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Need to Know: Around Redskins Park—How pass happy is Jay Gruden?

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Need to Know: Around Redskins Park—How pass happy is Jay Gruden?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, September 15, three days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Joe Barry news conferences and player availability after practice approx. 3 p.m.

Days until: Browns @ Redskins 17; Redskins @ Ravens 24; Eagles @ Redskins 31

From around Redskins 

—The Redskins are largely in good health. Two players, OT Morgan Moses (knee) and DL Chris Baker (elbow/rib), were limited in practice; the other 51 were full go. The current expectation is that Baker and Moses will start against the Cowboys. They have a few bumps and bruises but they are in much better shape than they were last year. The Redskins need to take advantage of their good health and playing the softer spot in their schedule. They don’t play a team that made the playoffs in 2015 until they go to London the play the Bengals in Week 8 on October 30.

—The Redskins are not interested in former Saints running back C. J. Spiller and an acquisition of any other  veteran running back does not appear to be imminent. It seems that the plan is to be patient with Matt Jones before exploring other options. And Rob Kelley should get some touches when the total of carries gets closer to 20 than to 11.

—While we on the topic, can we dispense with the notion that Jay Gruden is overly pass happy and doesn’t like to run the ball. Last year the Redskins ran 429 times. That was more than the NFL average per team of 421 attempts. In 2014 the Redskins were below average in rushing attempt with 401 compared to the average of 428. But the Redskins were a 4-12 team and had to play from behind a lot. Of the 20 teams with more rushing attempts than them in 2014 only two had double-digit losses. I think that last year it was more legitimate to say that he ran too often, given how ineffective the rushing game was. If there are a few more 12-attempt games over the next month or so we can revisit this. For now, the facts don't back up the pass-happy Gruden myth.

—Josh Norman didn’t seem to be too concerned about there not being much film out there on Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott for the Redskins to study. “I don't know, man, just go out there and play ball,” he said. You can only control what you can control.

—Some players pay no attention to stats. Kirk Cousins is not one of those players. “I always like to look at third down and red zone as two important ones,” he said. “You know, if you’re over 50 percent in both of those, you’re going to be near the top of the league, in a better position that most teams, so that’s something we’re always going to look at. And there are others – first down efficiency, yards per play, that kind of a thing – that you look at, that you can kind of measure yourself to see are we achieving the goals that are necessary that lead to wins, traditionally and typically.”

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

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.