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Need to Know: Five Redskins who need to step up in 2016

Need to Know: Five Redskins who need to step up in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 1, eight days before the start of NFL free agency.

Five Redskins who need to step up in 2016

At the NFL combine, Scot McCloughan said that the team liked one player’s ability but added that “he has to do it”. There are several players on the Redskins’ roster who have the potential to be very good but who need to take the next step and, as they used to say, just do it. If they don’t the team could be looking for replacements in 2017.

RB Matt Jones—This was the player that McCloughan was talking about at the combine. A running back generally isn’t considered a three-year project; he needs to start consistently showing signs that he can get the job done this year. The starting job is his for the taking and this may be his first and only chance.

OLB Trent Murphy—When they draft you in the second round and then the next year they take another guy to play your spot in the same round you have better be ready to fight for your job. Although Murphy retained the starting position for most of the year it’s clear that Preston Smith will be the starter going forward. Murphy needs to step up and earn some snaps or he will be a career special teamer.

WR Ryan Grant—He sure has Jay Gruden in his corner. “I feel really strongly about Ryan Grant,” Gruden said at the combine. “I think he’s an excellent receiver just waiting for his opportunity to be a starter.” Well, he got his chance to get some starts while DeSean Jackson was sidelined and he responded with 16 catches in 6 games, hardly No. 2 receiver production. On the season, Kirk Cousins, the most accurate passer in the league, targeted him 42 times and he managed just 23 receptions.

S Jeron Johnson—Duke Ihenacho beat him out for the starting job in training camp and then when Ihenacho was injured in the season opener Trenton Robinson went in. Johnson has one year left on the two-year deal he signed with the Redskins in 2015. Everybody needs safeties. If he can either start or be a key substitute this year he could get a good deal from the Redskins or from someone else. If not he could be searching for tryouts.

PR Jamison Crowder—Don’t get me wrong here. Crowder the receiver is just fine and on track to have a good career. But his punt returning left a lot to be desired. He doesn’t have great speed (4.56 in the 40 in last year’s combine) but at Duke he showed an uncanny ability to find the open areas and elude would-be tacklers while rolling through them. But last year his average of 5.3 yards per return was among the worst in the league and he made some very questionable decisions when fielding punts. A year to get used to the speed on the NFL game is fine but at some point he has to break one. His long return as a rookie was 16 yards.

Timeline

—Redskins running back Silas Redd was born on this date in 1992.

—The Redskins last played a game 51 days ago. It will be about 194 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 8; Redskins offseason workouts start 48; 2016 NFL draft 58

In case you missed it

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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!