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Flashback Friday—Arrington’s return sparks Skins’ win

Flashback Friday—Arrington’s return sparks Skins’ win

Yes, it's only Thursday but with the Independence Day holiday and most everything coming to a standstill as far as the Skins are concerned for another couple of weeks, here's FF a day early.

On October 21, 2001 the Redskins were 0-5 and staring 0-6 right in the face until LaVar Arrington made a play that turned around not just a game but the season as well.

From the pages of The Redskins From A to Z

FedEx Field—After three and a half quarters of football that strongly resembled the first 20 quarters of a dismal season, lightning struck twice for the Redskins in the final period as they tied the game on big plays by Lavar Arrington and Rod Gardner. Brett Conway's 23-yard field goal beat Carolina in overtime.

"You hate to say you don't believe it, but I really don't believe we won," Arrington said. "There were a lot of crazy turns and twists in that game."

Perhaps his ability to comprehend was somewhat affected by the concussion he had suffered in the first half. He went back into the locker room, rested until he regained his senses, and then went back into the game.

"I didn't think it would take this long, but it did," Marty Schottenheimer said. "We are growing. I'm more delighted, frankly, for the players than myself because they're the ones that had to endure in the circumstances that unfolded in the ballgame [today] and they wouldn't give up."

As mentioned, the game started out as though it would be no different from the futile experience of the first five games. The Panthers drove to a touchdown on their second possession after an exchange of punts gave them good field position at their own 47. It took them six plays to move the 53 yards and Wesley Walls caught a two-yard scoring pass from Chris Weinke to account for the score.

While the Redskin offense was utterly ineffective, the defense did step up with a pair of second-quarter interceptions by defensive linemen to snuff out Panther drives deep into Redskin territory. First, with the line of scrimmage at the eight, linebacker Antonio Pierce smashed into Weinke, forcing a fluttering pass that tackle Kenard Lang picked off. Then, with time running out in the half Carolina had the ball at the Redskin one. Out of timeouts, Weinke had to pass. Tackle Dan Wilkinson tipped the ball, however, and rookie defensive end Otis Leverette got the pick with eight seconds left.

No inspiration was drawn from the clutch defensive plays, however, and a sense that another loss was inevitable began to grow. An 83-yard drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters ended with Tim Biakabutuka's one-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0. Washington went three and out and a 27-yard Biakabutuka run had Carolina in Washington territory at the 31. Two plays later, it was third and seven at the 28.

It wasn't a particularly risky play that Carolina called, a little toss in the flat to Chris Hetherington. Arrington was nearby and zeroed in on the fullback as the ball came into his hands. The ball bounced out, though and, in a flash, Arrington went from tackler to pass defender, snatching the ball out of the air and taking off for the goal line. He cruised the 68 yards unchallenged and the game, perhaps the season, took on a new complexion.

Another play was needed, however, for Arrington's to do any good and the Redskins got it in short order. The Panthers failed to get a first down and their punt rolled dead at the Washington 15. On first down, Tony Banks, who had been booed lustily for most of the game, saw that rookie receiver Rod Gardner had worked his way past the Carolina zone. The quarterback delivered the ball on target and the receiver easily coasted into the end zone to tie it up midway through the fourth quarter.

The Panthers were clearly broken and meekly went three and out. The energized Redskins would eventually score the winning field goal, but it would take them two tries to get it. First they drove smartly to the Panther 13, but Conway missed a 32-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in regulation. After winning the toss in overtime, it took the Redskins just four plays to end it.

From the Washington 14, Stephen Davis carried for two yards and then Banks threw to fullback Bryan Johnson for 32 yards to the 48. On the next play, Banks connected with Gardner again. The rookie made a diving catch at around the five, bounced up and bolted into the end zone. A wild celebration was cut off, however, when replay revealed that Gardner had been touched while he was on the ground. The festivities resumed shortly as Conway came in and kicked the game-winner from 23 yards.

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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!