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Jay Gruden explains how Samaje Perine has improved throughout the season

Jay Gruden explains how Samaje Perine has improved throughout the season

Going into the season, the Redskins were planning on using Samaje Perine, their fourth-round running back, on a limited basis. He was supposed to relieve Rob Kelly on occasion and learn the NFL game before competing for a larger role in 2018.

It didn’t work out that way. First Kelley went on injured reserve with knee and ankle injuries and then third-down back Chris Thompson was lost for the year with a broken leg. Perine rose to the top of the depth chart.

Since moving into the starting job three games ago, Perine has run the ball well. He has 255 yards rushing (85 per game) with an average of 4.3 yards per carry in his three starts.

“I’ve liked the fact that after his 10th carry he’s better than his first carry, and his 12th carry he’s better than his 10th carry,” said Jay Gruden. “He just continues to get better and better, his vision has been good and his decisiveness has been outstanding.”

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However, running the ball is not the only thing that Gruden requires of his running backs. The ability to pass protect is vital and that is an area where Perine is, well, a work in progress. 

“Yeah, he’s getting better,” Gruden said of Perine’s pass blocking. “We just didn’t ask him to do a whole lot of that pass pro early because we had Chris and Rob. He was like our third-string pass protecting-type guy, but when he was in the game in base and we did any play-action passes, he was OK in pass protection. But now, he’s getting more opportunities so the jury’s still out on his pass protection, but I think he’s doing well.”

The other area that Gruden wants to ensure that his running backs master is ball security. Earlier isn’t the season when Perine was a part-time player, the rookie had some issues here. Although he has only one fumble on his official stat line, he had a few other botched exchanges that officially were charged to Kirk Cousins but appeared to be mostly Perine’s fault.

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But since he has been the starter the issues have gone away. Perine has no fumbles and not issues with exchanges in the last three games. To be sure, that’s not a huge sample size but perhaps the early-season struggles can be written off to rookie mistakes and a lack of time working with Cousins.

The last four games of this season will be important for Perine to build on what he has been able to accomplish so far. Kelley is a favorite of Gruden’s and it might be hard for Perine to surpass him to go into the offseason as the starter. But in the end productivity will win out. Perine already has more 100-yard games (2) in his last three games than Kelley has (1) in his 22-game career.

If Perine can continue to improve on the other facts of the game that Gruden wants from a running back, he could end up being set as the starter for the next few seasons. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Redskins fans were frenzied when Scot McCloughan said that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but not a special one. The #KirkHive shuddered and the Kirk Haters celebrated.

McCloughan, the former Redskins GM who's wildly popular with fans, explained what few people will say publicly: Cousins is a skilled player but probably not deserving of the money he might make in free agency. 

Let's start with the obvious: Cousins is good.

He's a durable passer in a league that doesn't have enough of them. He's started the last 49 games for the Redskins and thrown for more than 4,000 yards each of the past three seasons. 

Now more obvious: He isn't great.

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Bleacher Report's Chris Simms, speaking on the #RedskinsTalk podcast, said Cousins ranks about 12th among NFL passers. It's top half of the league, but it's not Top 5 or even Top 10. 

Cousins has had tremendous games with the Redskins, like a near perfect performance against Oakland in 2017 or a dominant performance against Green Bay in 2016. 

Cousins has also been awful, as recently as Week 17 in New York a few weeks ago, or an equally stinky Week 17 game against the Giants two seasons ago. 

While some might view McCloughan's statement as controversial — "He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special," he told Denver radio station 104.3 the Fan — it's not. 

Plenty of people agree with McCloughan, including some in Redskins Park. Last year, a source told NBC Sports Washington that the team believed they could get nearly as much production from Colt McCoy as Cousins provided. 

Even this year, Washington head coach Jay Gruden offered lukewarm praise of his quarterback.

When the season ended, asked to evaluate Cousins' play, the coach said, "When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ There’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent [Williams] when he played was a Pro Bowl-type and Brandon [Scherff] when he was healthy was a Pro Bowl-type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know, we’re 7-9."

That quote made headlines when Gruden said it, much like McCloughan's comments now are circulating faster than Beltway traffic. 

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Truth is, it's not new. And it's not news.

There are coaches that think Cousins is only scratching the surface of his capabilities. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay come to mind, but both of those coaches have other QBs likely for the long-term future. 

Cousins might end up being paid like a Top 3 quarterback in the NFL, and that might be the right move given the demand at the position. Will that make him a special passer?

Not if special is defined as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Even Cousins wouldn't argue with that.

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

Every week during the 2017 Redskins season, NBC Sports Washington found two Redskins fans in the crowd and paired them in a head-to-head matchup on Twitter to determine the fan of the game.

And now that the season is over, it's time to take each of those winners, throw them into a NCAA Tournament-style bracket and let Twitter pick the Redskins Fan of the Year.

Starting on January 8 over on the @NBCSRedskins Twitter account, one matchup a day will be posted at 11 a.m., and fans will have 24 hours to vote for their favorite supporter by retweeting or liking depending on their preference. Week 1's winner will face off with Week 17's, Week 2's will play Week 16's, etc.

The winners will advance, and eventually, one member of the Burgundy and Gold faithful will stand above all the rest, earning the coveted title of Redskins Fan of the Year. 

Check out the results below, which'll be updated every day. To see the tweet that corresponded with each matchup, click the link after the date, but remember, retweets and likes submitted after the 24-hour period won't be counted.

ELITE 8 RESULTS

January 18: Round two, matchup one

The first Elite 8 matchup was... not close:

January 19: Round two, matchup two

The Elite 8's second tilt is underway. Vote now:


FIRST ROUND RESULTS

January 8: Round one, matchup one

This was a close one that came down to the last-minute, but at the 24-hour mark, Week 17's winner garnered justtttttttt enough retweets to move on.

January 9: Round one, matchup two

In this tournament, a giant Redskins chain is apparently worth more than a giant football hat.

January 10: Round one, matchup three

In the tournament's third showdown, we have our first winner from the Likes side:

January 11: Round one, matchup four

Was there anyway she wasn't gonna win, especially with the little Hogettes nose?

January 12: Round one, matchup five

Our fifth matchup's winner earned the most retweets of anyone up to this point:

January 15: Round one, matchup six

These three 'Skins fans had to witness Washington's Thursday night flop in Dallas, so it's only fair that they get to advance to the second round:

January 16: Round one, matchup seven

You'd think a turkey hat would be enough to capture a W, but not in this one:

January 17: Round one, matchup eight

The Elite 8 is now set with this showdown going to the retweets side: