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RG3 happy to take late hit flags

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RG3 happy to take late hit flags

Robert Griffin III rushed for 77 yards against the Cowboys after having gained 72 yards on the ground in the Washington Redskins’ first four games. But, in reality, the Redskins got over 100 yards out of Griffin’s legs last Sunday.

That is because the Cowboys were hit with 15-yard penalties for hitting Griffin when he was out of bounds at the end of two of his runs. The Redskins ended up scoring on both of the drives where Dallas was charged with the late-hit infractions.

The first one took place on the Redskins’ opening drive of the second half. On third and five at his own 36, Griffin dropped back to pass from shotgun formation with an empty backfield on third and five at his own 36. The Cowboys were in man coverage and Griffin quickly spotted wide-open space to his right. He took off down the field, angling towards the sideline. Dallas safety Barry Church charged towards Griffin as he headed out of bounds. Griffin tried to shake him with a quick stutter step a few yards from the sideline but the defender stayed focused on his target. Church left his feet and contacted Griffin just as he scampered out of bounds. That is going to draw a penalty flag almost every time.

It wasn’t much of a hit and Griffin was happy to take the penalty.

“I gave him a little move there before I went out of bounds, but I was clearly out of bounds,” Griffin said on Wednesday. “He hit me and it does suck, but some guys are going to take those penalties. It’s hard to walk that line and you’ve always got to try to protect yourself.”

The 15 yards tacked on to Griffin’s 26-yard run set the Redskins up at the Dallas 23. They couldn’t keep the drive going but they did get a 33-yard Kai Forbath field goal out of it.

The other one came near the end of the third quarter. On second and 10 from the Washington 29, the Redskins were in a pistol formation. Griffin pulled the ball out of Alfred Morris’ belly and took off to the left. Linebacker Bruce Carter eluded a block and had a bead on Griffin in the backfield but the quarterback kept him at bay with a classic stiff arm. Griffin skirted the sideline until he got just past the first down marker. After Griffin slipped out of bounds, Church, who was engaged with tight end Logan Paulsen, took a swipe at the quarterback that caught his facemask. A yellow flag flew again.

The 11-yard run and 15-yard penalty gave the Redskins a first down at the Dallas 45. On the next play, Alfred Morris broke loose for a 45-yard touchdown run.

“The sideline is your friend and you can get out of bounds at the sideline, but a lot of defensive players, they just really don’t care,” said Griffin. “Sometimes they’re going to still get that hit on you.”

Sometimes defenders are smart enough to avoid the flag. Midway through the fourth quarter of their game against the Lions, Griffin scrambled to the left and as he approached the sideline he slowed up as Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis ran to him. Griffin said that he was trying to bait Mathis into a penalty but the cornerback was having nothing of it. He stopped and raised his hands in the universal football sign of innocence.

“He said, ‘I’m not taking that penalty, Griff,’ and I said, ‘I got you, man,’” said Griffin.

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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. Thek 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 trade 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 a 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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