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After a tumultuous week, Redskins get a desperately needed victory

After a tumultuous week, Redskins get a desperately needed victory

FEDEX FIELD -- They needed that.

After a tumultuous week where headphones and Hollywood dominated the conversation, the Redskins needed that win over the Carolina Panthers. 

It wasn't always pretty, and late in the game it seemed to be slipping away, but Jay Gruden's team showed determination in a spot where plenty expected them to fold. 

"I don't think anybody can enjoy success all the time. You're going to face adversity and we have to meet it," Gruden said following the 23-17 win. "It was great to see our guys bounce back."

The last time Redskins fans saw the burgundy and gold, the team had just been dominated by the Saints. The secondary played bad as Drew Brees went for more than 360 yards, and gave up multiple big chunk plays for touchdowns. The Monday night meltdown in New Orleans made for an uneasy week in Ashburn, and that was before a series of media reports challenged the team and cornerback Josh Norman. 

He was a big part of the errors in New Orleans and then got into a Twitter beef with Saints WR Michael Thomas. After that, former Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall suggested Norman was too focused on his post-NFL television career to play his best football.

Whether or not the "Hollywood" criticism bugged Norman, he responded in a major way with an interception and a forced fumble against Carolina. 

"This week was a little bit different, I'm not going to lie. People came from everywhere," he said. 

After the Saints game, Norman explained that he called a team meeting to clear the air with the secondary. Blown coverages could not continue if the Redskins were to get back to winning games, and Norman wanted to change things. Maybe the meeting helped. 

"Everything we do, we do as a unit, as a group. Regardless of what the outside noise, outside of us, we got to come together," Norman said. "And we got to come together now."

That formula worked well for Norman, and for much of the game, it worked for the Redskins.

The offense played well in the first half, though again struggled to score TDs in the second half. Through five games, the Redskins have just one second-half touchdown, and that came in the blowout Saints loss. 

Newton drove the Panthers down the field for the possible game-winning TD. The former MVP had four chances to win the game, but the defense held. Newton lost for the first time in his career against Washington, bringing his all-time record to 4-1. 

But all games aren't created equal. 

Sure, the Redskins snapped a five-game losing streak to Carolina. Washington hadn't beaten the Panthers since 2006. 

Bigger than that, however, Gruden's team showed the ability to fight back from a demoralizing loss. Too many Redskins teams of the past folded under the pressure of bad losses and outward noise. 

This Redskins team didn't.

"We've been tested, and you have to respond," Redskins WR Paul Richardson said after the game.

The high-priced free agent addition from this past offseason, Richardson played well against Carolina, hauling in a first-half touchdown. He also understands the enormity of the victory.

"I think even in losing a game like we did last week, we were tested as men to bounce back, to lock in, to focus and make this game important. And we did that."

There is plenty to critique and question from the Redskins win. The second-half offensive struggles are significant, and QB Alex Smith again did not make enough plays down the field. 

The Redskins got the win though, and sometimes getting the win is enough.

Remember, they needed that.

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With his rookie contract in rearview mirror, what's next for Redskins WR Jamison Crowder?

With his rookie contract in rearview mirror, what's next for Redskins WR Jamison Crowder?

ASHBURN — By now it's well-documented that the Washington Redskins' season did not go as planned, and you can say the same for fourth-year wide receiver Jamison Crowder.

Crowder, 25, was limited to just nine games due to a lingering ankle injury for most of the season, and then a separate late-December wrist injury. He finished the year with 29 catches for 388 yards, well off his career norms.

The Redskins have received plenty of production from Crowder (221 catches, 2,628 yards, 14 touchdowns) at a discounted price during his first few years in the NFL. That is about to change.

“I’m comfortable here,” Crowder said. “Obviously, I have a really high interest level in coming back. It’s going to be in discussion with my agent. There hasn’t really been much discussion as far as right now.”

Washington's 2015 fourth-round pick raced out of the gate in his NFL career setting a Redskins rookie record for receptions (59). Barring a contract extension in the next two months, Crowder will be free to sign with any team in March and there is no guarantee that he will return.

That would leave the Redskins even more desperate for proven options at wide receiver, arguably the most disappointing position on the team during a second straight 7-9 season.

Josh Doctson led Washington receivers with 44 receptions, the lowest total since 1998 when Michael Westbrook had a team-high 44 among the pack. Given that uncertainty at receiver, where Paul Richardson also missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, Crowder’s teammates want him back.

“Got to pay him,” running back Chris Thompson said. “I mean – that’s the business side of it. I really, really, really do hope that we can get him back. He’s been a key part of this offense since he’s been here. I’m excited for him. He’s really gonna help himself be in a better situation for him and his family and his kids and his future. He’s made a good resume for himself that he can make himself some really good money. I hope that it’s here.”

Crowder missed those seven games with a right ankle injury sustained in a Week 5 loss to the New Orleans Saints. He spent time in a walking boot. After three consecutive years of 59 catches or more, Crowder dropped to 29 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns.

“You want to keep the nucleus of the team together at all costs,” Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams said. “But it’s the NFL and it’s always easier said than done. I try not to get into the whole free agency deal because those guys got to make business decisions for them and their families.”

The Redskins could decide that slot receiver Trey Quinn, a seventh-round draft pick in 2018, could fill Crowder’s production at a much cheaper price and allow them to upgrade the position through the draft or free agency. But that will come at a risk.

Crowder has proven to be one of the league’s better slot receivers when healthy. Quinn was on IR twice with a high-ankle sprain as a rookie. Acknowledging that injuries to quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colt McCoy hurt the overall production of the group, can the Redskins really afford to let more talent leave the building at wide receiver?

Having completed the final year of his rookie contract, Crowder admitted the uncertainty of his future feels a little different.

"Yeah, I guess you could say it's a little weird. I just don't know, you know, what's going to happen right now. I just have to kind of wait and see what's going on."

Despite the unpredictable nature of Crowder's situation, he didn't mince his words on where his hopes lie going forward.

"I have a really high-interest level in coming back."

Brian McNally contributed to this story.

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Greg Manusky is back, but what about the rest of the Redskins coaching staff?

Greg Manusky is back, but what about the rest of the Redskins coaching staff?

The Redskins made some very public overtures to other defensive coordinator candidates, but on Wednesday news emerged that incumbent Greg Manusky would retain the job

That settles the biggest potential change in the Redskins coaching staff, as head coach Jay Gruden got word he would stay in his role a few weeks back

Washington's defensive performance didn't mandate that Manusky must go. In fact, this year's group played some of the best defense of any Redskins group for a while, at least early on. Things fell apart for the defense in the second half of the year, though. 

What is known is that Gruden and Manusky are back for 2019. What isn't will be what other changes happen. 

The Redskins already need a new special teams coordinator after Ben Kotwica took the same job with the Atlanta Falcons. That's one big hole. It could be filled by assistant special teams coach Bret Munsey, and some buzz has grown about Seahawks assistant special teams coach Larry Izzo as well. 

Elsewhere on the staff, there was speculation defensive backs coach Torrian Gray would be let go, but that hasn't happened. Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti got permission to speak with the Packers about the same job, Grant Paulsen reported

Two of the most experienced coaches on the staff might bring the biggest questions, as reports have shown that Bill Callahan and Jim Tomsula might be on their way out from Redskins Park. 

Losing either coach would be a major blow. Callahan is an intense presence around the facility and is disciplined in his approach to offensive line play. The Redskins run game could use some work though, and Callahan has deep connections with Zac Taylor, who's expected to be the Bengals next head coach. 

Tomsula might be the most beloved coach on the staff.

The Redskins' young defensive linemen speak glowingly of 'Jim Tom' and would hate to lose their leader. At the same time, the group recognizes Tomsula has been away from his family and might want to get closer to them in Florida. Manusky and Tomsula are good friends, and the decision to keep the defensive coordinator could help keep the defensive line coach. 

Stay tuned.

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