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So what exactly is Jay Gruden saying about Kirk Cousins?

So what exactly is Jay Gruden saying about Kirk Cousins?

The debate ended last season. No longer should rational, sane purveyors of professional football question if Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback. He is. 

The question about how good, however, is still very much valid. And it seems to be a question even Redskins coach Jay Gruden doesn't have the answer to.

"He’s got the ball to make the decisions. We just call the plays and try to get him progression reads and man-to-man take your shots with the matchups that you like," Gruden said Thursday. "But ultimately he is the one that is going to make the decisions of what he feels good about making throws."

Gruden's comments come after an interview in Sports Illustrated in which Cousins said that if he played QB like his coach wants, he would throw 20 interceptions per year. Told the quote, Gruden quipped, "He'd throw 60 touchdowns too." (Watch the video above so you can hear the remark yourself).

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That's the thing with Cousins.

He's smart and methodical, highly efficient and capable as a passer. But he does seem to be wary of going after big plays that aren't completely wide open. 

"I think there is going to be a point in time where he is going to have to give some receivers some chances that maybe look a little covered, but give them a chance to uncover or give them a chance to make a play," the coach said. "That’s probably the one area that we can force the issue on a little bit to give these receivers chances down the field."

Watching Redskins games, it certainly seems Cousins is hesitant to take big shots, especially if a wideout is covered. That's not just the most recent loss to the Cowboys either, which was played in a downpour for much of the second half. Washington's passer seems content in taking chunk yardage on underneath and shorter throws, getting his team down the field over time. 

This year too, his receivers have not helped him too much.

Terrelle Pryor has not produced on the level he or fans expected, and 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson remains stalled, though perhaps ready for an explosion. 

Much of the Cousins conversation seems to be a Catch 22 debate. Might Cousins go downfield more if his wideouts made plays? Or might his wideouts make plays if Cousins goes downfield more? What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Even weirder, the stats don't really support the debate.

Cousins ranks 5th in the NFL in yards-per-pass-attempt, behind only MVP candidates like Alex Smith, Tom Brady, Carson Wentz and the injured Deshaun Watson. Looking at net-yards-per-pass-attempt, Cousins' numbers dip to 10th in the NFL. 

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Simple truth: Cousins completes a lot of passes, so his stats will usually look good. And for anybody wondering, that's a good thing.

"When the ball is complete, I never criticize," Gruden said. "We just always talk about other options possible for the next time we call it. That’s all, but he is doing good."

Watch enough game film of the Redskins, and yes, Cousins is missing chances down the field. It happens with most QBs in the NFL, but maybe it happens with Cousins a little bit more. 

Can it change? Sure. Will it? Time will tell. 

The debate if Cousins belongs as an NFL starting quarterback is over. He very obviously does. 

The debate if Cousins can lead a team to big wins, and evolve into a top talent in the league? That continues. 

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Why the Redskins sat Montae Nicholson and whether it's time HaHa Clinton-Dix loses some workload

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USA Today Sports

Why the Redskins sat Montae Nicholson and whether it's time HaHa Clinton-Dix loses some workload

The Redskins defense clicked earlier this season when the team seemed playoff-bound. This same group with scant personnel changes then started getting clocked starting with a Week 9 loss against the Falcons.

Everyone began wondering why. 

The most notable switch, HaHa Clinton-Dix replacing Montae Nicholson at safety, received additional scrutiny in the loss against the Giants on Sunday. 

Through seven games, Washington won five of seven games and allowed 322 yards per game. The Redskins have since lost five of six including four in a row while surrendering an average of 426 yards. The primary struggles exist on the ground, though the Redskins allowed seven touchdown passes over the last three games.

The start of the current six-game stretch coincided with the addition of Clinton-Dix. Washington traded a 2019 fourth-round pick to Green Bay on Oct. 30 for the one-time Pro Bowl safety. Clinton-Dix, 25, played 100 percent of the defensive snaps over the last five games. Despite the heavy workload, an adjustment period remains.

"I think he's finding his way, really,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said this week of Clinton-Dix.

His arrival sent Nicholson to the bench. Last May Gruden praised the 2017 fourth-round selection turned starter during his rookie season. “Montae I think is really an important piece,” Gruden said at the NFL Combine. “Very similar to the way Jordan Reed is on [offense], Montae is on defense.”

After playing all but 440 of 445 defensive snaps during the initial seven games this season, the second-year safety played on 26 snaps after Clinton-Dix’s arrival. He hasn’t taken the field defensively for the last three games.

NBC Sports Washington sought an explanation for the safety swap from NFL analytics website Pro Football Focus.

“HaHa has actually been a reliable tackler when he actually makes contact,” PFF analyst Trey Cunningham said via email. “He's saved several [touchdowns] with tackles where others were beat. Of course, the most notable gaffes for him have come when he's taken bad angles as the last line of defense and not even been able to attempt a tackle."

Cunningham cited both Amari Cooper's long catch-and-runs touchdowns in the Cowboys Week 12 win over the Redskins and Giants running back Saquon Barkley's 78 yard TD run last week as examples. Clinton-Dix was blocked during two touchdowns against Atlanta and knocked down on Darren Sproles’ touchdown run in Week 13 against the Eagles, according to Cunningham. 

Tackling concerns and "average" speed were considered issues during Clinton-Dix's time with the Packers, though PFF rated him among the top safeties in coverage at the time of the trade.

Yet Cunningham noted Clinton-Dix provided pop with a forced fumble against Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins. He also reasons why the Redskins may have felt compelled to seek safety help in the first place.

“Aside from health concerns with Montae Nicholson, his biggest flaw when he was starting was missed tackles - nine in the first four games including an astonishing five in the (win over the) Packers,” Cunningham said. “His primary coverage numbers weren't great either. Allowed 13 of 17 targets to be complete for 192 yards and a TD.”

Nicholson’s struggles continued after Clinton-Dix’s arrival. Cunningham recalled the safety taking a bad angle as the last line of defense on Falcons’ receiver Calvin Ridley's long catch-and-run touchdown in Week 9 among his errors.

While Clinton-Dix hasn’t wowed, perhaps the Redskins appreciate him limiting the mistakes.

“I would personally say Clinton-Dix has been an upgrade on Nicholson,” Cunningham said, “but that upgrade didn't come with any game-changing plays.”

Gruden hinted this week at a possible Nicholson return especially as the regular season winds down. Clinton-Dix enters free agency in 2019.

"Yeah, we have to look at Montae again,” Gruden said. “I think nobody gave up on Montae, we traded for a good player, a Pro-Bowl type player in HaHa and we wanted to give him every opportunity to come in and play. It wasn’t that we were down on Montae at all, we just needed depth at that position, got him in here and we liked what we saw, so we put him out there early.

“But, Montae does have a chance to play in the next three weeks quite a bit if we choose to that route because he is a good player with great speed."

The Redskins have perhaps three more weeks to determine how good Nicholson is or enter the offseason wondering if a new safety plan must emerge.

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It's not just Alex Smith - Derrius Guice also dealt with post-surgery infection

It's not just Alex Smith - Derrius Guice also dealt with post-surgery infection

During the last month, the average Redskin fan learned more about post-surgery infections than most football fans ever considered. 

The news surrounding Alex Smith's recovery from a broken leg has been upsetting, particularly that Smith has dealt with a serious infection and had to undergo multiple procedures to clean up the wound. Smith's situation was unique, he broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg, and the fracture wasn't clean

Still, alarming news emerged this week that Smith was not the only Redskins player to deal with post-surgery infection. 

Rookie Derrius Guice injured his knee in the preseason, ending his season and ruining a full offseason of momentum. Before he ever played a game, Guice became a fan favorite with his engaging enthusiasm. Then, he injured his knee in the preseason and was lost for the year. 

For many players, surgery is tough, but then rehab begins. 

For Guice - like Smith - that wasn't the case.

After his knee surgery, Guice suffered an infection that lasted two months and required three additional procedures, The Washington Post reported. That required seven weeks of antibiotics which included significant use of IVs, swelling, flu-like symptoms and having his knee drained. 

The experience forced Guice to stay in Louisiana for months, closer to Dr. James Andrews office in Gulf Breeze, Florida, and away from his Redskins teammates in Ashburn. 

Now, finally, Guice is feeling better and expects to be all the way back for offseason work in 2019. That's great news for the Redskins.

Guice was considered to be the focal point of the Washington offense before the knee injury in the preseason, and he's a running back with immense potential. 

On some level, however, it's quite alarming that both Smith and Guice suffered infections after major injuries. 

Smith's injury was grotesque enough that there were immediate worries of infection. Even with the advanced concern, the infection still came. 

Guice's injury was severe, but not like Smith. And still, the infection came. 

It would take a forensic medical team to compare the situations and figure out if there is something the Redskins need to address. That won't happen on this page. 

At the same time, however, what were the odds back in training camp that the Redskins' then starting quarterback and running back would not only need surgery on their leg, but both would suffer from post-op infection? 

Like many things with the Redskins' 2018 season, there seem to be more questions than answers. The good news, Guice should be back for 2019. As of now, the same can't be said for Smith. 

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