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Need to Know: Redskins rookie Cravens has a lot to learn

Need to Know: Redskins rookie Cravens has a lot to learn

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, August 2, nine days before the Washington Redskins open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Walkthrough 10:30; Jay Gruden press conference 2:45; Practice 3:00

—The Redskins last played a game 205 days ago. It will be 41 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 17; Final roster cut 32; Cowboys @ Redskins 47

Read and react—Jay Gruden

Reading some segments of Gruden’s press conference and reacting to them.
“Right now we need [Su’a Cravens] to learn the system – his run fits obviously, his pass drops. His man-coverage skills are pretty good but he still can work on that. He’s learning. He’s a work-in-progress like all these young players are, like everybody is, like I am. So we’re just going to keep practicing, that’s what we’re out here for.”
I think that a lot of fans are too anxious to see Cravens accomplish great things. Sure he got a couple of takeaways in practice last week but he still has a lot to learn. It’s hard enough for a rookie to learn one position; for Cravens to reach his peak effectiveness it probably will take him at least several games into the regular season, possibly more. They aren’t going to want to throw him into positions where he isn’t comfortable. Look for him to get a role that increases as the season goes on and he learns more positions.
“I think [Will Blackmon] had a couple really good days, really. I’ve been really impressed with Will. His reaction time has been outstanding and he’s got his hands on some balls.”
I was surprised this spring when Blackmon said that he had never played safety before with the exception of a snap here and there over his nine years in the NFL. He has been doing a good job in camp but I will be interested to see how he does when they start playing against guys in the other colored jerseys. I’ve been calling him a lock to make the 53-man roster and he probably is but
Niles [Paul] came back a little quicker [from the ankle injury he suffered last August] than we anticipated. We weren’t sure how Niles was going to come back from his injury. We had to protect ourselves and Vernon [Davis] was staring us right in our face and we grabbed him.”
I had not heard that Davis was signed as insurance against Paul not making a complete recovery from the ankle injury that his doctors said was one of the worst he’s ever seen. They also signed Logan Paulsen while Paul was still a question mark. So they wound up with four (so far) healthy tight ends. There are scenarios for all four of the to make the roster but it’s not a given.
“[CB Greg Toler] has been the ‘forgotten man,’ in fact I forgot to mention him the other day when we were talking about corners. He’s been outstanding out here. You know, he keeps showing up and making plays. Had a big interception yesterday or two days ago and a veteran guy who knows routes and can run still.”
Toler has made a few plays out there. I’m still not sure how the player who was signed 10 days before Josh Norman unexpectedly became a free agent makes the roster. They will keep a maximum of five cornerbacks. Toler is clearly behind Norman, Bashaud Breeland, and draft pick Kendall Fuller. I don’t think they would keep Toler over Quinton Dunbar. That would leave Toler fighting with Dashaun Phillips for the last spot and I think Phillips has the edge. We will see.

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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.