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As Redskins offense continues to struggle, Jay Gruden reveals 'the curse'

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As Redskins offense continues to struggle, Jay Gruden reveals 'the curse'

The Redskins average fewer than 20 points-per-game. The Redskins rank 27th in the NFL in yards-per-game. The stats are bad for the Washington offense, and watching the games, it makes sense. 

For a Jay Gruden team, it's odd that the Redskins can't move the ball. Even when Alex Smith was healthy at quarterback, the offense still struggled. 

Watching the games all season, the offense has often been ugly. On Wednesday, Gruden revealed what he believes to be the root cause for the problems. 

"The big thing is we have way, way too many negative runs. Negative runs have been the death, that and penalties, both of those two things have been the curse of this offense and that kills our drives, that kills our momentum, that kills our ability to call plays, keeping everything open in the playbook," Gruden said. 

The coach isn't wrong. 

The Redskins have 24 false start penalties in 13 games, 2nd in the NFL. The Redskins have 27 offensive holding penalties, the most in the NFL. 

Penalties have been a persistent problem all season, as have the negative runs. 

Using data from the NFL, the Redskins have 19 negative rushes when they run to the right. That's tied for the worst in the league. The Redskins have another 26 negative runs to the center or left of the offensive line. 

Teams can't win when they don't run the football, and the Redskins can't run the football with their current penalty problems and negative plays. 

"When you have second and 18, and third and 15, your playbook goes down," Gruden said. "When you're first and 10, second and six and third and two, everything is open and we haven’t had that luxury."

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Bruce Allen addresses Alex Smith's recovery and the Redskins' future at quarterback

Bruce Allen addresses Alex Smith's recovery and the Redskins' future at quarterback

Alex Smith is "well on his way to a recovery," Bruce Allen told reporters at the Senior Bowl. When that recovery ultimately happens, though, remains unclear.

"We'll see where it goes," Allen said in his first session with the media in quite some time. "We're optimistic. If anyone can come back, it's Alex."

"I appreciate the love and the care, that all of our fans have reached out to him," he added. "It's a tough thing for him and his family, but all the love and the care have helped him quite a bit."

Smith, who's a little more than two months past his devastating leg injury, was seen at Monday's Wizards game at Capital One Arena. He also hung out in the Wizards' locker room, using crutches to get around. He was wearing an external fixator on his right leg.

The fact that Smith was able to be out in public was encouraging from a human perspective. From a football perspective, however, it brought about additional concern regarding his future in the NFL.

But that doubt isn't forcing the 'Skins to make acquiring a signal caller a primary task in the coming months, according to Allen.

"We prioritize every position on the team and we'll see what we get in free agency and the draft," the team president said. "We don't have to make that decision right now."

Colt McCoy is one in-house option for the Burgundy and Gold, and he'll be healthy enough to participate in the offseason programs, per Allen. McCoy broke his leg a few weeks after Smith, but his break was much less severe.

In looking back on the trade to get Smith from the Chiefs last January, Allen referred to it as a "no-brainer" and recalled that all decision makers were "unanimous" in their interest in Smith. 

Yet, while it's wholly unfair to criticize the trade now considering how unexpected last season's events were, Smith's health has put the Redskins in a very difficult spot.

The main thing off the field, of course, is hoping and ensuring that he's able to live his life how he wants to. 

On the field, meanwhile, the Redskins need to do something under center. Allen can say that every position is of equal priority, but the simple truth is that this franchise's every step will be tied to Smith's injury as well as finding a new option as long as he's sidelined.

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As the NFL heads to the Senior Bowl, what do Redskins need most?

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As the NFL heads to the Senior Bowl, what do Redskins need most?

It's a bit of a weird annual tradition. Almost the entire NFL world descends upon Mobile, Alabama, a small city on the Gulf Coast far away from the big metropolises most teams call home. 

The reason? The Senior Bowl, a showcase of much of the best talent getting ready for the upcoming NFL Draft. 

Like the name suggests, underclassmen can't play in the Senior Bowl, and that means some of the most elite players that will hear their names called in the first round won't be in Mobile. But while much NFL Draft focuses on the first round, the best teams are built by day two and day three draft picks.

Mobile is the best place to find them.

The Redskins' staff heads to Alabama with many more questions than answers. The team has a major need at quarterback and all over the defense. The skill positions could use a boost too. 

Starting with the QBs, there is a lot to watch in Mobile.

Duke's Daniel Jones, West Virginia's Will Grier and Missouri's Drew Lock are probably the headliner's of the cast in Mobile, but don't count out Washington State's Gardner Minshew II. Mark Rypien's nephew, Brett Rypien, won't play in Mobile, but another intriguing name: University of Buffalo's Tyree Jackson. He's 6-foot-7 and raw, but has a cannon of an arm. 

The two biggest QB names - Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray - won't be in Mobile, but that doesn't mean all eyes won't be on the passers. The Redskins need to bring in a young signal caller, and the Senior Bowl has a deep pool to scout. 

Offensively, the team also needs to add interior offensive line players and wideouts. 

On the line, there are guys to like. Wisconsin's Michael Dieter, Oklahoma's Dru Samia and Kansas State's Dalton Risner all project as guards in the NFL. Dieter and Risner are known for a nasty streak, the same thing that got said about Brandon Scherff coming out of Iowa. Samia has great feet for a man his size.

Washington needs to address their long running weakness at left guard, and this should be the draft for that.

At wide receiver, the Redskins could lose Jamison Crowder to free agency. Beyond Crowder, the team simply isn't getting enough production on the edges.

One NFC scout talked about Missouri's Emmanuel Hal as a player with a big opportunity to impress this weekend. Two lesser known prospects to watch: UMass WR Andy Isabella, who has 4.3 speed and could play the slot, and UC Davis WR Keelan Doss, who put up huge numbers the last two seasons. West Virginia's David Sills is another wideout with video game numbers on the college level that will be in Mobile. 

Defensively, the Redskins need help on each level.

Starting up front, Washington likely needs to add another pass rusher and every football team in the universe always needs to add defensive line depth. The Redskins could lose Preston Smith in free agency, and need more speed opposite Ryan Kerrigan on the edge. 

A player to watch: Wyoming OLB Carl Granderson. At 6-foot-5 and 261 lbs, he has all the physical tools to be a menace on the outside. One Midwest scout explained that with Granderson, he could have a tremendous week of practice for NFL scouts, assuming he's locked in and focused.

A lot of buzz centers around Mississippi State's Montez Sweat, a probable first-round pick. He was a star in Starkville. 

Smaller college players like Old Dominion's Oshane Ximines and Louisiana Tech's Jaylon Ferguson produced significant sack totals, enough to get them invited to Mobile and compete with the Power 5 school players. This is there opportunity to prove they belong, much like UTSA's Marcus Davenport did last season when the Saints drafted him 14th overall. 

Washington also needs help on the back end.

Their safety situation has significant holes as the team released DJ Swearinger before the final game of the 2018 season and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is set for free agency. 

Two local players of note: Virginia's Juan Thornhill and Maryland's Darnell Savage. Thornhill had six interceptions as a senior and Savage is one of the bigger hitters in the Big Ten. Both need to improve their tackling.

Another semi-local name to watch: Nasir Adderley of Delaware. The young man flies to the football and never stops running. Want a high motor potential special team stud? Adderly could be that guy. 

Much will be learned during the week in Mobile.

The Redskins will send a full cast to scope out the talent and talk with coaches and other scouts. Teams will interview the players, and figure out which targets they want to go deeper on over the coming months of the draft process. The NFL Scouting Combine is only about a month away, and plenty of college pro days after that. 

For Washington, the first steps toward an improved season in 2019 begins this week. 

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