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Need to Know: McCloughan on RG3, tagging Cousins, and Redskins' personnel staff

Need to Know: McCloughan on RG3, tagging Cousins, and Redskins' personnel staff

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 29, 26 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Five thoughts on McCloughan at the Senior Bowl

On if the Redskins would use the franchise tag on Cousins: "Well it’s an option, of course you’d rather not, you’d rather get a long term deal done . . . ”

Some believe that just tagging Cousins and giving him another year to show what he’s worth in a long-term deal is the best way to go. But it’s not the route that McCloughan wants to take. The tag is fraught with problems, including the fact that the player really isn’t under contract until he signs it and he doesn’t have to sign it until he wants to. It doesn’t seem like Cousins is the type to hold out but he’s never been put in such a position before. And if he plays well, it would become more difficult and costly to agree on a contract in 2017; another tag will cost about $23 million for a year. The tag is there to be used but it's not like slapping a $7 million tag on Fred Davis. It’s better to trust your judgment, make a deal, and take your chances.

On if he feels the team is ahead of schedule: "You know, I wouldn’t say ahead of schedule, I think it’s going in the right direction . . . “

It’s tough to say what a “schedule” for the Redskins, a team that had double-digit losses in five of six seasons before McCloughan came aboard a year ago, should look like. They took some steps in the right direction last year and they were good enough to take advantage of a fairly weak schedule and performances by the other teams in the division that were below expectations. The Redskins also had some bad luck in the form of injuries (only three teams lost more man-games to injuries). They could take a few more steps in the right direction this year and they might not win as many games and not make the playoffs. Improvement in the NFL isn’t always linear. All McCloughan can do is try to get better every year, and hold on to as much of the improvement made in previous years as he can.

On the team’s plan with QB Robert Griffin III: "Well you know what, the thing is, and I’m looking forward to getting back because we had the playoff game, of course, then you had the loss . . . “

This went on for another hundred words or so, with McCloughan not wanting to say that the team is going to release Griffin at some point. I don’t think that this should give false hope to those RG3 diehards who think he could somehow end up with the Redskins in 2016. A player is on your roster until he’s not. There is much more potential harm in announcing that you’re going to let a player go before you can do so than there is in not talking about it and just sending out the press release after you’ve done it.

On if there is confirmation or clarity on if DT Jason Hatcher is retiring: “No. I talked to him too and I said, 'Listen, you do what’s best for you and your family. You’ve had a really good career and we’d love to have you back.'

McCloughan said a couple of times that he wasn’t going to discuss contracts so nobody asked about whether they would love to have Hatcher back at his current cap number, which is $8.7 million. His contract has the look of a deal that was set to be either terminated after two years or at least redone. Hatcher’s salary jumps to $6.25 million with another $250,000 due to him as a roster bonus. I can’t see the Redskins paying that to a player who is coming off of a two-sack season and will turn 34 before training camp starts.

On making possible changes to the team’s scouting staff: "Not right now; nope. We’re going forward."

Looking at the results to date—and that consists of one draft—it appears that the Redskins’ unproductive drafts were due more to the man making the final call than it was an inadequate scouting staff. In particular, Mike Shanahan was notorious for ignoring the recommendation of the personnel department and making his own picks. It’s hard to blame the area scouts, director of college scouting Scott Campbell, and others responsible for evaluating draft talent if their work goes out the window when the card is turned in during the draft. But before we apologize to the current group for wondering about their competence when they worked for Shanahan let’s see what McCloughan can come up with in the next couple of drafts.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 19 days ago. It will be about 226 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 26; NFL free agency starts 40; 2016 NFL draft 90

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Week 7 Redskins-Eagles Preview: Monday night means more than it usually does

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Week 7 Redskins-Eagles Preview: Monday night means more than it usually does

After five straight defeats, the Eagles decided enough was enough and beat the Redskins on their home field in Week 1. In a bizarre turn of scheduling, Washington will face Philadelphia for the second time this season before playing any other NFC East opponent. 

For the Redskins, that means the time for a win is now. Behind the arm of Carson Wentz, the Eagles have streaked out to a 5-1 record, not to mention 2-0 in the division. Jay Gruden's squad sits at 3-2 and 0-1 in the division. Another loss to the Eagles, even though it's still early in the year, would put a major dent in the Redskins hopes of a NFC East title. 

"It’s a big game. The NFC East, they’re in the lead. They’re 5-1 and we’re 3-2. I mean, just do the math," Gruden explained this week. "If you look at 3-3 and 6-1 and we’ve lost twice to them, that’s a big difference. 4-2 and 5-2 and we’re right there in the thick of things as far as the NFC East is concerned."

MORE: TEN TIMES PHILADELPHIA FANS WERE THE WORST

The coach knows the stakes. Redskins fans certainly do, too. All the coverage starts at 7:30 on NBC Sports Washington with Redskins Kickoff, and here are three storylines to watch for the game:

  1. Blount force - In the Week 1 loss to Philadelphia, the Redskins defense did a fine job of stopping the Eagles rush attack. Zach Brown and the 'Skins held Philly to just 58 yards rushing. In that game, LeGarrette Blount rushed 14 times for only 46 yards, averaging less than 3.5 yards-per-carry. Well, Blount and the Eagles run game looks mighty different now. In their last four games, Blount is averaging more than 6 yards-per-carry and posted more than 330 yards. Known for his strength between the tackles, Blount will present a problem for the Burgundy and Gold playing their first game without rookie star defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. The challenge will be real, and D-coordinator Greg Manusky knows it: "He does a great job of making people miss at the hole, in the hole. So we have got to make sure we get in his face and be able to get him down. He is a big-body guy." 
  2. No wiggle room - For the most part, the Redskins defense did a solid job against Carson Wentz in the first matchup against the Eagles. Unfortunately, with a mobile QB like the 6-foot-5, 240 lb. Wentz, a few broken plays can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of the game. Think back to early in Week 1, the Redskins forced Wentz from the pocket and as he scrambled, he kept his eyes downfield and connected with WR Nelson Agholor for a long touchdown. On that play, two different 'Skins defenders nearly brought Wentz down in the backfield. But they didn't. And the 'Skins secondary did a good job in coverage for more than eight seconds. In that ninth second, however, Wentz struck. He's been doing it each game since, as he's emerged as an NFL MVP candidate with more than 1,300 pass yards to go with 13 TDs against just 3 INTs through six games. His ability to escape trouble must be incredibly frustrating for defenders, and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson explained his passer's skill, saying, "He is strong in the pocket and usually the first guy, an arm-tackle guy, can’t bring him down. He usually sheds that block and can escape."
  3. 8 or more - Throughout the 2016 season, the Redskins frustrated their fans by getting out to slow starts. In 2017, the opposite has been true. In four straight games, Kirk Cousins and the 'Skins offense have scored a first quarter touchdown and taken early leads. In the second half, however, the offense has stagnated. While the Redskins average about 23 points-per-game, the team is only scoring about 8 points-per-game in the second half. Against a Philly team capable of scoring every time they touch the ball, Washington will likely have to score more in the second half to get a victory.

News & Notes

  • This will mark the Redskins 70th game on Monday Night Football, and their ninth MNF matchup against Philadelphia.
  • Kirk Cousins enters the game 3rd in NFL history in completion percentage (65.9) among players with at least 1,500 career attempts.
  • With 100 yards receiving, Chris Thompson could break a tie with Dick James, Craig McEwen and Larry Brown (two each) for the most career 100-yard receiving games by a Redskins running back in records dating back to 1960.
  • A win would snap a four game losing streak on Monday Night Football for the Redskins and give the Redskins their first Monday win since a 20-17 overtime win at Dallas on Oct. 27, 2014.
  • The Redskins rank first in the NFL and the NFC in fewest penalty yards (204).

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Can Brandon Scherff do something that no Redskins O-lineman has done since 1991?

Can Brandon Scherff do something that no Redskins O-lineman has done since 1991?

Those who doubted the wisdom of the Redskins drafting a guard with the fifth overall pick in 2015 (yes, I was one of them) should be preparing to eat their words.

On draft day and during the two and a half years since then, there has been plenty of talk that the Redskins would regret taking Brandon Scherff, who played tackle in college but seemed destined to play guard in the NFL, so early. Not that anyone thought that Scherff would be a bad NFL player but given that they left DL Leonard Williams and edge rusher Vic Beasley on the board, he needed to develop into an All-Pro caliber guard to justify such a high pick.

Well, don’t look now but Scherff is making his way towards becoming one of the best guards in the game. Not just Pro Bowl good; he checked that box last year. Scherff could become the first Redskins position player to be named a first-team All-Pro since Darrell Green and Jim Lachey earned the honors in 1991.

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Asked about Scherff’s play this year, Jay Gruden was effusive in his praise.

He’s reacting. He’s anticipating. He’s pulling. He’s pass-blocking. He’s run-blocking. He’s double teaming. He’s doing everything you want him to do out in screens, out in space. He’s the best guard out in space by far in this league. It’s fun to watch him.

You can listen to Gruden’s full comments on Scherff in the video above.

Gruden is not exactly an unbiased observer. But other, more neutral analysts also have been heaping praise on Scherff.

An article on Pro Football Focus said that Scherff had an “elite” game against the 49ers, not allowing any pass rush pressures and dominating as a run blocker.

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Two other analysts clipped some plays from the 49ers game to illustrate just how well he was playing.

This one from Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network shows one play, the 49-yard screen pass to Chris Thompson on which Scherff threw a key block.

I’m not sure what the scouting credentials Brandon Thorn has but he did put together a nice collection of clips of Scherff making quality blocks both in space and in the interior vs. the 49ers.

Will Scherff earn All-Pro honors? That could depend on how well the team does. While the All-Pro teams are supposed to be individual honors, it’s tough for an offensive lineman to get many votes if he’s not on a winning team, especially one like Scherff who would be trying to break into the club for the first time.

But the Redskins are not really worried about All-Pro votes. If he keeps playing the way he’s playing and he gets no such consideration it will be fine with them.

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.