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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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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!