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10 Takeaways: 2016 NFL Combine, Day 1

Posted Feb 24, 2016

Redskins.com's Andrew Walker and Stephen Czarda bring you 10 takeaways from the first day of the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday in Indianapolis.

Redskins.com's Andrew Walker and Stephen Czarda bring you 10 takeaways from the first day of the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday in Indianapolis.

1.) The Redskins aren't panicking: they would still love to have Kirk Cousins on their roster in 2016. They continue to take a one-day-at-a-time approach, even with some important deadlines coming up soon.

Both Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan and head coach Jay Gruden on Wednesday spoke for the first and only times at the Combine, and each had the same general sentiment when it came to Cousins: they believe he will be on the 2016 roster one way or another.

Also, any recent reports of the Redskins and Cousins' representatives cutting off all contract talks aren't quite true: McCloughan said he spoke with Cousins in his office just last week, and then McCloughan and Eric Schaffer, the team's vice president of football administration/general counsel, had a conversation with Cousins' people on Wednesday morning.

"We’re talking, like I said," McCloughan said. "We made an offer, they made an offer. We go back and forth and see where it’s at."

The team would like to sign Cousins to a multi-year deal before he hits free agency March 9. But the team also has a March 1 deadline to utilize its franchise tag on Cousins, which gives him a one-year, fully-guaranteed (but expensive) contract. If Cousins goes out and turns in another monster year in 2016 while on the franchise tag, somebody's going to have to pay him a lot of money.

"I would love to do a long-term deal with Kirk," McCloughan said. "But I’m not going to ruin the organization financially to do it, because there are 52 other guys that are going to help us win games. That’s the most important thing."

2. While the defensive lineman are getting most of the attention in this year’s draft (NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said linemen taken in the third or fourth round of this year’s draft could be first rounders during other years), there are quite a few experienced offensive lineman in this year’s class.

Take North Dakota State’s Joe Haeg, for example.

Haeg was a Senior Bowl participant after being a first-team All-American for the FCS during the last two seasons after starting 29 games during that span. He worked his way from walk-on to one of the best offensive linemen in the draft.

Then there’s someone like Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair, Mayock’s No. 1 rated guard right now.

Whitehair believes that he can play all over the offensive line.

“Probably guard,” Whitehair said of which position he is most comfortable at. “I would say guard, but at the end of the day, I think I can play both guard and tackle. If somebody needed me to play center as well, I feel like I can master that as well.”

3. Gruden offered hints at which 2015 members of the Redskins he thinks could be back in 2016.

Among those he discussed on Wednesday (listed by probability of a return):

Highly probable: Kirk Cousins, Shawn Lauvao, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon

Maybe probable: Colt McCoy, Jason Hatcher, Tress Way, Will Compton, Junior Galette

Not probable: Keenan Robinson, Robert Griffin III

4.) Laremy Tunsil would like to be labeled the best tackle in this year’s draft.

Pegged by many to be the No. 1 pick to the Titans this year, Tunsil, a junior out of Ole MIss, believes he’s a great player thanks to his “great feet” and “great frame.”

“I just think I’m the best,” Tunsil said. “You’ve got to have that swagger about yourself. You’ve got to be confident. Everywhere you go you’ve got to have that confidence.”

Tunsil was an All-SEC first-team selection this past season, as he stood out even against some of the best defensive line units and individual talents in the country.

While Tunsil has all of the physical attributes to be a very successful NFL player, he believes there’s still one area that needs some improvement, especially as he enters the same professional ranks as players who have been there for years.

“Being vocal,” Tunsil said an area he wants to get better at. “I’m so shy. I’m a shy guy, man. I’m working on being more vocal, the main thing.”

5.) Gruden says it's too early to consider any position changes along the offensive line.

After being hit hard by the injury bug, the Redskins in 2015 were forced to do a little bit of shuffling along their offensive front. Throughout the season, the team was forced to replace its starting left guard (Shawn Lauvao) and center (Kory Lichtensteiger).

Moving into those roles were left guard Spencer Long and center Josh LeRibeus, who had primarily played guard throughout the first three years of his NFL career.

The versatility is certainly nice, and Gruden knows some of his other offensive linemen could probably be ready in a moment's notice if needed. But, for now, before offseason workouts have even gotten underway, it's too early to start considering those kinds of plans.

He mentioned Arie Kouandjio as a young player who wasn't active much in 2015, his rookie season, that could make an impact if needed in 2016.

"He’s a guy that didn’t really get a chance to play, too," Gruden said. "So we have good depth on the line if Shawn does come back and we’ll have to address what we’re going to do going forward at a later time."

6. Vernon Adams may have been a spread offense quarterback during his lone season as a starter for Oregon, but he believes he’s a “very good learner” who can pick up any offense on the fly.

“I’m great at picking things up really quick,” Adams said. “When I got to Oregon, I only had three weeks to learn the offense and try to earn the spot as a starter, and I did that. I learned the offense really quick. So I can pick up any offense really quick.”

As the successor to Mariota, Adams, a transfer from Eastern Washington, threw for more than 2,600 yards with 26 touchdowns to just six interceptions.

He also tacked on 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

While he won’t be in the same discussion as Carson Wentz after his Senior Bowl performance, Adams boosted his own stock after an impressive showing in the East-West Shrine Game as he connected on 6-of-9 pass attempts for three touchdowns.

“I just hope to run well and make every throw like I know I can,” Adams aid of what he wants to achieve at the NFL Combine. “And I know it’s going to get done. I’m just going to leave it in God’s hands, just go out there, have fun and enjoy the time, meet these great other quarterbacks, and all the great athletes in the country. I’m excited.”

7. McCloughan considers this a "very solid" draft class.

"It’s one of the better drafts I’ve seen throughout the last couple of years with prospects," he said. "Across the board."

McCloughan didn't want to get into any specifics about which position group looked the strongest in this year's draft class, but said he definitely has noticed a major influx in underclassmen declaring early for the NFL for 2016.

"This year we had 117 juniors come out, or underclassmen. Last year was 65. So that plays into it, too," McCloughan said. "But that’s scary. That’s why it’s so important to be here and get measurable, get the medical, get the interview stuff with the juniors, the underclassmen."

McCloughan said he didn't think it was necessarily a good or a bad thing for so many underclassmen to declare early for the NFL -- "from my standpoint, we’re going to scout them this year, we’re going to scout them next year," he said -- but a prospect's class and age can be a factor when choosing between two players ranked close on the draft board.

"If a guy’s an even junior or redshirt sophomore and a senior, I’d take the senior, a guy that fulfilled his commitment," he said. "But still, it’s understandable -- these underclassmen are really talented guys."

8. No, you likely won’t ever confuse Alabama and Harvard in terms of football factories, but the latter has produced quite a few NFL players in recent years.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, of course, is the first Harvard product that comes to mind, but there’s also Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate, defensive back Desmond Bryant and Baltimore Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

This year, tackle Cole Toner is hoping to become the next player to go from Harvard to the NFL.

Toner, 6-foot-7, 295 pounds, participated in this year’s Senior Bowl before attending this week’s NFL Combine.

“It’s huge,” Toner said of being in Indianapolis. “So is the Senior Bowl. I played in the Senior Bowl a few weeks ago, that was big getting that exposure. I think I performed well there and looking to perform well here as well."

9. The Redskins could play with just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2016, though drafting a player at that position certainly isn't out of the question.

"Yeah, you can do that, maybe keep a third as a practice squad guy," said Gruden, the former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator. "We did that in Cincinnati -- we had two quarterbacks, two on the active roster, one on the practice squad, but you've got to have three for sure. Depends on what happens in the draft. Never know."

In 2015, the Redskins played with three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster: Cousins, McCoy and Griffin III. Cousins and McCoy were active every week of the season, while Griffin III was active just once.

Until the team gets pen to paper on a deal with Kirk Cousins -- or if it decides to use the franchise tag on the Michigan State product -- it faces some real uncertainties at the position. As hinted by team President Bruce Allen earlier in the week, the Redskins will likely release Griffin III soon, and McCoy is a free-agent-to-be come March 9.

Drafting a quarterback could help the position tremendously, Gruden said.

"Yeah, we're going to have to get somebody somewhere," he said. "We're going to have to come into training camp with four. Definitely three and go from there. We've got a lot of question marks at the quarterback position for sure. That's something Scot, Eric and Bruce and staff, we're all working on fixing."

10. Count San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin among those who will try to break Chris Johnson’s longstanding 40-yard dash combine record of 4.24 seconds.

Each year, players from across the country hope to break the benchmark Johnson set in 2008.

Ervin, 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, was a do-it-all player for the Spartans during his career there, as he rushed for more than 2,800 yards, recorded more than 2,300 kickoff return yards and caught for an additional 783 yards while totaling 28 touchdowns.

As a senior in 2015, Ervin ran for a career-high 1,601 yards and 13 touchdowns while also getting a punt return for touchdown.

“I think personally, definitely got to reach that 4.2,” Ervin said. “I’ve had some pretty good times the last couple weeks. If I can reach that 4.2 I know that’ll be something good for me.”

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