Wed Oct 23 5:33pm ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (26) rushes against San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum (8) looks for a receiver as he is pressured by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Dee Fordin in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) reacts after a touchdown by running back Dalvin Cook during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum speaks at a news conference after an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins reacts after a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The coaches and players who have departed the Washington Redskins have not always been complimentary of their time with a franchise that has experienced its share of dysfunction over the past two decades.
Kirk Cousins conceivably could have joined that chorus of critics, a cacophony amplified just last week by Kyle Shanahan. After all, the team's disinterest in giving him a longer-term, market-rate contract left Cousins as the rare starting quarterback playing on a one-year deal for two seasons in a row before becoming a free agent and signing with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018.
That's not his style, though, nor is it his story.
''Honestly for me, when I think of my time in Washington, I just think of the word gratitude. I'm so grateful that I was drafted by them,'' Cousins said.
The fourth-round selection in 2012 out of Michigan State finally became a full-timer in his fourth year, after second overall pick Robert Griffin III flamed out.
''They picked me when nobody else did. I was sitting around waiting for a phone call for 2+ days,'' Cousins said. ''I was given an opportunity to start when there weren't many people outside of that building who thought I should.''
Cousins will face his former team for the first time on Thursday night, when the surging Vikings (5-2) host the reeling Redskins (1-6). As fate would have it, the player Cousins replaced, Case Keenum, now has his old job.
After a one-year stop in Denver, Keenum was traded to Washington. He will visit U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time since the ''Minneapolis Miracle'' pass he completed to Stefon Diggs for the winning touchdown on the final play of Minnesota's divisional round game against New Orleans after the 2017 season that was a career best for the longtime backup.
''There's not enough time to reminisce,'' Keenum said. ''It's a special time, a special play, a special group of guys, something I'll remember forever, but not necessarily this week.''
Like his successor in purple, naturally, the significance of playing against his old team was mostly an afterthought for Keenum. Even if there were actually some lingering bitterness fueling extra motivation, well, neither of them would acknowledge it.
''I've played long enough to where I feel like if I keep going like I'm going I might play against my old team every week,'' Keenum said. ''It's adding up now, so it's just a normal game for me.''
When the Redskins let Cousins leave as a free agent after trading for Alex Smith and signing him to a contract extension, they thought they'd stabilized the quarterback position. Instead, because of Smith's broken leg and assorted other chaos, they have played six and started five different quarterbacks over the 23 games they've played since Cousins left.
Smith, longtime backup Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, Josh Johnson and Keenum have all started at least one game. Rookie Dwayne Haskins, their first-round draft pick this year, appeared in relief. Cousins started all 48 regular-season games from 2015-2017. Keenum has been interim coach Bill Callahan's choice since he stepped in more than two weeks ago for the fired Jay Gruden, who preferred McCoy.
''I made it known back then when Kirk was here: We both talked about playing together for years. But things happen,'' running back Chris Thompson said.
ALL DAY IS STILL ALL RIGHT
The reunion theme on Thursday is not just for quarterbacks. Redskins running back Adrian Peterson has already played at Minnesota since his 10-season run with the Vikings ended, but the return of the franchise's all-time leading rusher will still be a big part of the show.
Particularly since Callahan has steered the offense toward a throwback strategy, with Peterson carrying the ball 43 times for 199 yards over the past two games. With 60 rushing yards, Peterson would pass Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson to land in sixth place on the NFL's all-time list.
An ankle injury has him listed as questionable, but there's little doubt that he'll try to play.
''I was there for a decade and still to this day, I have fans that follow me,'' Peterson said. ''I have fans that come to Redskins games that are die-hard Vikings fans because they're Adrian Peterson fans. The love is always going to be there.''
Cousins didn't miss a beat last week after two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen left the game in Detroit because of a hamstring injury that occurred during his first-quarter touchdown catch.
Whether going deep to Diggs, toward the sideline to rookie wide receiver Olabisi Johnson, or underneath to tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr., Cousins had plenty of options that will have to remain viable again this week while Thielen sits out for the first time in his NFL career. He has played in 90 consecutive games, including three in the playoffs.
THIRD TO NONE
One sure sign of a struggling team is a lack of success on third down, and the Redskins are checking that box on both sides of the ball. The defense has allowed opponents to convert 49.5% of their opportunities, the third-worst rate in the league. On offense, they're second to last at 24.7%, with penalties a significant problem. Washington has been flagged 71 times for 434 yards, nullifying 157 yards that otherwise would have been gained.
''Having those third downs that are third-and-2, third-and-3, third-and-4, and not those third-and-10 third downs, make a difference a lot,'' right tackle Morgan Moses said. ''We've just got to continue doing what we do: handing the ball off, running the ball, putting ourselves in the best position possible.''
Atlanta Falcons RB Brian Hill played 51 percent of the offensive snaps Sunday, Nov. 10, in the win over the New Orleans Saints. The bulk of Hill's work came with RB Devonta Freeman (foot) out of the game.
Fantasy Spin: With Freeman expected to miss multiple games and backup Ito Smith (neck) already out for the year, Hill will have a big role in a nice matchup against the soft Carolina Panthers run defense. He should be a top waiver priority this week.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Damien Williams played 72 percent of the offensive snaps in the Week 10 loss against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Nov. 10. RB Darrel Williams played just 21 percent with RB Darwin Thompson getting a total of five offensive snaps. RB LeSean McCoy was a healthy scratch.
Fantasy Spin: Williams' 109 yards from scrimmage were the second-most he's racked up in a game and came on the heels of a season-high 125 rushing yards last week. He didn't find the end zone for the first time in three weeks, but it was a heavy workload and he lived up to the task. Fantasy managers who took a chance on him this year seem like they'll be rewarded down the stretch run.
Miami Dolphins RB Kalen Ballage played 82 percent of the offensive snaps Sunday, Nov. 10, against the Indianapolis Colts. RB Patrick Laird played just eight offensive snaps with RB Myles Gaskin playing five total snaps (all on offense).
Fantasy Spin: Ballage ran the ball 20 times but for a very disappointing 43 yards. He caught all four of his targets but for just two yards. It was the Dolphins' second straight win but it remains highly doubtful there'll be many more of these. If he wasn't successful in Week 10, it's unlikely he will be.
Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt played 54 percent of the offensive snaps against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Nov. 10, but starter Nick Chubb played a three-week high of 81 percent in the 19-16 victory. RB Dontrell Hilliard played just eight offensive snaps for his lowest total since Week 5.
Fantasy Spin: Chubb ran 20 times for 116 yards while catching two of four targets for just five yards. Hunt totaled 74 yards from scrimmage on 11 touches with seven receptions and four carries. It's quite possible both could be effective fantasy options in the same games, but Chubb remains the definitive No. 1 option.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson has put together a solid rookie campaign with 30 receptions, over 360 yards, and three touchdowns. In Thursday night's game against the Cleveland Browns, Johnson will work to stay in the sights of quarterback Mason Rudolph. However, Rudolph has been favoring shorter routes recently, which puts Johnson at a bit of a disadvantage. Although Johnson's big-play ability gives him value as a touchdown-dependent WR4 in Week 11.
Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry drew criticism from head coach Freddie Kitchens Tuesday, Nov. 12, for the 15-yard taunting penalty he took Sunday, Nov. 10 against the Buffalo Bills. 'I don't like penalties,' said Kitchens. 'I don't like penalties. I want him playing with passion, though, not emotion, but passion.'
Fantasy Spin: Landry had one of his best games of the season by catching nine of 10 targets for 97 yards and finding the end zone for the second straight week, but the penalty set up the missed 48-yard extra point by PK Austin Seibert.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has just 12 receptions for 170 yards and one touchdown in his last four games. With a Thursday Night football matchup against the Cleveland Browns in Week 11, Smith-Schuster shouldn't be considered the reliable option many drafted him as. Quarterback Mason Rudolph has been favoring shorter to intermediate routes, which should favor the USC product, but the numbers haven't followed. Look at Smith-Schuster as a touchdown-dependent WR2 against Cleveland.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington is coming off the best consecutive performances of his young career. He's hauled in 10 of 11 targets for 159 yards and a touchdown in the last two games, and he seems to be redeveloping a connection with his college quarterback Mason Rudolph. He'll face off against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night and has a chance to build himself more opportunities in the offense. View Washington as nothing but a WR4 in deeper leagues, as he still has some room to prove his fantasy worth.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (shoulder) was a full participant in Tuesday's practice, all but confirming he's good to go for Thursday night's road game against the Cleveland Browns. After missing the last two contests, Conner has been missed on offense, as the Steelers have combined for just 132 rushing yards in that span. Against the Browns, Conner should help open up the offensive gameplan by reassuming the lead-back role. Look at the 24-year-old as an RB2 against a defense that allows 19 fantasy points per game to running backs.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels steps away from the lead-back role with the expected return of James Conner (shoulder) in Week 11 against the Cleveland Browns. Over the last two games, Samuels turned 38 touches into just 123 yards and no touchdowns, so it's clear he's not suited for four-down work in this offense. Against the Browns on Thursday, the NC State product isn't very fantasy appealing as Cleveland has allowed just 40 receptions to running backs this season, the ninth-fewest in the NFL. Since Conner is likely returning, Samuels is best left on fantasy benches in Week 11.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph gets a favorable matchup for Thursday Night Football when the Steelers travel to take on the Cleveland Browns. Rudolph has been gaining more confidence with each start, and his 242 yards passing last week were the second highest of his short career. Against the Browns, the second-year signal caller faces a defense that allows an average of 23 fantasy points per game. Rudolph can be considered a low-end QB2, especially in the early game of the week. You could do worse, but you could certainly do better for a streaming option.
Free-agent QB Colin Kaepernick (49ers) shared a message on Twitter Tuesday, Nov. 12, addressing the previous reports of the league-arranged free-agent workout Saturday, Nov. 16. 'I'm just getting word from my representatives that the NFL league office reached out to them about a workout in Atlanta on Saturday. I've been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can't wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday,' Kaepernick wrote.
San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida (ankle) will seek a second opinion on his reaggravated sprained ankle. Breida only accrued 25 yards on 12 touches in Week 10 before exiting in the second half. Breida is no stranger to playing injured but NFL Networks Tom Pelissero believes he could miss some time to let it heal. Breidas absence would benefit third-string back Raheem Mostert who flashed promise earlier this season when Tevin Coleman was hurt. Mostert would be a risky but upside flex play in Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals if Breida is inactive.
San Francisco 49ers WR Dante Pettis is running out of time to prove his worth in head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense. 'The more he doesn't take advantage of his opportunities, the less opportunities he gets,' Shanahan said Tuesday, Nov. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Pettis, a second-year pro, has caught just 11 of 24 targets this season for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He shouldn't be on rosters in anything shallower than 14- or 16-team leagues.
Seattle Seahawks TE Luke Willson (hamstring) has a 'legit' hamstring injury, according to head coach Pete Carroll Tuesday, Nov. 12.
Seattle Seahawks TE Ed Dickson (knee) was close to being activated off of injured reserve this past week and will return for Week 12 following the team's bye, according to head coach Pete Carroll Tuesday, Nov. 12.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (knee, ankle) and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) are considered day-to-day and shaping up as game-time decisions in Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals. Kittle and Sanders figure to practice minimally this week, if any. Kittle missed Week 10 and his injury appears serious but head coach Kyle Shanahan refrained from ruling out the warrior. Sanders suffered a rib cartilage injury on Monday night and the severity is unknown. Without their top aerial playmakers, the biggest gainer could be wideout Deebo Samuel. The rookie amassed 112 yards on eight catches in Week 10 and was clearly the most electric player amongst Kendrick Bourne, Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis. Samuel will be a hot waiver commodity and slots as a WR3 if both Kittle and Sanders cant go.
Updating a previous story, San Francisco 49ers DL Ronald Blair (knee) will undergo season-ending surgery for his torn ACL, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan Tuesday, Nov. 12.
Denver Broncos QB Drew Lock (thumb) returned to practice Tuesday, Nov. 12. A decision will need to be made by Dec. 3 to activate him from injured reserve. CB Bryce Callahan (foot) also returned to practice Tuesday. He has remained on the 53-man roster.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (knee) is day-to-day, although head coach Kyle Shanahan is 'hopeful' Kittle will be able to play in Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Fantasy Spin: Expect the third-year tight end to be held out of practice early in the week, although it sounds like Kittle's fantasy owners need to be prepared for the possibility of another missed game. If he can make it through a limited practice by Friday, he'll have a chance to suit up and be worth a start in fantasy. If he can't go, Ross Dwelley and Garrett Celek figure to see the bulk of work on passing downs in his absence.