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Need to Know: Is Mariota talk a Redskins smokescreen aimed at RG3?

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Need to Know: Is Mariota talk a Redskins smokescreen aimed at RG3?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, April 10, 20 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Is Mariota talk a smokescreen directed at RG3?

Albert Breer of the NFL Media reported yesterday that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will not visit the Redskins. In a subsequent Twitter conversation about the Redskins, Breer pointed out some reasons why Washington may still take Mariota if he is there

When Jay Gruden was hired as the offensive coordinator for the Bengals he lobbied for them to draft Dalton, who ended up starting every game in the three seasons Gruden was there. When Scot McCloughan took over personnel responsibility he took Smith, a spread QB at Utah, with his very first selection. So it doesn’t make sense to state with any degree of certainty that the two of them together would shy away from drafting a spread QB like Mariota if he is still on the board.

The truth that not a lot of people talk about is that the Redskins, and any other NFL team that might need a quarterback in this era, might not have much of a choice but to draft a quarterback from a spread offense. Most colleges are running some variation of the spread. It is not a trend that will go away any time soon. Pro style, dropback quarterbacks will be harder and harder to come by. Teams will have to learn to figure out how to identify spread quarterbacks who can make the conversion to the NFL and coach them up.

But do the Redskins need a quarterback or should they continue to try to develop Robert Griffin III? From what Breer, who has a good relationship with Gruden by all accounts, says they could go either way. If they think Mariota is a better alternative—and that’s not necessarily a given—they would strongly consider taking him.

Here’s another angle on this.

Robinson, NFL reporter for Yahoo! Sports, thinks that the talk of the Redskins taking Mariota is a smokescreen, but not just for the purpose of confusing other team for strategic purposes. They are floating the name of high-profile replacement in order to motivate Griffin.

I suggested this possibility when the story of the Redskins’ possible interest in Mariota surfaced via John Clayton about a month ago. Some players thrive on security while others are better motivated by fear. Griffin has had plenty of the former since the Redskins made him the second overall pick in 2012. Now perhaps they want to see how Griffin reacts when there is the possibility that he could be replaced by the quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy two years after he did.

The Mariota-to-Washington talk is probably going to wind up moot anyway. If the Titans don’t grab him with the second pick in the draft another team is likely to trade ahead of the Redskins and take him. That’s probably the optimal outcome for the Redskins, who will be able to take an edge rusher or another player at a position of need.

Part 2 of the optimal outcome here would be for Griffin to show great progress towards becoming a pocket passer and persuade Gruden and Scot McCloughan that he can be the long-term solution at quarterback. The last thing this organization needs is to get back on the quarterback carousel, where teams can literally spend decades.

But unless and until that happens, the coach and GM are going to have to consider any and all solutions at the most important position on the field.

Timeline

—It’s been 102 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 157 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 10; 2015 NFL Draft 20; Redskins training camp starts 111

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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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.