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To defer or not to defer? Jay Gruden explains his process for kicking away

To defer or not to defer? Jay Gruden explains his process for kicking away

Almost always when the Redskins win the coin toss, head coach Jay Gruden defers the choice to the second half. In recent weeks that decision has come under some scrutiny as the Redskins continue to start slow and face early deficits after kicking the ball to the opposition to start the game.

In their last four contests, Washington has booted the ball away to open the game, and after each opening kickoff the opposing team has gone down the field and scored. Two touchdowns and two field goals. Whether it's coincidence or not, the 'Skins have a 1-3 record in those games.

In Monday night's loss to the Panthers, again Gruden deferred on the coin toss. Carolina promptly took the ball and marched nearly 60 yards before kicking a field goal. They would go on to never relinquish the lead.

Before this gets any further, let's be clear that defering is often a smart choice. Getting the ball to start the second half, after a game flow has been established and Gruden, offensive coordinator Sean McVay and qaurterback Kirk Cousins know what's working, has plenty of merit. 

That said, perhaps it's time the Redskins opt to receive the ball, if for nothing else than to mix it up. Gruden acknowledged the slow starts plaguing his team, and maybe getting the ball to Cousins on the game's first possession could change the monotony of the last four games.

In Chicago on Saturday, however, don't expect that to happen. 

"Usually I’ll defer on the road just because of a couple reasons. I like to get the ball to start the second half. I like to send our defense out there first and let them fly around and try to make a play," Gruden said on Tuesday. "Plus, the crowd is not quite as involved the first drive of the third quarter as they are in the first drive of the game."

Gruden's logic is sound, and many other NFL coaches feel the exact same way. Still, the Skins lost a great opportunity Monday night to control a Wild Card playoff spot, and now the team is not only competing with the Tampa Bay Bucs for the sixth and final spot, but also the Green Bay Packers. 

For as much conversation the decision to defer generates, it really doesn't matter if the offense is ineffective on their first possession, like the 'Skins were on Monday against Carolina. 

"You know, we can look at that," Gruden said of electing to receive the opening kickoff. "If we have a slow start, going three-and-out and punting is not always the best option either."

The best option, whether Washington kicks off or receives, would be for the unit that starts on the field to suceed. Certainly, that's what Gruden wants to see on Christmas Even in Chicago.

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Need to Know: Looking at the Redskins' offensive depth chart after early phase of free agency

Associated Press

Need to Know: Looking at the Redskins' offensive depth chart after early phase of free agency

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 19, 38 days before the NFL draft.  

Free agency notes and nuggets

Looking at the 2018 depth chart—offense

The Redskins are likely to make a few more free agent acquisitions and there is the draft, but the depth chart is beginning to settle in. Let’s take a look at where the offensive side of the ball stands now. The defense is up tomorrow

Quarterback: Alex Smith
Backups: Colt McCoy

The only question here is if the Redskins will draft a late-round project quarterback to develop as the backup. McCoy is in the last year of his contract and he may not be back in 2019.

Running back: Samaje Perine
Backups: Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley, draft pick

This is an area to watch. Thompson could end up being the only carryover if they get a draft pick who can start and decide to keep 2017 late-season addition Kapri Bibbs or if they find another veteran. They also could go with only three running backs.

Wide receivers: Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder
Backups: Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Brian Quick

They may not carry six, so Harris, Davis, and Quick might battle it out for two spots. It’s possible that they will put a draft pick into the mix as well.

MORE REDSKINS: The Redskins week that was

Tight end: Jordan Reed
Backups: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

As of right now, this appears to be one of the few position groups you can write in with a Sharpie. If the Redskins are going to be better in 2018, a lot of the improvement will have to come from improvement of 2017 draft picks like Sprinkle. If he can develop into a solid blocker and a moderate receiving threat he will be an asset.

Offensive line: LT Trent Williams, LG Arie Kouandjio, C Chase Roullier RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Backups: T Ty Nsekhe, G/T Tyler Catalina, G Kyle Kalis, T T.J. Clemmings

Kouandjio is a placeholder at left guard for the moment. He was solid pass blocking but struggled in run blocking in six starts in injury fill-in duty. I think that if they bring in another interior O-lineman in free agency or in the draft, Roullier will remain at center. I think Jay Gruden likes the way he is developing there and wants to continue.

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

Tandler on Twitter


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 28
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 130
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 174

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Pernell McPhee reportedly on visit with Redskins


Pernell McPhee reportedly on visit with Redskins

NFL free agency doesn't care about your brackets. 

While you were watching UMBC, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee is currently on a visit with the Redskins:

Pernell, 29, was drafted in 2011 out of Mississppi State by the Baltimore Ravens. He played there for three years before spending the last two seasons with the Chicago Bears. 

Pernell has 182 career tackles and 31 career sacks.