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So what exactly is Jay Gruden saying about Kirk Cousins?

So what exactly is Jay Gruden saying about Kirk Cousins?

The debate ended last season. No longer should rational, sane purveyors of professional football question if Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback. He is. 

The question about how good, however, is still very much valid. And it seems to be a question even Redskins coach Jay Gruden doesn't have the answer to.

"He’s got the ball to make the decisions. We just call the plays and try to get him progression reads and man-to-man take your shots with the matchups that you like," Gruden said Thursday. "But ultimately he is the one that is going to make the decisions of what he feels good about making throws."

Gruden's comments come after an interview in Sports Illustrated in which Cousins said that if he played QB like his coach wants, he would throw 20 interceptions per year. Told the quote, Gruden quipped, "He'd throw 60 touchdowns too." (Watch the video above so you can hear the remark yourself).

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That's the thing with Cousins.

He's smart and methodical, highly efficient and capable as a passer. But he does seem to be wary of going after big plays that aren't completely wide open. 

"I think there is going to be a point in time where he is going to have to give some receivers some chances that maybe look a little covered, but give them a chance to uncover or give them a chance to make a play," the coach said. "That’s probably the one area that we can force the issue on a little bit to give these receivers chances down the field."

Watching Redskins games, it certainly seems Cousins is hesitant to take big shots, especially if a wideout is covered. That's not just the most recent loss to the Cowboys either, which was played in a downpour for much of the second half. Washington's passer seems content in taking chunk yardage on underneath and shorter throws, getting his team down the field over time. 

This year too, his receivers have not helped him too much.

Terrelle Pryor has not produced on the level he or fans expected, and 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson remains stalled, though perhaps ready for an explosion. 

Much of the Cousins conversation seems to be a Catch 22 debate. Might Cousins go downfield more if his wideouts made plays? Or might his wideouts make plays if Cousins goes downfield more? What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Even weirder, the stats don't really support the debate.

Cousins ranks 5th in the NFL in yards-per-pass-attempt, behind only MVP candidates like Alex Smith, Tom Brady, Carson Wentz and the injured Deshaun Watson. Looking at net-yards-per-pass-attempt, Cousins' numbers dip to 10th in the NFL. 

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Simple truth: Cousins completes a lot of passes, so his stats will usually look good. And for anybody wondering, that's a good thing.

"When the ball is complete, I never criticize," Gruden said. "We just always talk about other options possible for the next time we call it. That’s all, but he is doing good."

Watch enough game film of the Redskins, and yes, Cousins is missing chances down the field. It happens with most QBs in the NFL, but maybe it happens with Cousins a little bit more. 

Can it change? Sure. Will it? Time will tell. 

The debate if Cousins belongs as an NFL starting quarterback is over. He very obviously does. 

The debate if Cousins can lead a team to big wins, and evolve into a top talent in the league? That continues. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 22, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 43
—NFL Draft (4/26) 94
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 230

Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons the Redskins can learn

Quarterback matters: We had the setup of the three castaway and ridiculed quarterbacks leading their teams into the NFL’s final four. But, the two who survived were one of the greatest of all time and one who found his groove and had 10.7 yards per attempt and a 141.4 passer rating. Yes, Tom Brady and Nick Foles had a lot of help and we’ll get into that in a minute. But, without excellent play from their quarterbacks, it may have been a different story for the Eagles and Patriots. This doesn’t mean that the Redskins need to send truckloads of money to Kirk Cousins’ house, but if they don’t, they do need a quality alternative. You won’t win with Bortles-level play.

Defense matters: The Vikings rolled right down the field on their first possession and it looked like the Eagles defense was going to have a long night. But then Chris Long got pressure on Case Keenum leading a pick six that apparently energized the Philly defense. Rookie Derek Barnett knocked the ball out of Keenum’s hand when the Vikings were threatening to make a game of it. Minnesota came up empty in its last eight possessions. As the Eagles offense started to build a lead, their defense played faster and more aggressively. At this point, the Redskins don’t have the personnel or the mindset to play that way on defense.

Does running really matter? It’s a small sample size here but in the two games yesterday it did not. The Patriots ran for all of 46 yards. The Eagles got 110, but at the point in the third quarter where they took a 31-7 lead, they had 202 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Running the ball was not decisive in either game. Offensively, the games were won in the air. Jay Gruden’s “pass happy” approach can be a winning approach.

Stay aggressive: At times during the year, Cousins expressed some frustration in the Redskins’ inability or perhaps unwillingness to keep the pedal mashed to the floor when they had a lead. I hit on the Eagles’ aggressiveness on defense, but their offense didn’t slow down either. They were up 21-7 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 29 seconds left in the first half. In that situations, the Redskins—and, in fact, most other teams—would run a draw, throw a short pass, and let the clock run out. But Doug Pederson was having none of that. Passes for 11, 36, and 13 yards got them down to the Vikings 20 and they kicked a field goal to close out the half. If the game wasn’t over then, it was early in the third quarter when Pederson called a flea flicker and Foles hit Torrey Smith for 42 yards and a touchdown.

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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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

For Redskins fans, it's probably a tough pill to swallow that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl. Making matters worse, Philadelphia got to the championship game without their star quarterback Carson Wentz.

Beyond the feelings that fandom incites, which are real and severe, what does the Eagles' breakthrough season mean for Washington? Let's take a look. 

Perhaps the most incredible part of the Eagles' success is that wunderkind QB Wentz is not at the helm. The second-year player was an MVP candidate all season but got injured late in the year. Nick Foles, the Philly backup, took over and played well in both Eagles' playoff wins. 

Does that mean much, if anything, for the Redskins? 

Some will argue it means Washington should not look to invest top dollar in QB Kirk Cousins. Foles is not considered a top-flight quarterback and still was able to maneuver his squad to the Super Bowl.

Whether or not that argument makes sense, Redskins fans should prepare to hear a lot of it over the next two weeks. 

There is also a theory that the Redskins should eschew spending at QB in favor of spending on defense. 

That may very well be the right move, but don't look to the Eagles to support the theory. 

Philadelphia spent $47 million on the defensive side of the ball in 2017. On offense, they spent $56 million.

What is definitely true?

The Eagles played terrific football in the postseason, and catapulted through the NFC by playing the underdog role.

Redskins fans might hate it, but the Eagles absolutely earned their Super Bowl appearance. 

That doesn't mean Redskins fans have to like it. 

Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl. 

Now, standing in the way of their first Lombardi Trophy: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. 

Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!