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Redskins, rest of NFL putting up plenty of smokescreens in Arizona

Redskins, rest of NFL putting up plenty of smokescreens in Arizona

It’s getting very smoky in Phoenix this week as NFL teams try to send out sometimes-conflicting signals about their intentions in the draft, which starts five weeks from tomorrow.

Among the teams throwing out the most smokescreens is Washington. A few weeks ago we had John Clayton of ESPN reporting that the Redskins would draft the Heisman Trophy winner out of Oregon if he is there at No. 5. Then yesterday Tarik El-Bashir talked to Scot McCloughan, who did nothing to knock down Clayton’s report.

"It's a definite consideration, no doubt about it," McCloughan said when asked if the Redskins would draft Mariota. "It's the most important position on the field."

McCloughan’s statement has to be viewed in the context of what else we know about him, the draft, and the Redskins’ quarterback situation.

As far as the latter topic, we have Jay Gruden’s less than ringing endorsement of Robert Griffin III as the team’s quarterback.

“He’s got the starting job right now,” Gruden said on Monday. “Hopefully he takes it and runs with it.”

Gruden’s qualifiers like “right now” and “hopefully” along with the bumpy ride the coach and quarterback had in 2014 don’t exactly convey a lot of confidence in Griffin as the long-term solution at quarterback.

But Mariota might not be the answer either. The Oregon offense is similar to the one Griffin ran at Baylor. Gruden and McCloughan may not be interested in going through the same growing pains with uncertain results.

The popular consensus is that the Redskins are circulating the Mariota talk in order to drum up some trade interest in that No. 5 pick. McCloughan left the door wide open for that possibility as well.

“If it’s a win for us, and it’s going to make us stronger, no doubt about it,” McCloughan told El-Bashir yesterday. “I’ll take any phone calls.”

McCloughan may want to trade the pick but he could have to try to find a market for it if Mariota is off of the board. Ken Whisenhunt is the head coach of the Titans, who hold the second overall pick and he gave a very strong indication that he is interested in Mariota.

“If he comes to us at No. 2, he's definitely going to be the day 1 starter,” he said. “I'm very impressed by Marcus.”

Of course, Whisenhunt’s endorsement may be a smokescreen, a signal that a team that wants to move up to draft Mariota will need to place a call to Nashville, not Ashburn.

It’s lying season in the NFL and it is best to take whatever any NFL coach or general manager says over the next five weeks with a healthy amount of skepticism. We won’t really know what a team’s intentions with its pick are until Roger Goodell steps to the microphone on April 30.

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

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USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ ugly 20-10 win vs. the Giants.

A Win is a Win:
If you are worried about style points you are doing it wrong. This was a banged up team on a short week playing for its life. Perhaps a better start would have made for a more comfortable win but they got done what they needed to do.

Jamison Crowder is on a Roll
:
He gained a career-high 141 yards on seven receptions. The yardage broke his career high of 123 that he set in Week 8. The third-year receiver got off to very slow start, not posting over 52 yards in any game.

But he has broken out of his slump in a big way and Kirk Cousins is very glad to see it.

Perine is Ready:
The rookie was elevated into the starting role after Rob Kelley went onto injured reserve two weeks ago. His importance elevated when Chris Thompson went out for the year with a broken leg.

Fortunately for the Redskins, his play has elevated since becoming the starter. He rushed for 117 yards against the Saints on Sunday. Thursday, four days later, he couldn’t get anything going in the first half, gaining only three yards on seven carries. But he got rolling in the second half and finished with 100 yards on 24 carries.

The Redskins may well have lost this game if Perine, the only back who was on the roster as of three weeks ago, had not gotten himself on track.

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

Defense Got Help: 
Eli Manning passed for 113 yards. Only six times in his career, which spans 211 games, has he thrown for fewer yards. There are three entities mainly responsible for Eli’s woes. The Redskins defense did a good job of putting pressure on him and for the most part the back seven played well in coverage. But Eli himself contributed to his own production problems.

On many occasions he had time to throw and a receiver open but he either sailed the ball well over the receiver’s head or threw it in the ground. Finally, when Manning did have time and delivered the ball on the money, his receivers frequently were unable to find the handle; there were several costly drops.

RELATED: BIGGEST UP'S AND DOWN'S FROM REDSKINS-GIANTS

There is Hope:
It’s too early in the weekend to go into much detail about the Redskins chances of making the playoffs but the losses earlier in the day by the Lions and Cowboys certainly helped.

It’s still a tough path to navigate.

But they did what they needed to do today in winning one of six games that looked winnable earlier this week. All they can do is try to get a winning streak together and they did all they could do in that regard on Thanksgiving.

Now it’s on to Dallas to see if they can take the next step.

MORE: THIS ONE THROW SHOWS HOW COUSINS IS EVOLVING

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

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USA TODAY Sports

Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

LANDOVER — At times during the Redskins' 20-10 Thanksgiving night victory over the Giants, Kirk Cousins and Washington's offense performed at a level somewhere between sloppy nausea-inducing.

There was that awful sequence where the offense botched a fourth-and-1 more than they normally do.

There was also No. 8's slightly off-target throw to a running back he barely knows that ended up as six points for New York. And there were plenty less notable, but still gross, plays before and after those.

But Cousins' first touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder was far from gross. It was beautiful. It was creative.

And it showed how the 29-year-old is still developing as a quarterback:

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

"The touchdown he had to Crowder was one of his best touchdown passes that I've seen since I've been here," Jay Gruden said about it afterward.

He's right.

By now, you know the boxes that Cousins checks off as a passer. He has the requisite arm strength. He's usually able to move an offense, even one like the Redskins' 2017 version that includes a ton of spare parts, up and down the field. He has the work ethic and leadership skills. 

But a common knock against him is that he can't extend a play and find a receiver when things aren't there during his initial dropback. And that weakness becomes a glaring one in the red zone.

Yet on Thanksgiving night, there Cousins was, avoiding an edge rusher, stepping up, rolling right and then nailing Crowder right on the numbers for a crucial TD. Like his head coach, Cousins was proud of how that score unfolded.

"I felt some pressure so I just tried to escape up and to the right and kept my eyes down field," he said. "I think just the longer I play, I'll get a better feel for how to move and escape."

MORE: ALL OF THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE THANKSGIVING WIN

Cousins' final stats don't stack up to some of his past performances, such as his Week 11 effort in New Orleans where he shined or his pretty perfect evening vs. the Raiders in Week 3. Regardless, this one was encouraging in its own way, because it provided another grlimpse at how the signal caller is becoming more comfortable when things around him become uncomfortable.

Like most of his fellow starters in the league, Cousins has flaws. But the more he plays, the more those flaws diminish. Gruden sees it, he sees it, and you should see it, too.