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Need to Know: Is the door open for Alfred Morris to return to the Redskins?

Need to Know: Is the door open for Alfred Morris to return to the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, February 25, 13 days before the start of NFL free agency.

Is the door open for an Alfred Morris return?

—They will be paying close attention to running backs in Indianapolis but the need may not be a great when the draft rolls around as it seems to be now. McCloughan previously left the door for a return of Alfred Morris open a crack; Jay Gruden pushed it open a little bit more yesterday. “There’s not one negative thing I can say about him as a player and person,” Gruden said. He said that a return is “not a long shot”. I’ll believe it when I see it—I think the Redskins want a more dynamic player as their lead dog—but I get the feeling that if Gruden had his druthers Morris would be back.

—Don’t fall for talk of a player “shooting up the draft boards” after running a fast 40-yard dash, at least not as far as the Redskins are concerned. Scot McCloughan will throw that into the pile of data for evaluation of a player but as the draft gets closer that gaudy time will get buried underneath film evaluations and the results of character investigations. It might be a tiebreaker at some point but a run in what McCloughan derisively calls “pajamas” isn’t going to substantially alter where the Redskins might consider drafting the player.

—The Redskins’ first- and second-round picks are the only ones that are set at this point. As you know, the first rounder is No. 21 overall. The second-round pick falls at No. 53. Since they had the same record as the Texans they will alternate picking ahead of each other with the Redskins getting the 21st pick in even-numbered rounds and the 22nd in odd-numbered rounds. Among the active players drafted 53rd are Packers receiver Davante Adams, Bills running back LeSean McCoy, and Redskins defensive end Stephen Paea (picked by the Bears). I’d have to think that McCloughan would love to get a receiver like Adams, who played well as a rookie but battled injuries last year, or a back like McCoy with that pick.

—The Redskins currently have eight picks, one in each round plus an extra seventh. It seems very likely that McCloughan will do some dealing and move down for extra picks. I’ll establish the over/under on the number of picks the Redskins end up with at 10 in this draft and one in the bank for 2017.

—I get the impression that for a lot of teams, including the Redskins, the combine is more about eliminating players from their draft boards than it is about positioning players and really deciding what players deserve further study. You aren’t going to draft a player because he passes the medical part with flying colors but McCloughan will eliminate someone if it looks like that ankle fracture that ended a player’s sophomore season could cause problems down the road. He’s not going to talk to a player for the five to ten minutes allotted for interviews and decide he’s a top 100 pick but he could quickly find out that a player won’t fit in with the culture they are trying to establish.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 46 days ago. It will be about 199 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 13; 2016 NFL draft 63

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 22, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 43
—NFL Draft (4/26) 94
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 230

Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons the Redskins can learn

Quarterback matters: We had the setup of the three castaway and ridiculed quarterbacks leading their teams into the NFL’s final four. But, the two who survived were one of the greatest of all time and one who found his groove and had 10.7 yards per attempt and a 141.4 passer rating. Yes, Tom Brady and Nick Foles had a lot of help and we’ll get into that in a minute. But, without excellent play from their quarterbacks, it may have been a different story for the Eagles and Patriots. This doesn’t mean that the Redskins need to send truckloads of money to Kirk Cousins’ house, but if they don’t, they do need a quality alternative. You won’t win with Bortles-level play.

Defense matters: The Vikings rolled right down the field on their first possession and it looked like the Eagles defense was going to have a long night. But then Chris Long got pressure on Case Keenum leading a pick six that apparently energized the Philly defense. Rookie Derek Barnett knocked the ball out of Keenum’s hand when the Vikings were threatening to make a game of it. Minnesota came up empty in its last eight possessions. As the Eagles offense started to build a lead, their defense played faster and more aggressively. At this point, the Redskins don’t have the personnel or the mindset to play that way on defense.

Does running really matter? It’s a small sample size here but in the two games yesterday it did not. The Patriots ran for all of 46 yards. The Eagles got 110, but at the point in the third quarter where they took a 31-7 lead, they had 202 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Running the ball was not decisive in either game. Offensively, the games were won in the air. Jay Gruden’s “pass happy” approach can be a winning approach.

Stay aggressive: At times during the year, Cousins expressed some frustration in the Redskins’ inability or perhaps unwillingness to keep the pedal mashed to the floor when they had a lead. I hit on the Eagles’ aggressiveness on defense, but their offense didn’t slow down either. They were up 21-7 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 29 seconds left in the first half. In that situations, the Redskins—and, in fact, most other teams—would run a draw, throw a short pass, and let the clock run out. But Doug Pederson was having none of that. Passes for 11, 36, and 13 yards got them down to the Vikings 20 and they kicked a field goal to close out the half. If the game wasn’t over then, it was early in the third quarter when Pederson called a flea flicker and Foles hit Torrey Smith for 42 yards and a touchdown.

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.

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

For Redskins fans, it's probably a tough pill to swallow that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl. Making matters worse, Philadelphia got to the championship game without their star quarterback Carson Wentz.

Beyond the feelings that fandom incites, which are real and severe, what does the Eagles' breakthrough season mean for Washington? Let's take a look. 

Perhaps the most incredible part of the Eagles' success is that wunderkind QB Wentz is not at the helm. The second-year player was an MVP candidate all season but got injured late in the year. Nick Foles, the Philly backup, took over and played well in both Eagles' playoff wins. 

Does that mean much, if anything, for the Redskins? 

Some will argue it means Washington should not look to invest top dollar in QB Kirk Cousins. Foles is not considered a top-flight quarterback and still was able to maneuver his squad to the Super Bowl.

Whether or not that argument makes sense, Redskins fans should prepare to hear a lot of it over the next two weeks. 

There is also a theory that the Redskins should eschew spending at QB in favor of spending on defense. 

That may very well be the right move, but don't look to the Eagles to support the theory. 

Philadelphia spent $47 million on the defensive side of the ball in 2017. On offense, they spent $56 million.

What is definitely true?

The Eagles played terrific football in the postseason, and catapulted through the NFC by playing the underdog role.

Redskins fans might hate it, but the Eagles absolutely earned their Super Bowl appearance. 

That doesn't mean Redskins fans have to like it. 

Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl. 

Now, standing in the way of their first Lombardi Trophy: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. 

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!