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After a solid draft, is the dysfunction at Redskins Park a thing of the past?

After a solid draft, is the dysfunction at Redskins Park a thing of the past?

If you look around the internet you see many analysts praising the Redskins’ draft. I would have been ecstatic if one of my high school report cards came back like the draft grades the Redskins have received.

SB Nation and USA Today both gave them an A-minus. Rob Rang of CBS Sports wasn’t quite as impressed but you should be able to win games with players from a B-graded draft. I went with a B-plus. There may have been a contrarian or two out there giving them a C but most of the reviews were positive.

Hit the rewind button to about eight weeks ago, to March 9. After about a week of speculation, Scot McCloughan was fired as the team’s general manager. The organization was being called a dysfunctional clown show and a GIF of a dumpster fire was a common attachment to tweets about the team.

But life went on at Redskins Park. They checked a lot of boxes in free agency, signing two defensive linemen, a safety, linebacker Zach Brown, and receiver Terrelle Pryor. The building of the defense continued during the draft with the acquisitions of DL Jonathan Allen, OLB Ryan Anderson, and CB Fabian Moreau. The contracts for the free agent acquisitions were reasonable and they got solid value for most of these draft picks.

RELATED: Grading the Redskins 2017 draft

There was nothing dysfunctional about the process. We will see how things work out on the field, which is what really matters. But taking an objective look at it, it appears to be a carefully thought out and well-executed offseason personnel plan.

Sometime in the next few weeks the Redskins will name a new general manager. Perhaps it will be Scott Campbell, the current director of college scouting who has been working in the personnel side of the NFL for 30 years, including 16 years with the Redskins. It could be Doug Williams, who has been involved in both coaching and personnel in the 30 years since he was a Super Bowl hero for the Redskins.

Perhaps hiring from within is not ideal. While Campbell and Williams are both sharp and good at their jobs, it isn’t like either name comes up when another team is looking to interview GM candidates. The Redskins may be better served by casting a wider net in their general manager search.

Still, if the search turns out as expected, Campbell or Williams would be an acceptable general manager. The hiring of either would not scream dysfunction, just that they could do better.

So, has the dumpster fire been put out? While the correct answer is yes, there is no assurance that (to mix in another metaphor here) the train will stay on the tracks.

MORE REDSKINS: Five Redskins who could lose their jobs to draft picks 

We’ve see this all before. Marty Schottenheimer had a strong finish in 2001 only to be fired after one season on the job. Joe Gibbs had a bumpy four-year second run that ended abruptly with his second retirement. Mike Shanahan was in the process of trying to patiently assemble a winning program until the RG3 trade blew things up. There has been some semblance of stability with Jay Gruden entering his fourth year as coach but that was marred by the ugly McCloughan dismissal in March.

There always seems to be plenty of fuel in the dumpster just waiting for an ignition spark.

Enjoy it while you can, Redskins fans. There is a glimmer of hope on the coaching front. There will be stability long enough to build a team that can make a playoff run or two. Maybe the past won’t repeat itself but it’s up to you to determine how much hope you want to invest in that possibility.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

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Associated Press

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

The NFL has passed two major on-field rule changes in the last two months. One, the rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with another player. That one passed during the spring meetings in March but it was just recently clarified. The other one changes how kickoffs are executed. 

Both rules, designed to make the game safer for the players, could have a major impact on the game. And the Redskins are still a little unclear about how to handle them. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger is one of the Redskins’ hardest hitters. After saying that the helmet-lowering rule, which is outlined in some detail in this video from the NFL, would not affect him because he hits low, he wondered why he was even wearing a hard hat at work. 

“I’ve got a helmet on, but I can’t use it or hit nobody with it, might as well take the helmet off if you ask me,” said Swearinger following the Redskins’ OTA practice on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, coach Jay Gruden had not yet been filled in on the details of the helmet-lowering rule. He said that the team will sort it out over the three and a half months between now and the start of the regular season. 

“The lowering of the helmet, I don’t know which ones they decided to go with, so we’ll see,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about bull rushes and they’re trying to obviously protect the players, but we’ve just got to be careful.”

Gruden said that special teams coach Ben Kotwica went to meetings to help hash out the kickoff rule. What they ended up with looks a lot like another special teams play according to the player who will be executing the kickoffs. 

“It looks like they’re trying to make it more like a punt,” said kicker Dustin Hopkins. Among the similarities are that the kicking team will not be able to get a running start as the kicker approaches the ball. They will have to be stationary a yard away from the line where the ball is until it is kicked. 

The league probably will be happy if the play does more closely resemble a punt. The injury rate on punt plays is much lower than it is on kickoffs. 

Some believe that this change will lead to longer kickoff returns. Gruden didn’t disagree, but he said that he needs more information. 

“I think without the guys getting a running start, number one, it could be,” he said. “I think it’s just something I have to see it before I can really make any judgments on it.”

The new rule prohibits wedge blocking meaning that you are unlikely to see any offensive linemen on kickoffs as they were used primarily to create or break wedges. 

“I think for the most part, you’re going to see more speed guys,” said Gruden.

The Redskins will start to wrap their heads around the new rule during the next three weeks, when they have their final two weeks of OTAs and then minicamp before the break for training camp. Gruden said that they will continue to work on it in Richmond. He said that the joint practices with the Jets and the four preseason game will be important for sorting out just how the team will implement kickoffs. 

The best way to handle it might be to just let Hopkins pound the ball into the end zone every time. Last year 72.5 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He could have had more touchbacks, but he occasionally was told to kick it high to force a return with the hope of getting better field position. But if the rules lead to longer returns it may not be worth the risk. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTAs: Practice report: Smith sharp
- Injuries: Kouandjio out for the season

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

 

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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

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