot in the ground and making decisive cuts,” Gruden said. “Whether it’s cutting through the C-gap, B-gap, outside A-gap [and] really bouncing outside. We’ve seen him make decisive cuts and his cuts have been pretty darn good.”
The Redskins had initially planned — publicly, at least — to bring back Culliver for a second season, but the dynamic of the team changed when Josh Norman was signed to a massive free-agent deal on April 22. Culliver’s fate was sealed when Washington used a third-round pick on Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller on Friday.
McCloughan said Culliver got caught up in a “numbers game” following the arrival of Norman and Fuller. The GM did not close the door on a return for Culliver, though he acknowledged this will be a good opportunity for the veteran to test the open market. Fuller passed a team physical but is returning from microfracture knee surgery.
Assuming he can make it back from his injury, Culliver should be an enticing option for teams looking to add secondary depth. He’s just 27 and parlayed an extremely productive season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014 into his big-money deal in Washington.