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Injury History Doesn't Faze Williams

Injury History Doesn't Faze Williams

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

One thing that stuck out about the recent group of draft picks and free agent signees that the Redskins have added lately is the history of injuries that many of them carry. Top pick Rocky McIntosh has fought through back problems. Kedric Golston broke a leg in a car accident and broke a shoulder blade playing football. Kevin Simon and Spencer Havner missed significant time in college due to knee injuries. Chris Mineo, a defensive tackle from UTEP who was signed on after last weekend’s rookie camp, missed a good chunk of his senior season with an ankle injury.

One reason that the Redskins have such a collection of the formerly walking wounded is that they decided to take some calculated risks with some of their late-round picks. A player such as Simon, who twice led Tennessee in tackles, would not have been available towards the end of the draft had he remained injury-free throughout his career. If he has shaken the problems with his knees he could be an outstanding performer on the field. If not, well, if the 250th selection turns out to be a bust it’s hardly a devastating blow to the organization.

There may be another reason for the preponderance of players with injury histories, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Consider what Gregg Williams had to say in his comments at the recent rookie minicamp, comments that echoed sentiments similar to what he has expressed in the past:

We want to look at their longevity, trustworthiness, and their accountability in their college ranks too. Everybody is going to get nicked and injured but how do they bounce back from it? How do they fight through those kind of things? For the most part every one of these rookies that came out here have had to fight through some type of adversity in their young sports careers. That is going to be the same thing up here. They are going to have to fight through that.

Williams seems to be saying that, within reason, a history of coming back from injuries is a resume enhancer when it comes to getting a shot at playing on defense for the Washington Redskins. Just like it’s easy to blow off your rehab when your knees are aching, it’s easy to pack it in when your team is 5-6 and has to run the table to make the playoffs. If you have the character to come back from an injury, that’s a good indicator that you have the character to get through the inevitable rough spots that come up over a 16-game NFL season.

Looking back, this is not a new philosophy for Williams or for Joe Gibbs. Look at some of the team’s first acquisitions when they came to Washington, the free agent group of 2004. Shawn Springs had missed 13 games in the three seasons prior to 2004. Joe Salave’a, due in part to injury problems, had played in just 20 games in the three seasons before to coming to Washington. Some teams shied away from them because of their injury histories. It seems that the injury factor may have been one of the reasons that Williams and Gibbs were attracted to them.

LaVar Arrington is no longer a Redskin for a variety of reasons, one of which could well be how he handled being seriously injured for the first time in his football career. To be sure, there is every indication that Arrington worked hard to get back onto the field. However, when he suffered a couple of setbacks in his rehab, he unleashed a tirade against the team to a couple of reporters who happened to run across him at Redskins Park. He accused the team of pushing him back too soon from his injury and of not caring that he was about to have another surgical procedure. Arrington was facing a moment of truth, a character-revealing moment, and he let his emotions get the best of him. Perhaps that’s not a big reason why he’s now a New York Giant, but there’s no question that it made the decision to let him go that much easier.

Of course you can’t build an entire roster out of players who have missed significant time with injuries. For every Springs there is a Marcus Washington, who has missed just one game in six seasons in the league. Still, in an organization that places such a high value on character, the character revealed by the display of determination needed to come back from injury is something that will get the attention of Gibbs and Williams.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington in 1937 through the 2001 season. For details and ordering information go to http://RedskinsGames.com

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 24, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 41
—NFL Draft (4/26) 92
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 228

Fan questions—Surprise cuts, finding a playmaker

I put out a call for questions on social media and I got so many good ones that I’m splitting them up. Here are Facebook questions today and I’ll hit the best Twitter questions later this week.

 

Spencer Long could be gone but he is a free agent, so he could not be cut. As far as players under contract, a lot will depend on who they draft and sign in free agency. If they go heavy on the defensive line, Ziggy Hood and Terrell McClain could be in danger of being cut. An influx of defensive back might have Josh Holsey and Deshazor Everett headed out of town.

There won’t be any cuts that save a major amount of cap space. Thek players with the top 15 cap numbers per Over the Cap are all vital to the operation with the possible aforementioned exception of McClain.

The rub is that if you want an instant “bona fide” playmaker you are going to have to invest either a lot of cap dollars or high draft pick. They have invested cap dollars in Reed and, to a lesser extent, Thompson and a No. 1 draft pick in Reed. The plan needs to be to make sure that Reed stays healthy (as best you can) and hope you get 12-14 productive games out of him, get Thompson back in the swing of things, and continue to work with Doctson. Perhaps they can get a mid-round find like the Saints did with Kamara to add to the mix. But for the most part, the Redskins will have to make do with what they have.

The way things stand right now, I’m seeing Vea regarded as more of a late first-round pick than a player who should go in the top half of the round. That could change as the draft process goes on. I think the Redskins need to continue to strengthen their defensive line and if Vea moves up to a high first-round grade or slides to a second they should take a long look at him.

The player I’m keeping my eye on is Jordan Matthews, who spent three years with the Eagles before being trade to Buffalo. He had over 800 yards receiving in each of his three seasons in Philly before a knee injury hampered him last year. He’s 6-3 and still young (26 in Week 1). Sammy Watkins of the Rams is intriguing but he had just 593 receiving yards in 15 games in a Sean McVay’s very productive offense. An older but less expensive option might be Eric Decker of the Titans, who had just 30 fewer receiving yards than Watkins and would be much a much less expensive acquisition albeit as a stopgap.

I see them addressing other needs in the first round. That could change if there is someone there who is just too good to pass up.

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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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. 

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