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With RG3 staying, pressure is on Cousins to perform

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With RG3 staying, pressure is on Cousins to perform

The big news Saturday morning was the Redskins’ decision to keep Robert Griffin III on the 53-man roster. 

The big unknown, though, is what effect, if any, the move is going to have on Kirk Cousins, who was installed as the team’s starter by Coach Jay Gruden last week.

Cousins is Gruden’s guy for now, but it’s possible he’ll struggle to completely emerge from Griffin’s shadow. Obviously, Griffin still has support from powerful people within the organization, hence the decision to keep him.

MORE REDSKINS: TANDLER'S PROS & CONS TO KEEPING RG3 

According to NFL.com, Griffin is expected to be listed second on the Redskins’ depth chart this season behind Cousins and ahead of Colt McCoy. The report adds that McCoy will serve as the backup in Week 1 due to concerns about Griffin’s health, though there could be a change in that order after the Miami game.

If that change in order does happen, and Griffin suits up on gamedays as Cousins’ backup this season, the dynamic instantly changes. McCoy is a journeyman. Griffin is a former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall pick.  

Could Griffin's presence as the No. 2 create a distraction for Cousins? Could it cause the newly anointed starter peer over his shoulder following an interception or stalled drive? Will FedEx Field erupt into chants of “RG3!” if things go poorly for Cousins?

They're all valid questions because it’s not like Cousins has a long and successful track record. Cousins, like Griffin, is still trying to establish himself four years into his NFL career. The last time we saw Cousins in a game that mattered, in fact, was against Tennessee last October. He finished that afternoon on the bench, pulled at halftime by Gruden when he fired another risky pass after being intercepted on a previous drive.

One criticism of Cousins has been his ability to respond to adversity and perform under pressure. And with Griffin in uniform and a snap away from playing, there is going to be pressure.

“You know, it could be,” Gruden acknowledged recently, asked if Griffin's presence might be an issue for Cousins. “But I think Kirk has been here long enough and everyone understands the dynamic that Robert brings. He’s a high profile player and deservedly so. He’s done a lot of great things in his career. But moving forward, when you’re the starting quarterback, it’s your job to keep that job and you can’t let outside noise influence you as a football player.” 

“So,” Gruden continued, “I think Kirk is strong enough to handle it and I know if there’s an incompletion or interception, there could be some chatter about, ‘Put Robert in,’ or what have you. But we’re not worried about that.”

There’s really only one way to prevent that from becoming a real concern—and that’s to make McCoy the back up on Sundays. Because if you’ve spent any time at all in Washington, then you already know that most popular player on the Redskins’ roster is often the No. 2 quarterback.

And you can multiply that popularity by 10 if that backup is Robert Griffin III.

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

MORE: CAN YOU GUESS THESE REDSKINS BASED ON THEIR COMBINE NUMBERS?

Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

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Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 23, 19 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The overrated Redskin moments of 2017

Originally published 12/30/17

Sometimes in the NFL, something happens that grabs headlines and appears to be a momentous event that has ripple effects that will last all season and perhaps beyond. Other times something that is greeted with a yawn by fans and the media turns out to be something with lasting impact. Yesterday we looked at three events that were underrated at the time they happened. Here, in no particular order, are three overrated events from 2017.

Beating the Raiders—At the time, the Raiders were 2-0 and they still had the status of being one of the favorites to get to the Super Bowl. The Redskins whipped them 27-10 and the prevailing view was that the Redskins were on their way to a special year. But that loss started a four-game losing streak for the Raiders. They are currently riding a three-game skid and at 6-9 they are contenders for a top-10 draft pick, not for the Super Bowl. The win became less impressive for the Redskins as the year went on.

Signing Terrelle Pryor—There was plenty of excitement when the Redskins signed the Browns wide receiver, who had 1,000 receiving yards catching passes from a sub-mediocre group of quarterbacks in Cleveland. Imagine what he could do with a quality QB and a good offense around him. The hype grew when a fan captured him making this catch in training camp:

But the production was not there. In nine games before going on injured reserve with an ankle injury, Pryor caught 20 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.

Su’a Cravens departure—There was a lot of concern about issues both on and off the field when Cravens abruptly let it be known to teammates that he intended to retire just after the Redskins finalized their 53-man roster on September 2. All offseason Cravens’ name had been written at the top of the depth chart at strong safety in Sharpie. When he walked away and was put on the Exempt/Left Squad list (and eventually on the Reserve/Left Squad list, ending his season), there was plenty of speculation about whether the organization botched the situation and, of more immediate importance, what would happen at safety without Cravens. We’re still not sure about what happened but Montae Nicholson and Deshazor Everett did a respectable job at safety.

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 6
—NFL Draft (4/26) 62
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 198