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Redskins in turmoil--One year ago

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Redskins in turmoil--One year ago

After three games the team was struggling with a losing record and it looked like the season was going to spiral out of control. The defense couldn’t stop anyone and some fans were calling for the defensive coordinator to be fired. Both the game and the durability of the young quarterback were being questioned.

The scenario above is being played out now, of course. It also was being played out exactly 12 months ago. The Redskins were coming off of a 38-31 loss to the Bengals in a game that wasn’t really as close as the final score made it appear. In the first two games it looked like rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III would revolutionize the game with his running ability. The Bengals slammed Griffin to the turf multiple times and he often took a few seconds to pick himself up off of the FedEx Field turf.

It got to the point where Griffin had to talk about his toughness in the postgame press conference.

"I don’t know how many times I got hit, I got hit a lot . . . The one thing I won't do personally is quit or play scared. I've never played scared in my life. So it doesn't matter how many times they hit me, I'm going to continue to get back up," he said. "Even if they have to cart me off the field, I'm going to get off that cart and walk away."

At that point in the season, Griffin had run the ball 33 times for 198 yards.

The defense was getting torched. They were 30th in the NFL in terms of yards allowed (1,288) and they had give up 101 points, also 30th in the league.

But after allowing 31 points or more in each of the first three games, the Redskins’ defense settled in some. They allowed more than 27 points just twice in the remaining 13 games and the Redskins won both of those games.

Things got a little better as the Redskins came back the next week to beat the Bucs. But they lost four of their next five to fall to 3-6. We all know what happened after that.

There are some differences this year. Even though there is only a one-game difference in their record, having that zero in the wins column is a huge psychological factor. Griffin is not yet nine months removed from reconstructive knee surgery.

But there is much more that is the same. The team has the same coaches, and almost all of the same key players. The schedule in front of the 2012 Redskins looked daunting, just like the upcoming games do for this group. And Redskins fans, and many in the media, were in a panic a year ago and many of the same people are now saying that the sky is falling.

History will not necessarily repeat. The fact that last year’s bunch recovered to post the Redskins’ best season in over a decade doesn’t mean that this year’s bunch will get it together.

But it does mean that it’s possible and that we do tend to overreact in the moment. The Redskins are right to resist calls to bench Griffin and/or fire defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. They will make some tweaks to the schemes and playcalling and perhaps give different players some additional playing time on both sides of the ball. But in the big picture they will continue to do what they have been doing. They have some history on their side.

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was 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. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

Want more Redskins? 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!

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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

Want more Redskins? 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!