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RG3: 'Too many mistakes'

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RG3: 'Too many mistakes'

The play of the Redskins and quarterback Robert Griffin III against the Lions was improved from the previous two games. The team was more competitive. There were some signs of hope.

There was, however no victory.

Unlike the previous two games, blowout losses to the Eagles and Packers, the Redskins were in the game at halftime and well into the fourth quarter. Griffin got into rhythm early, made plays with his arms and with his feet and started to resemble the RG3 who won was the rookie of the year in 2012.

Still, Detroit became the first Lions team to come out of Washington with a win. They were 0-21 there before today, a skid that went all the way back to 1939.

“We had too many mistakes a crucial times,” said Griffin. “Of course, the fumble, the interception early in the game.”

Both of the turnovers by Griffin came in Lions territory. The Redskins trailed 14-7 in the second quarter when they mounted a drive from their own 20. On first down from the Detroit 20, Griffin was chased out of the pocket by the Lions’ Willie Young. The defensive end had Griffin’s jersey and was pulling him down when the quarterback fired a pass in the direction of Pierre Garçon, who was tightroping the sideline. But cornerback Chris Houston was right there and he picked off the desperation throw.

“I thought I saw Pierre coming right back towards me on the sideline,” said Griffin. “Then when I watched it on the big screen he had actually stepped out of bounds and the corner behind him kept coming downhill. Another play, you make the play it's a great play, you don't make the play and it's a bad play. And it was a bad play.”

Perhaps the wiser play would have been to throw the ball away or take the sack but instead the drive was killed.

It was Griffin’s fourth interception of the season. All of last year he threw only five.

The lost fumble was perhaps more exasperating. With the game tied at 17 early in the fourth quarter Griffin took off upfield. After a gain of 21 he saw the safeties coming and dove headfirst to the ground. The ball came out after he hit the ground but before anyone contacted him. The Lions recovered the loose ball.

If a quarterback slides feet first, he is down as soon as he hits the ground. But a headfirst slide keeps the play alive until contact is made.

"Knee down, elbow down, that’s the rule. I was trying to declare myself down, avoid the big hit,” said Griffin. “It's the rule. It can be a sucky rule but it's still the NFL rule.”

The Lions answered with a field goal to take a 20-17 lead and there was one more costly miscue by Griffin. After what could have been the play that saved the game, a 57-yard bomb to Aldrick Robinson that was originally called a touchdown before being overturned on replay, Griffin mishandled a snap. He scrambled for it and recovered but the play lost 10 yards. That made it third and 20 and the Redskins punted. Detroit drove 75 yards for the clinching touchdown.

“The one thing you want to make sure doesn't happen in those situations is a negative play,” said Griffin. “And we had a negative play right afterwards.”

Griffin finished the day 32 of 50 passing for 326 yards with no touchdowns and the one interception. It was his third straight game with over 300 yards passing. Given their 0-3 record that is obviously not a formula for success.

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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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