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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: Five potential Redskins first-round draft picks

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Need to Know: Five potential Redskins first-round draft picks

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 17, 56 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 48
—NFL Draft (4/26) 99
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 235

Five possible Redskins first-round draft picks

As you can see from the “Days until” counter above, the NFL draft is 99 days away. A lot will happen between now and then but let’s look at some prospects who will fit the Redskins and who should be available at pick No. 13.

ILB Roquan Smith, Georgia—If you watched Georgia at all during the national semifinals or finals, you had to be impressed with his instincts, speed, hard hitting, and solid tackling. Even if free agent Zach Brown stays, the Redskins could pair him up with Smith and have a dynamic pair of inside linebackers for the first time since they started running the 3-4 in 2010. The problem for the Redskins is that his high-profile performances in those big game may have pushed Smith into the top 10.

QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma—A quarterback should be the choice early in the draft unless Kirk Cousins is signed to a long-term deal. Mayfield is an unconventional type of QB at about 6-1. There’s a lot to like about him, though—mobility, playmaking ability, and deep ball accuracy. He seems to have learned from his off-field mistakes, including an arrest about a year ago (apparently for yelling). In any case, if he is on the Redskins’ radar they will thoroughly vet him between now and draft day. Other QB possibilities are Josh Allen of Wyoming and Lamar Jackson of Louisville.

WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama—Hey, why not another wide receiver, which would be the second one in the first round in three years, and another member of the Crimson Tide after taking Alabama players 1-2 in 2017. I know that people would cringe at another round 1 WR, but after Terrelle Pryor flamed out last year it certainly is a need. Ridley would represent a solid value at No. 13.

DL Vita Vea, Washington—This pick would solve a couple of problems. At 6-4, 332 Vea has the size and strength needed to play nose tackle, solving another problem that has been around since 2010. What might make him worth a first-round pick is that he doesn’t have to go to the bench in nickel. Vea is versatile enough to rush the passer and play three downs. Start a line with Vea, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis, mix in a few quality rotational players, and get Jim Tomsula to coach them up and you will have a top-notch D-line. As of right now, Vea is considered to be more of a late first-round player but a lot can change in the next 99 days.

RB Derrius Guice, LSU—Dreams of getting Saquon Barkley at No. 13 are just that and trading up far enough to get him would cost way too much draft capital. But Guice is a good mix of speed, power, agility, and receiving ability. With the exception of Alfred Morris’ first couple of seasons, the Redskins have been ordinary at best since the prime of Clinton Portis a decade ago. Many were impressed with Sony Michel of Georgia, who could be available in the second round.

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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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.

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

There's still time to vote on this one: