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Need to Know: Redskins' Long still 'finding his way' while learning center

Need to Know: Redskins' Long still 'finding his way' while learning center

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 6, 52 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 148 days ago. It will be 98 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 52; Preseason opener @ Falcons 66; Final roster cut to 53, 89

Hot topics from the Redskins week that was

I’m still getting up to speed after being on vacation last week. I have a few thoughts on what Jay Gruden and Joe Barry had to say after last week’s OTA session.

—Gruden was asked about Spencer Long’s progress. “Yeah, at guard you see the improvement quite a bit – just the knowledge and the confidence that all the players get going into their second and third year,” he said. But he added, “Center is a different story – it is brand new to him and he’s finding his way there.” I would not expect to see Long as the team’s starting center anytime soon, and by that I mean in 2016, barring some sort of an emergency.

—Asked about the competition at left guard, Gruden mentioned Long and Shawn Lauvao. “It’s good to have two good guys at that position,” he said. Hmmm, there was no mention of Arie Kouandjio, who seems to be the fan’s choice at the position. You never know what might happen but you may have to wait until at least 2017 to see him lined up as a regular.

—Barry said that they have to have two safeties with the No. 1 defense right now and for the time being those two are DeAngelo Hall and David Bruton but that could be a temporary situation. “Hall and David Bruton are going with the first group, but we’re rolling guys in there,” he said. “Our depth chart is in pencil, it’s not in Sharpie.” So Duke Ihenacho and Will Blackmon will get their chances; while Hall and Bruton may have the inside track on the starting jobs for now the matter is far from settled.

—Everyone wants to know right now what role Su’a Cravens will play in the defense. Barry said that while he will play the weakside ILB spot for now, they think he can do a lot more. “You can play him at inside backer, you can play him at outside backer and rush him off the edge or drop him into coverage,” he said. “You can play him in the slot in a nickel position and do a bunch of things with him.” But he won’t learn all of those spots immediately. “He’s a new kid coming in, learning the playbook, learning all new terminology,” said Barry. “He’ll be the first one to tell you, the rookie minicamp, it was like we were speaking a different language, which is understandable. It’s hard for young guys at any position to come in and learn the terminology of a new playbook.”

—On the subject of DE Stephen Paea, Barry rattled off some reasons for his disappointing performance in 2015. “I think as I mentioned before, I think anytime that a player changes teams, changes systems as a veteran, there is going to be a little bit of a learning curve both in scheme and terminology and then to add into it that he got banged up, hurt his foot,” he said. Of course, what are reasons to some are excuses to others. Barry forgot to include that the dog may have eaten Paea’s homework. Free agent signings are no sure thing and Paea is going to have to prove on the field that he is ready to perform.

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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.