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Need to Know: Gruden leaves plenty of wiggle room when talking about starting RG3

Need to Know: Gruden leaves plenty of wiggle room when talking about starting RG3

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, November 25, five days before the Washington Redskins travel to Indianapolis to play the Colts.

Notes and quotes from Jay Gruden’s Monday press conference

—Will Robert Griffin III start at quarterback against the Colts? Here’s what Jay Gruden had to say one of several times that he was asked if there is a chance there will be a change made at the position: “There’s a chance at a lot of positions, yes. It’s Monday afternoon at 3 o’clock, and right now, we have every intent for Robert [to be the starter], but we’ll look at the tape and make our evaluations here shortly.”

—That could mean that Griffin will start on Sunday. Or it could mean that Gruden is trying to figure out a Plan B. Or maybe he has decided to make a change but he had not yet informed the parties that need to be informed before there is a public announcement. At this point, I expect Griffin to start but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he isn’t.

—If a change is made, does that mean the end of Griffin in Washington? Possibly, although I will warn people that careers can take unexpected twists and turns. All three Redskins Super Bowl quarterbacks, Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien, went through phases where they were benched before getting the call again. If Griffin does get benched it could be the end for him or it could be the start of another phase.

—Whoever winds up behind center on Sunday will be happy if he sees Trent Williams line up at left tackle. Gruden said that he hopes to get Williams back at practice on Wednesday and get him ready to play on Sunday. If he can’t go, Gruden said that he will stick with Morgan Moses, who would probably have an easier time dealing with the likes of Bjoern Werner and Arthur Jones, the right-side outside linebacker and end for the Colts, than he had last Sunday with Aldon Smith and Justin Smith of the 49ers.

—As expected, Adam Hayward is done for the season with a tibial plateau fracture. He’s not someone that fans are necessarily going to recognize as a key contributor but as the leader on special teams he has been a key to turning those units around. The kicking teams aren’t discussed much because they have been getting the job done and as the captain of those units Hayward has been a key part of that turnaround.

—Gruden didn’t have second thoughts about deactivating cornerback David Amerson for the game, even though the team ended up having Tracy Porter and E. J. Biggers exit the game due to injuries. “I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “We have rules that have to be adhered by, and if you don’t adhere by them, we have to discipline accordingly. That’s a done deal right now, we’re all moved past it and we expect David to be the starter next week and moving forward and hopefully I don’t think it’ll ever happen again with David. He’s a good kid and just made a mistake.”


Today’s schedule: Off day, no availability

Days until: Redskins @ Colts 5; Rams @ Redskins 12; 2015 NFL Draft 155

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. I'll answer all questions as soon as I can get to them. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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The makeup of the draft pool will shape the Redskins' first-round strategy

The makeup of the draft pool will shape the Redskins' first-round strategy

The makeup of the top players in the 2018 NFL Draft pool may push the Redskins into continuing a short-term draft trend that appears to be working out fairly well for them. 

For seven straight years beginning in 2009, the Redskins went along with the conventional wisdom in the draft, taking a player that primarily impacted the passing game or stopping the other team’s passing game, with their top draft picks. 

Their top pick (whether in the first or second round) in every draft from 2008-2014 was at a traditionally high-value position associated with the passing game — wide receiver (Devin Thomas), edge rusher (Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy), left tackle (Trent Williams), quarterback (Robert Griffin III), or outside cornerback (David Amerson). 

This was the Redskins going along with the conventional wisdom. Since 2000, 62 percent of first-round NFL draft picks have been players at those positions even though they account for just 32 percent of a team’s starters. 

The Redskins have shifted away for conducting the draft focused on the passing game at the top in two of the last three drafts. The Redskins selected guard Brandon Scherff (No. 5) in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft and interior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (No. 22) in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In between, they went the old way, selecting wide receiver Josh Doctson (No. 22) in the 2016 NFL Draft. 

This trend is likely to continue due in part to the makeup of the top talent in the draft.

If you’re not looking for a quarterback, the top half of the first round is very light in talented players playing the positions that are most important to the passing game — outside cornerback, edge rusher, left tackle, and wide receiver. Cornerback Denzel Ward is a top-10 player as is edge rusher Bradley Chubb. But that’s about it at those positions and there are no wide receivers or left tackles worthy of consideration in the top 15.

That leaves players like interior defensive linemen Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne and inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds as players who have the potential to be the best available players on the board when the Redskins are on the clock. Traditionally, these players play positions that teams are looking for in the latter stages of the first round at the earliest. 

They could go the non-traditional way for the third time in four years with Vea, Payne, Fitzpatrick, or Smith. In fact, unless Ward slips or they pull off a major surprise it’s likely that they will.

Scherff has worked out well and Allen was getting the job done as a rookie before he got injured so perhaps the way the draft plays out will work out well for Washington.

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Need to Know: Alex Smith will need to be a fast learner for the Redskins to be successful

Need to Know: Alex Smith will need to be a fast learner for the Redskins to be successful

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, April 24, two days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Smith will need support for the Redskins to be successful early

There are high expectations for new Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. He needs to replace Kirk Cousins, who was one of the league’s most productive passers over the past three years. Smith, of course, has been a solid performer himself. Since 2015, the first year that both were starters, Cousins has passed for more yards but primarily because he attempted 225 more passes. Their adjusted yards per attempt and passer ratings over that time are nearly identical.

Smith will be expected to be at peak production right out of the box. With 151 starts in 12 NFL seasons, he knows what is expected of him as the leader of the offense. 

However, he may have another issue, one we’ve seen from him before. He was traded from the 49ers to the Chiefs following the 2012 season. Smith got off to a rocky start in Andy Reid’s offense. In the first seven games, Smith threw seven touchdowns and four interceptions, posting 6.1 adjusted yards per attempt and a passer rating of 79.2. 

After that, he got rolling. In the final nine games, he threw 16 TD’s and three interceptions and improved his adjusted yard per attempt to 7.5 and his passer rating to 98.7.

Will it take him that long to pick up the Redskins offense? 

It needs to be noted that the Chiefs went 7-0 during the Smith’s bad start. They were able to support him with a running game that went over 100 yards every week (121 per game average) and a defense that didn’t allow over 17 points in any game and let up single-digit point totals in three of them. 

Looking at the history of the last three years, the Redskins would have more trouble winning if their quarterback was struggling as much as Smith was in his early Chiefs days. In fact, during Cousins’ three years as the starter, the Redskins went 2-17 in games where he posted a passer rating of 90 or lower. 

In his five seasons with the Chiefs, the team went 17-17 when Smith posted a passer rating of lower than 90. While that may say something about the relative abilities of the two quarterbacks to scuffle to a win when things aren’t going as well as planned, it says much more about the teams surrounding Smith and Cousins. 

Unless the Redskins’ defense and running game improve significantly—and that’s certainly possible—they won’t be able to prosper in wins column if Smith needs an extended adjustment period to get comfortable in Jay Gruden’s offense. 

He has a chance of doing so, based on the 2017 performances of the pass defenses he and the Redskins face in the first half of the season. In terms of pass defense DVOA, the Redskins face only one that ranked in the top 10, the No. 5 Saints. Also above average were the Panthers (10th) and the Cardinals (11th). Five of the opponents were in the lower half including the Cowboys (18th), Falcons (19th), Giants (20th), Packers (26th), and Colts (32nd). 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Sent out as the Caps were holding on to a fourth-quarter lead over Columbus.


Today’s schedule: Pre-draft press conference with Doug Williams at Redskins Park, noon.

Days until:

—Rookie minicamp (5/11) 17
—OTAs start (5/22) 28
—Training camp starts (7/26) 93

The Redskins last played a game 114 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 138 days. 

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