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It's not who starts the season for the Redskins at QB, it's who finishes

It's not who starts the season for the Redskins at QB, it's who finishes

INDIANAPOLIS—Jay Gruden’s almost casual announcement at the NFL Combine that Robert Griffin III will be the Redskins’ starting quarterback came as a surprise to just about everyone.

“We’ll go into the season with Robert as the No 1 guy and, you know, it’s up to Robert to continue to grow and mature as a quarterback and as a person,” he said to reporters at Lucas Oil Stadium. “Then moving forward, we just want to see some improvement. It’s up to us as a staff to get more out of him.”

Here is what Gruden said on Dec. 29, the day after the Redskins’ regular season ended.

“Until that position is earned, you have to have a competition,” he said at his postseason news conference. “And I anticipate us having a competition at a lot of spots and quarterback is no different next year.”

So, what changed in the last seven-plus weeks? Unfortunately Gruden’s press conference was cut short so we didn’t have the time to probe into the reasons why the competition was called off.

All we can do is speculate. Perhaps Gruden and new general manager Scot McCloughan got their heads together, watched some film of Griffin, Kirk Cousins, and Colt McCoy and decided that Griffin gave them their best shot. Perhaps front-office politics was involved, with team owner Daniel Snyder and president Bruce Allen, who are said to have pushed for the blockbuster deal that allowed the Redskins to move up in the draft and take Griffin in 2012, persuading Gruden and McCloughan to give Griffin, who struggled mightily at times last year, another shot at the job.

The question now becomes how long a leash Griffin will have. Last year Gruden benched a healthy Griffin in favor of McCoy just three games into Griffin’s return from a dislocated ankle. Will Gruden hesitate to pull a similar move if Griffin struggles again?

The critical thing here is not going to be who starts the season at quarterback, it will be who finishes the season. If Griffin starts the season opener and shows that he can get rid of the big issues that plagued him last year, he could start all 16 games. That is likely to lead to a new contract for Griffin and perhaps his career can get back on track. If it is Cousins, McCoy (who is currently a free agent), or any other QB the Redskins may acquire during the course of the offseason, Griffin could well be headed elsewhere.

A lot of how successful this plan will be depends on how Griffin views it. If he views it as the status quo and keeps preparing the way he has been preparing, with more of an emphasis on strength training and not enough time in the film room (according to multiple reports), he might find himself in a battle sooner rather than later. If Griffin thinks that he’s in for the fight of his life he may raise his level of play to meet the challenge.

There are advantages to not having a competition. Naming Griffin the starter gives him all of the first-team reps during the offseason program and training camp and he can use all of those he can get. Cousins, or whoever the backup ends up being, will have to do what backups do and get ready to play with only very limited first-team reps.

And if Griffin falters, there is a good chance that the backup will get a shot. And that is when the competition will begin.

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Who is Nick Rose? Three things you should know about the new Redskins kicker

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Who is Nick Rose? Three things you should know about the new Redskins kicker

Here are three things you need to know about Nick Rose, who was signed on Tuesday to replace Dustin Hopkins.

1) His next NFL kick will be his first one

Rose has spent offseason time with the Falcons and 49ers since entering the league in 2016 after his collegiate career at Texas. However, he has never attempted a regular season field goal or PAT, so the first time he does so with the Redskins will be the first time ever for him as a pro.

The 23-year-old certainly has potential: He was one of the nation's top touchback producers in 2014 and 2015 for the Longhorns, so distance on kickoffs and field goals shouldn't be an issue (this video of him nailing one from 80, yes, 80, backs that up). What remains to be seen is whether he can split the uprights for Washington.

For what it's worth, Hopkins was totally inexperienced in the NFL when he first signed with the Burgundy and Gold, too.

MORE: UPDATED NFL POWER RANKINGS - 'SKINS IN TOP 10

2) He can make kicks in unconventional ways

While this doesn't come across as something Jay Gruden would ever want Rose to try in, say, this Monday's game in Philly, Rose can sink chip shots while simultaneously completing a backflip.

Ever seen Adam Vinatieri do that? Nope, didn't think so.

3) He beat out at least three other candidates for the job

With Hopkins likely done for the year with a hip issue, the Redskins worked out a handful of replacement options on Tuesday.

It was Rose, though, who emerged with a contract. He earned it over at least three other guys, including veterans Mike Nugent and Andrew Franks. Now he must bring that strong leg, as well as some accuracy, when called upon to ensure the 'Skins don't miss out on any points on a weekly basis.

Making kicks in the middle of backflips is fun, sure. But making them in front of national TV audiences instead of a YouTube audience is probably more fun. Let's see if Rose has what it takes to stick around.

RELATED: IN CROWDED NFC, WHY NOT THE REDSKINS?

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Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins headed to injured reserve, per sources

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Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins headed to injured reserve, per sources

Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins will likely not play again this year, a source with knowledge of the situation tells our JP Finlay.

The team placed Hopkins on the injured reserve list, which means he's out at least eight weeks. To replace him, the Redskins signed Nick Rose, per NFL Network.

In his third season with Washington, Hopkins had made nearly 82 percent of his field goals this year. He made 12 of 13 extra points, but missed a very important extra point in Sunday's win over the 49ers.

Hopkins had a very strong leg, capable of touchbacks on kickoffs nearly every time the situation called for it. 

Rose is yet to play in the NFL but spent time with the 49ers. He kicked collegiately at the University of Texas.

As a senior in Austin last year, Rose made 13 of 17 field goals and 38 of 39 extra points.