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Campbell mixes the good, the bad, and the ugly

Campbell mixes the good, the bad, and the ugly

The world just wants to see the baby; nobody wants to hear about the labor pains.

That is the take that many have when it comes to Jason Campbell. They are not interested in the bumps and bruises, both mental and physical, that many young quarterbacks experience on the way to becoming solid, competent, NFL quarterbacks. They just want to see tight spirals over the outstretched fingers of cornerbacks nestle into the arms of receivers, clutch two-minute drives pulling Washington Redskins victories from the jaws of defeat and triple-digit quarterback ratings.

In 2007, we saw a mixed bag from Campbell, often in the same game. The back to back November contests in Dallas and at Tampa Bay were the prototypical Campbell games, the ones that defined his season. In both games he led furious comebacks from late deficits only to make fatal mistakes to spike potential winning drives.

In Texas Stadium, the Redskins fell behind 28-16 midway through the fourth quarter. Working without a huddle and taking snaps in the shotgun, Campbell completed 10 pass to account for all of the yardage in a 74-yard TD drive to get the Redskins within striking distance at 28-23. The defense did its job, forcing Dallas to go three and out, getting the ball back into Campbell's hot hand with 2:51 left.

In Tampa, a barrage of early turnovers had the Redskins down 19-3. A third-quarter touchdown pass, a 39-yarder to Chris Cooley, got the Redskins back into it. Early in the fourth quarter they got a step closer on a Shaun Suisham field goal. Again, the Washington defense stepped up, the Bucs went three and out, and Campbell took over with his team down by six with nine and a half minutes left to play.

From the Cowboy 40, passes of 11 yards to Keenan McCardell and 10 to Antwaan Randle El moved Campbell and the Redskins into the Red Zone at the Dallas 19 with 1:50 to go.

With plenty of time left at Raymond James Stadium, the Redskins were able to mix in the running of Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts along with Campbell's passes as they moved smartly from their own nine to a second and five at the Tampa Bay 32 with just under four minutes left.

One chance to move closer to the Dallas end zone went awry when Campbell misfired on a short pass to Portis. On second down, Campbell threw the ball right into the gut of Cowboy cornerback Terence Newman.

Veteran Bucs corner Ronde Barber played possum with Campbell, pretending not to see that the QB was going to toss a quick sideline pass to Moss. As soon as Campbell committed, Barber jumped in front and made the interception.

Again, the defense stonewalled Tony Romo and company giving the Redskins one last shot at a miracle from their own 30 with 34 seconds left. A couple of completions set up a Hail Mary from midfield, but the ball was batted away as time expired.

The final shot at Tampa Bay wasn't up against such long odds. Starting from the Washington seven with 3:05 left, Campbell completed seven straight passes to get to a first and ten at the Tampa Bay 16 with 31 seconds on the clock. On second down from there, though, Brian Kelly stepped up in front of Santana Moss in the end zone and picked off Campbell's pass to end the game.

Two November games against eventual NFC division winners. The Redskins aren't in either game at the end without some impressive heroics on the part of Jason Campbell. But if Campbell protects the ball better in critical moments, the Redskins have another couple of chances to pull out the game (all three of the picks came on second down plays).

These games were the final impression of Campbell that we carry into training camp. Sean Taylor was shot just hours after the Bucs game and he died a day later. The Buffalo game that followed is a blur created by shock, sadness, and disbelief. Four days later against the Bears he went out in the second quarter with a dislocated kneecap and didn't play again the rest of the year.

So that has us wondering—who is the real Jason Campbell? Or, more importantly, who will Jason Campbell become? Will he forever be the guy with the big arm who can make jaw-dropping plays in desperate situations only to fizzle when it comes to finishing off those drives? Or, will he learn to avoid the killer mistakes and be the hero week after week?

Time will tell us whether or not the labor pains are over or if they ever will go away.

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was 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. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

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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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

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!