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Tuesday Take—Redskins NFL’s most impressive

Tuesday Take—Redskins NFL’s most impressive

The New York Giants are the best team in the NFL right now.

The Washington Redskins are the league's most impressive team.

A distinction without a difference?

Let me explain.

The Giants are 4-0, one of two undefeated teams in the league. One of those wins came against the Redskins. Going by the adage of that old Giants coach Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are.

However, it's fair to say that the Giants have yet to be tested. Other than the Redskins, their opponents are from among the dregs of the NFL. Their three wins since the opener have come against the Rams, one of the worst teams in recent memory, the Bengals, the poster children for NFL futility, and the Seahawks, who still are in contention in the NFC West despite their 1-3 record. That Seattle win represents the lone 2008 victory among New York's three victims since they beat Washington.

But it's not like the Giants handpicked their opponents. The NFL, not Tom Coughlin, set up their schedule. Their performance shouldn't be downgraded because of who they have faced. And on top of that they beat the Redskins, so I have no problem with anyone who puts the Giants atop the Redskins in any sort of power ranking. They only can beat the teams that line up in front of them.

While the Giants have been knocking down tomato cans, the Redskins have gone 4-1 against teams with a combined total of 15 wins. Not only is that a significantly stronger schedule than the Giants have faced, it's also tougher than the road that the 4-1 Cowboys (opponents have a combined 9 wins, four of those belonging to the Redskins) and 4-1 Panthers (11 opponent wins).

If you don't want to believe me about this, go see what Jeff Sagrin says on USA Today. According to his rankings, the Redskins have faced the toughest schedule, the Giants have faced the easiest. Sagrin rates the opponents of Dallas and Carolina at #21 and #20 respectively.

If you want to go to the AFC and put the 5-0 Titans in the conversation, that's fine but consider their 31st-ranked schedule first. The 4-1 Steelers? Sagrin has their schedule at #29.

What makes the Redskins record even more impressive is the fact that it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for them, going back to last January when Joe Gibbs retired unexpectedly. After the Giants game it was suggested that Gibbs' replacement as head coach, Jim Zorn, needed to go get some seasoning at someplace like DeMatha High and that he should take Jason Campbell with him.

Three of their best defensive players, Shawn Springs, Marcus Washington, and Jason Taylor, each has missed two games. All three of them were out in Philadelphia as the Redskins had to overcome a 14-point deficit after eight minutes of play. The Skins trailed New Orleans by nine in the fourth quarter before coming back to win.

To summarize the Redskins' resume—a 4-1 record against the toughest schedule in the NFL, overcoming injuries, turmoil, and some sizeable point deficits to get there. Nobody out there has done anything that impressive.

The title of the NFL's Most Impressive in early October and a five spot will get you a latte at Starbucks. There is a long way to go and I'll talk about the road ahead later this week.

But for right now, all things considered, that's pretty damn impressive.

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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!