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Redskins watch Bengals run away with a win

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Redskins watch Bengals run away with a win

In summary: Earlier this week, Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett lamented his units propensity for surrendering big plays, particularly in the passing game.

On Sunday, the Redskins defensive secondary struggled again in a 38-31 loss to Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and the Bengals.

The defeat, Washingtons second in a row, had veteran cornerback Josh Wilson searching for answers after the unit yielded 300 or more passing yards for the third time in three games this season. In 16 games last season, the unit yielded 300 or more yards only twice.

It was apparent from the opening play of the game that the Bengals planned to exploit Washingtons defensive backs. The visitors struck on passing touchdowns of 73, 59 and 48 yards, the first coming on a trick play to open that game that seemed to catch the Redskins defensive backs unawares.

We have to make plays, Wilson said. They game-plan, too. We have to be able to think. Its very surprising. Were a way better unit than this. We have to step up and take responsibility.

Giving up 38 point is not our M.O., he continued We have to put up some stops and make plays. If I knew the problems, we wouldnt be giving up 38 points.

Wilson got beat in one-on-one coverage when he gambled and missed the ball and Armon Binns in the first quarter. Binns took Daltons pass 48 yards for a touchdown that put the Bengals ahead 14-7.

In the fourth quarter, rookie Richard Crawford bit on a double move and got beat on a 59 hookup between Dalton and Andrew Hawkins that gave Cincinnati the winning margin.

When you get double move, you cant it was a learning experience, said Crawford, who was playing for Cedric Griffin, who left the game with strained hamstring. I apologize to my teammates. That game was kind of on me. It was my fault.

In addition to the scoring passes, the Redskins secondary surrendered plays of 38, 27, 25 and 22, as well.

Injury update: Big plays are a growing concern. So are injuries.

With Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker already done for the season and Brandon Meriweather not yet ready to return, the Redskins will be monitoring injuries to Trent Williams (knee), Evan Royster (knee), Roy Helu (foot or ankle), Griffin and Crezdon Butler(hamstring).

Williams, the starting left tackle and likely the most important player on offense behind Robert Griffin III, was injured in the first quarter. After a stint in the locker room, he played four plays in the third before leaving the game again.

After the game, Williams said he planned to have an MRI on Sunday night. He walked with a limp and sported a heavy brace on his right leg as he exited the stadium.

I dont what it is as of now, Williams said. I havent even looked at the replays. I just felt it give out on me.

I could go left, just had trouble going right, he added. Didnt really want to risk giving up a big quarterback hit.

For updates on the others, click here.

Griffin feeling the heat: Griffin completed 21 of 34 passes for 221 yards and accounted for two scores, one running and another passing. He also led the team in rushing with 85 yards.
And, once again, there were questions about how he is being used and whether all the designed runs will eventually lead to an injury. In addition to being sacked six times and hit 13 times on passing plays, Griffin also rushed the ball a career-high 12 times. In all, he has 32 carries in three games.

One play in particular seemed troubling. On an option in the second quarter, Griffin was hit hard by defensive end Carlos Dunlap, causing Griffin to fumble. Griffin was slow to get off the turf.

Coach Mike Shanahan does not agree.

I think we had 20 designed runs, relative to the option, over the first two games and I think he was contacted four times, Shanahan said. Even though its a designed run, he doesnt always get contacted. Now, if he had those designed runs and he was getting hit quite a bit, obviously you couldnt do that.

Take it to the Banks: One of the few bright spots was the creativity the coaching staff used in deploying Brandon Banks on offense. The pint-sized wide receiver carried the ball three times for 29 yards, including a 21-yarder on an option pitch in the third quarter.

Hes very good at that and thats one of the reasons why we kept him, Shanahan said.

By the numbers: Through the first three games, the Redskins defense has yielded 1,288 total yards.

The 213 yards on the ground Alfred Morris had 78 to go along with Griffins total were the most in a single game since Shanahan took over in 2010.

The 99 points the offense has scored the past three games is the most during a three-game stretch since 2005.

Rob Jacksons interception in the end zone marked only the fifth time in NFL history there has been an interception returned for zero yards for a score.

Quotable: Griffin on getting knocked down early and often. Cincinnatis ends were trying to run at me and get quarterback hits on me. Some teams think if you hit the quarterback enough, theyll stop coming after you. I just want to let everybody know that will never happen.

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 24, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 41
—NFL Draft (4/26) 92
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 228

Fan questions—Surprise cuts, finding a playmaker

I put out a call for questions on social media and I got so many good ones that I’m splitting them up. Here are Facebook questions today and I’ll hit the best Twitter questions later this week.

 

Spencer Long could be gone but he is a free agent, so he could not be cut. As far as players under contract, a lot will depend on who they draft and sign in free agency. If they go heavy on the defensive line, Ziggy Hood and Terrell McClain could be in danger of being cut. An influx of defensive back might have Josh Holsey and Deshazor Everett headed out of town.

There won’t be any cuts that save a major amount of cap space. The players with the top 15 cap numbers per Over the Cap are all vital to the operation with the possible aforementioned exception of McClain.

The rub is that if you want an instant “bona fide” playmaker you are going to have to invest either a lot of cap dollars or high draft pick. They have invested cap dollars in Reed and, to a lesser extent, Thompson and a No. 1 draft pick in Reed. The plan needs to be to make sure that Reed stays healthy (as best you can) and hope you get 12-14 productive games out of him, get Thompson back in the swing of things, and continue to work with Doctson. Perhaps they can get a mid-round find like the Saints did with Kamara to add to the mix. But for the most part, the Redskins will have to make do with what they have.

The way things stand right now, I’m seeing Vea regarded as more of a late first-round pick than a player who should go in the top half of the round. That could change as the draft process goes on. I think the Redskins need to continue to strengthen their defensive line, and if Vea moves up to a high first-round grade or slides to a second, they should take a long look at him.

The player I’m keeping my eye on is Jordan Matthews, who spent three years with the Eagles before being traded to Buffalo. He had over 800 yards receiving in each of his three seasons in Philly before a knee injury hampered him last year. He’s 6-3 and still young (26 in Week 1). Sammy Watkins of the Rams is intriguing but he had just 593 receiving yards in 15 games in Sean McVay’s very productive offense. An older but less expensive option might be Eric Decker of the Titans, who had just 30 fewer receiving yards than Watkins and would be much a much less expensive acquisition albeit as a stopgap.

I see them addressing other needs in the first round. That could change if there is someone there who is just too good to pass up.

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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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. 

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