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Need to Know: Redskins' running game caught in a bad cycle

Need to Know: Redskins' running game caught in a bad cycle

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 23, two days before the Washington Redskins host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Read and react

Some quotes from around Redskins Park on Thursday and my comments on them.

Jay Gruden on the Redskins’ approach to the third quarter, where they have been outscored 78-3 (counting points scored on drives that started in the third):
I think the big thing is awareness. I think awareness is letting them know that this is what the last six games have been like in the third quarter. We have had the lead five of six times and here are stats and we have to do something about it . . . then we get to halftime against Tampa Bay, hopefully it’ll be with a lead and we’ll make some, hopefully, some positive adjustments and the guys will come out ready to play.
Reaction: There is no magic wand to wave to fix the team’s third-down problems. Part of the fix would be to hold on to the ball; five of their 15 turnovers have come during the third quarter. And the defense stiffening up after a turnover would help, too; All five of the times the offense has given the ball away, the other team has turned the possession into a touchdown.

Joe Barry on one concrete step that has been taken to try to improve the third-quarter performance:
It’s been addressed, it’s been talked about. It’s been kind of a theme on the practice field. Halfway through practice, kind of cranking it up so I think it’s just one of those things. I think the worst think you can ever do anytime something is not going right is to ignore it and not talk about it. We’ve talked about it. We’ve addressed it. Now, we’ve got to play better. We’ve got to coach better.
Reaction: Cranking up the intensity halfway through practice is a good thought. It may not be a stroke of genius and it may or may not have an effect. But since there is no one thing that will cure all of the ills, it’s worth trying. I think that at some point the odds will catch up to the Redskins, they will outscore their opponents in the third quarter over the course of a few games, and everyone will declare that the problem was solved.

Gruden on the team’s running game over the last few weeks:
Yeah, it’s hard. I think the big thing in the running game, it’s OK to get one or two years every now and then. We’re not going to hit all our runs, but it’s important for us to get some hits – some 15-yarders, some 20-yarders – which we haven’t had. We haven’t had any long runs. I don’t know what our longest run is the last couple of weeks but it hasn’t been very long. It’d be nice to get a couple of those which opens up your play-action.
Reaction: For Gruden’s information, the Redskins’ longest run in the last two weeks has been nine yards, by Chris Thompson early in the third quarter of the Atlanta. Their longest run against the Jets was an eight-yard gain by Thompson just before halftime. So not only have they not broken 15 or 20 yards, they haven’t even hit double digits. The Redskins are stuck in the vicious cycle where they can’t run the ball because they can’t run the ball. An inability to gain more than a couple of yards on first down means that running on second down is not a viable option.

Barry evaluating Perry Riley’s performance since missing two games due to a calf injury:
“The thing that was a bummer was when he got hurt, he played lights out against the St. Louis Rams. He really did. I think that’s a little —  when a guy misses some time, especially with a lower extremity injury, he comes back, you’ve got to knock a little bit of rust off, so I don’t think Perry has played poorly. And we’ve had the conversation, ‘Get back to how you played against the St. Louis Rams.’ I think he had a great week of practice this week. So, I think it’s part of the deal sometimes when a guy misses time and then comes back, it takes him a little bit of time to knock some rust off… Perry has played physical. I don’t think by any means — don’t pinpoint anything on Perry Riley. We’ve all got to play better, we’ve all got to coach better, bottom line.”
Reaction: That’s kind of a long passage to plough through so let me shorten it for you—Riley has not been playing well. OK, there might be some “rust” after the injury (he missed the Giants game and the Eagles game) but he’s been back for two games and there is no reason for a guy who has been starting for coming up on four years should not be able to come back without missing a beat. In answer to a follow up question, Barry said that they were not considering moving Will Compton into the starting job. But if accountability means anything, they can’t go for too much longer without considering making a move if Riley continues to play as poorly has he has the last two games.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:55; Jay Gruden and Sean McVay news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Bucs @ Redskins 2; Redskins @ Patriots 16; Saints @ Redskins 22

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, January 20, 53 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 45
—NFL Draft (4/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 232

The Redskins week that was

Jags big win could spell bad news for Kirk Cousins—If the Jaguars’ accomplishment of getting to the AFC championship game does indeed make Blake Bortles’ job safe, the laws of economics say that the amount of money that Cousins can command in a free agent contract should go down. It’s the demand part of supply and demand and if demand goes down, prices should, too. But the NFL quarterback market doesn’t follow the laws. If the Lions see fit to pay Matthew Stafford, a quarterback under whom they have had very limited success, a contract with an average annual value of $27 million without any team bidding against them, that sets the price.

Setting the odds on what happens with Kirk Cousins—Despite his happy talk at the 106.7 The Fan event earlier this month, the possibility that Cousins will play in a Redskins uniform in 2018 does not warrant a large bet of imaginary casino chips. If you missed the post, take a look and let me know what you think of my assessment.

Don't freak out about latest Zach Brown tweet—It’s that time of year. A player sends out a tweet with no context and fans assign the worst possible meaning to it. In Brown’s case, a tweet about not getting respect was interpreted as a sign that contract negotiations with the Redskins were not going well. But JP Finlay found out that the tweet was about Brown being upset that another alternate getting selected to the Pro Bowl and not him. It still is unclear if Brown will return to the Redskins but at least there are no indications of rocky negotiations at this point.

Bang for the free agent bucks for the Redskins? Brown was a solid free agent acquisition for the Redskins last year. Terrelle Pryor, not so much. Take a look at the post for the other hits and misses in free agency.

Tweet of the week

Even though the draft is over three months away there are plenty of opinions out there as this tweet drew a ton of reaction. On the offensive side of the ball, the suggestions ran towards quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield although some want a running back. It will be interesting to see how those two non-conventional quarterbacks look after they spend the next few months under the microscope of the NFL draft process. The defensive name that kept coming up was Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea, a large specimen who could play the nose in base defense and move to three-technique in nickel.

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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Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Redskins fans were frenzied when Scot McCloughan said that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but not a special one. The #KirkHive shuddered and the Kirk Haters celebrated.

McCloughan, the former Redskins GM who's wildly popular with fans, explained what few people will say publicly: Cousins is a skilled player but probably not deserving of the money he might make in free agency. 

Let's start with the obvious: Cousins is good.

He's a durable passer in a league that doesn't have enough of them. He's started the last 49 games for the Redskins and thrown for more than 4,000 yards each of the past three seasons. 

Now more obvious: He isn't great.

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Bleacher Report's Chris Simms, speaking on the #RedskinsTalk podcast, said Cousins ranks about 12th among NFL passers. It's top half of the league, but it's not Top 5 or even Top 10. 

Cousins has had tremendous games with the Redskins, like a near perfect performance against Oakland in 2017 or a dominant performance against Green Bay in 2016. 

Cousins has also been awful, as recently as Week 17 in New York a few weeks ago, or an equally stinky Week 17 game against the Giants two seasons ago. 

While some might view McCloughan's statement as controversial — "He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special," he told Denver radio station 104.3 the Fan — it's not. 

Plenty of people agree with McCloughan, including some in Redskins Park. Last year, a source told NBC Sports Washington that the team believed they could get nearly as much production from Colt McCoy as Cousins provided. 

Even this year, Washington head coach Jay Gruden offered lukewarm praise of his quarterback.

When the season ended, asked to evaluate Cousins' play, the coach said, "When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ There’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent [Williams] when he played was a Pro Bowl-type and Brandon [Scherff] when he was healthy was a 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."

That quote made headlines when Gruden said it, much like McCloughan's comments now are circulating faster than Beltway traffic. 

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Truth is, it's not new. And it's not news.

There are coaches that think Cousins is only scratching the surface of his capabilities. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay come to mind, but both of those coaches have other QBs likely for the long-term future. 

Cousins might end up being paid like a Top 3 quarterback in the NFL, and that might be the right move given the demand at the position. Will that make him a special passer?

Not if special is defined as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Even Cousins wouldn't argue with that.