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The Offseason Begins

The Offseason Begins

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

This week’s Tuesday Take was essentially going to write itself. All I would have to do is refer back to last week’s edition, the part where I wrote about the Redskins’ training camp workload vs. that of the Falcons. After the Redskins’ first two drives, both crisply executed touchdown marches, it was obvious that Atlanta was a dead football team walking. Jim Mora’s brutal camp in August had left them with nothing in the tank in December. And while the Redskins’ relatively easy training camp regime had probably cost them the season since they weren’t ready to play when the season started they were ready to get on a patented Joe Gibbs December roll. In addition to being able to bang out this piece with my eyes closed an article breaking down the Redskins’ playoff possibilities was in the offing.

But then they had to play the last 45 minutes of the game.

While the Redskins didn’t seem to weaken--especially Ladell Betts, who kept on ripping off 12 yard runs--the Falcons got their legs under them and established control. They started holding on to Michael Vick’s passes, Vick started scrambling and they climbed back into the game. Jason Campbell did a couple of things that made him look like a quarterback playing in his third NFL game. Once the Redskins got behind they never got a sense of urgency to try to rally. Their offense in the last five minutes of the game seemed to be confused. On several occasions they wasted time decided whether or not they needed to huddle up before huddling, wasting precious seconds.

When Jason Campbell’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 26 seconds left, ending any chance at a miracle finish, the Redskins’ offseason officially began. While it’s true that an 8-8 NFC team probably will make the playoffs, perhaps even two of them, the Redskins aren’t going to finish at 8-8. They haven’t demonstrated the ability to string together more than five quarters of solid football all year long; it’s sheer fantasy to think that they could suddenly get hot for 16 quarters, run the table, and get to .500.

There will be plenty of time to break down what the Redskins should do this offseason in the coming weeks. At first glance, however, I think that they need to resist the urge to make massive changes. Their salary cap situation will prevent them from doing much in the free agent market, which is a good thing. The team needs some stability. They made relatively few changes after the 2004 season and they went 10-6 the next year.

Jason Campbell spending seven games plus a full offseason as the team’s #1 quarterback will do a world of good for the offense. So will spending a second offseason absorbing and adjusting to Al Saunders’ offense. The players and the organization seriously underestimated the difficulty of that task this year. Let’s not forget having a healthy Clinton Portis back in the lineup in addition to all of that.

One thing that they can do right now is play Rocky McIntosh at weakside linebacker. It seems that Warrick Holdman is to Gregg Williams what Mark Brunell is to Joe Gibbs. Williams can defend Holdman’s play all he wants but the fact is that the Redskins invested a pair of second-round picks in McIntosh and they have to see what they have in him.

But there is no need to make changes for the sake of making changes. Instability has been the hallmark of the Redskins organization since 1999. What we’re seeing now is largely the result of that continuous upheaval. Some adjustments and refinements are necessary, but the core of the team, both in terms of players and coaches, needs to remain intact.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. It makes the perfect stocking stuffer for the Redskins fans on your shopping list. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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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. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!