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EL-BASHIR: Evidence mounting that culture is changing for Redskins

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EL-BASHIR: Evidence mounting that culture is changing for Redskins

Ten minutes after Sunday’s gut-wrenching 25-19 overtime loss to the Falcons, the visitors’ locker room underneath the Georgia Dome was virtually silent. Some Redskins sat motionless, staring blankly ahead. A few slowly unwrapped tape from their wrists and ankles. Others talked among themselves in hushed tones, lamenting the opportunity they had just allowed to slip.

They were crushed. They were disappointed. They were angry.

And, if you’re a Redskins fan, that should make you smile.

Because the mood hasn’t always been so solemn in Washington’s locker room following a tough loss. Do you remember the reports last October about the “jocularity” in the locker room after the Redskins fell to the defending champion Seahawks, 27-17, on Monday Night Football? I’m not really interested in revisiting that touchy subject—players and coaches later insisted that the postgame laughter was exaggerated—but I can tell you that I was present after both contests. And I can also tell you this: the vibe Sunday was very different, as were the words the players and coaches used to describe the defeat.

“We are beyond that,” Coach Jay Gruden said when I asked him if there were any positives to be gleaned from pushing an undefeated opponent to its limit, on their home turf. “They played very hard. We played very hard. It came down to a close game; you don’t get any moral victories in the NFL.”

Said Terrance Knighton: “We have the mindset. It’s just that in crunch time everyone in here has to think, ‘I’m going to make the play to win the game.’ This loss hurts.”

So what’s changed over the past year? A lot, actually.

New GM Scot McCloughan overhauled the roster during the offseason, signing and drafting new starters on both sides of the ball.

Among those additions, three stand out to me: Knighton, Dashon Goldson and Chris Culliver.

MORE REDSKINS: LOOKING AT GRUDEN'S DECISIONS VS. THE FALCONS

Knighton knows a little about leadership as well as a winning culture. In his two seasons in Denver, ‘Pot Roast’ watched Peyton Manning lead the Broncos to 13-win and 12-win campaigns. Knighton has also instituted an unofficial ban on locker room discussion about how things were done in Washington in the past. Because this, as he often says, is a different team that last year's four-win outfit.  

Goldson, on the other hand, was elected by his teammates as captain of the defense after just a few months at Redskins Park. He’s a pro’s pro. And, like Knighton, he’s been exposed to a winning atmosphere. He’s played for conference championships. He’s played in a Super Bowl. I learned a lot about his Goldson’s thought process earlier this season when I asked him if an opposing offense “worried” him. He shot me a stern glance. “Worried?” he asked, taking umbrage with my choice of words.

Culliver, meanwhile, has edge about him. The same way Pierre Garcon has an edge about him. Culliver plays hard. He practices hard. He expects a lot from himself. Against the Eagles, he competed on one leg, hobbled by a knee injury that didn’t allow him to practice the previous few days. Sure, he got burned a couple of times. But toughness like that does not go overlooked by your teammates.  

Changing the culture of an organization that has grown too accustomed to losing doesn’t happen overnight. And I’m not saying that the Redskins have all of sudden become the Packers or the Broncos or the Patriots, not by a long shot.

But it's hard to ignore the feeling that something is afoot.

Last week, I wrote about how McCloughan has started to bring a measure of accountability to Redskins Park by benching players who don’t perform and cutting others who show they are unable to. 

Of course, accountability and a locker room internalizing a tough loss are not the same. But the two are connected in that they’re traits shared by healthy, successful organizations.

And it seems to me there's growing evidence that both are starting to take hold in Ashburn.

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New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

News broke Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Bucaneers released former Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, and while the name certainly triggers value, his play of the last two seasons should calm the excitement. 

Since a 2015 season where Martin rushed for 1,400 yards and averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry in 16 games, Martin has been suspended, undergone substance abuse rehab and missed games due to injury.

In the last two seasons, Martin has played in 16 of 32 games, rushed for 827 yards and averaged less than 3 yards-per-carry.

Over his six year NFL career with the Bucs, Martin has only played two full seasons. Those two seasons were great, in 2012 and 2015, but the other four have been largely disappointing. 

RELATED: WHAT SHOULD THE REDSKINS DO AT RUNNING BACK?

The Redskins averaged just 3.6 yards-per-carry last season, and could definitely use a boost in the run game. It's entirely possible Washington might look to upgrade their offensive backfield this offseason, either in free agency or in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Martin does not look like the player to help. 

Early in the 2017 season, it appeared the Redskins run game might be a strength for the offense. After a disappointing effort on the ground to open the year in a loss to the Eagles, the Redskins rushed for at least 111 yards in their next three contests, including nearly 230 yards on the ground in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Injuries undid the run game, however, as Rob Kelley got hurt and the offensive line lost players, too. Over the course of the season, rookie Samaje Perine sustained minor injuries and Chris Thompson was lost for the year with a broken leg. 

Going into 2018, Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Kapri Bibbs are all on the roster and expected for now to stay with the team. That's yet another reason why the Redskins are likely to stay away from Doug Martin.

RELATED: 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 5.0

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Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 20, 22 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Galette to be a valued free agent

Originally published 12/13/17

Like the Redskins, the Broncos are no longer relevant in 2017. Both teams’ fan bases have started to look towards the coming offseason.

To give their readers what they want, the Denver Post published an article by Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus that discussed some of the top pending free agents who have done the most to increase their values in the past year. There were two Redskins named, one you would expect to see on such a list and one that might surprise some people.

Kirk Cousins is at the top of the list. “The Washington signal-caller is grading as a top-10 quarterback (82.8), and soon he’ll have the long-term contract of one,” Renner wrote. “Only this time its value will be exponentially higher than any one he would have signed back when he first became a free agent in 2016.”

But the surprising name is that of Junior Galette. After missing the last two seasons with two torn Achilles tendons, he played this year on a one-year, $800,000 deal. And while he hasn’t been on fire in the sack department with just two on the year, he has been getting pressure on the passer.

“He’s accumulated the 27th-highest pass-rushing grade of any edge defender this season, but in only 264 snaps,” wrote Renner. “At 29 years of age, it’s doubtful he ever gets back to the level of the contract that he once had on the table with New Orleans. With how he’s played this season though, some pass-rush-needy team will pay handsomely for his services.”

One team that could be considered to be pass rush needy is the Redskins. Preston Smith is the starter and supposedly one of the Redskins’ top pass rushers. But in 100 fewer pass rush snaps this year, Galette has only three fewer quarterback hits than Smith and six more hurries.

And after missing those two seasons, Galette has remained healthy. Although he was limited with a hamstring during much of the preseason, he has not missed a practice or appeared on an injury report this year.

But would the Redskins be willing to pay him “handsomely”? Perhaps a good comp would be Connor Barwin, who moved from the Eagles to the Rams this past offseason at the age of 31. He had five sacks in Philly in 2016. That got him a one-year deal worth $3.5 million.

Barwin likely will have more sacks on his ledger going into free agency so let’s say Galette could command around $3 million. Perhaps he could offer Washington a bit of a hometown discount and agree to something in the $2.75 million range. If that is the case, the Redskins would be smart to keep him around for another year.

Plenty of things could alter the equation. If Galette gets hot in the last three games and posts a few more sacks his price could rise. With Smith and Ryan Kerrigan both back next year, perhaps Galette will want to go somewhere that he might get more playing time.

The details need to be sorted out but don’t be surprised if Galette gets a lot of attention in free agency, as much as teams need pass rush, and if the Redskins have to make a very tough decision about how much he is worth.

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 9
—NFL Draft (4/26) 65
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 201