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Benching Griffin is not the answer

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Benching Griffin is not the answer

The Washington Redskins might have a better chance of beating the Detroit Lions on Sunday with Kirk Cousins at quarterback instead of Robert Griffin III.

But benching Griffin right now would be a huge mistake.

Yes, I saw Griffin struggle to make plays yesterday against the Packers and last Monday against the Eagles, at least while the game was still competitive. At times he has little time to throw because he has pass rush pressure in his face and he seems either incapable of scrambling and either buying more time to pass or taking off and running or very reluctant to do so. And when he does have some time to pass his throws frequently missed the mark.

Is it rust, the lingering effects of not playing in the preseason and very limited 11 on 11 team action in training camp? Is the knee not has healthy as we are led to believe? Are the Redskins trying to convert Griffin into a pocket passer without the benefit of that practice?

The explanation I’ve heard that makes the most sense came from CBS analyst Steve Tasker. He was on The Junkies on 106.7 The Fan last week (I can’t locate the podcast on their site, otherwise I would link to it and quote Tasker directly). The former Bills special teams ace said that he suffered multiple knee injuries during his 14-year NFL career. When he came back, he said the knee was healthy and pain free but it was just different. Tasker said that it took some time for him to adjust to playing on what was essentially a “new” knee. The confidence that it would respond to what he needed it to do took some time and some adjustment.

When a special teams player is feeling his way around a knee that may not feel quite right even though it’s medically sound it doesn’t have ripple effects on every snap and the situation doesn’t make all of the highlights and get put under the microscope on every one of the myriad of NFL shows that heavily populate your cable TV guide. When the quarterback has those issues and that quarterback is Griffin it’s national news.

That Griffin’s struggles are being magnified by the fact that he’s a high-profile player in the highest profile sports league on the planet is not the only issue. The Redskins’ defense is playing poorly. They are having problems covering and tackling. The team is falling behind, elements like play action passing that made the offense hum aren’t effective so the offense can’t sustain drives. That puts the defense back on the field quickly and things start to snowball.

But whether the defense is working or not, Griffin and the offense need to do what the need to do to keep the team competitive throughout the game. And that’s not happening.

If it happens or if it doesn’t, Griffin needs to be the one doing it or not doing it. Cousins might provide a short-term lift but if this team is going to get to a Super Bowl this year or in the future it’s going to be Griffin doing the heavy lifting. A game or two on the bench for Griffin means that it’s a game or two longer until he’s right. And that puts the Redskins a game or two further away from their goals.

Benching Griffin might be a short-term fix. For years the Redskins organization lived for instant gratification. We have seen the results of thinking about the coming year, the coming game over thinking about setting things up to be successful for a long time.

That’s why the Vikings did last year with Adrian Peterson. It’s easy to look back at his near-record season last year following an ACL injury and think that he came out of the box blazing in 2012. But he did not. In his first six games he went over 100 yards once. In Week 2 he picked up a very pedestrian 60 yards on 16 carries. The next game he rushed for 86 yards but it took him 25 carries to get there (3.4 yards per carry).

The Vikings did not bench Peterson in favor of Toby Gerhart. They know he is the franchise and they kept him in and kept on giving him the ball. Their patience was rewarded when Peterson ran for over 100 yards in nine of the last 10 games, going over 150 yards in six of them.

It remains to be seen if Griffin will explode later in the season but we’ll never find out if the team gets into playing the QB shuffle.

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10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No rookie draft pick excited the Redskins fan base like Derrius Guice since Robert Griffin III came to Washington back in 2012. That's a fact. 

Guice slipped during the draft to near the end of the second round, a position much too late for a player with his talent. Rumors emerged that he had character issues, but in the months since April's selection, they seem unfounded. In quick time, Guice has emerged as a Redskins fan favorite and has performed plenty of charitable acts.

So, moving past the erroneous off-field questions, it's time to manage expectations for what Guice can do on the field. 

DJ Swearinger recently said he expects Guice to make the Pro Bowl and rush for more than 1,000 yards. As a rookie. (Listen here)

That's not unheard of, last year rookie Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rush yards. In 2016, Ezekiel Elliott did the same thing. Rookie running backs can step in and produce right away in the NFL, unlike some positions that usually bring more of a learning curve. 

Can Guice do that?

The first and most important questions will be health and durability. Guice dealt with lingering knee injuries last year at LSU, and the Redskins will need him fully healthy. A 1,000-yard season is not unrealistic if Guice plays a full 16-game season. It would require rushing for about 65 yards-per-game. 

The bigger key is opportunities. 

How many carries will Guice log in 2018? Early on in the season, Guice might still be learning pass protection in the Redskins scheme, and Jay Gruden will not tolerate missed assignments that result in big hits on QB Alex Smith.

If Guice can lock in on blitz pickup, 200 carries seems reasonable. Remember that Chris Thompson will still be a featured part of the Redskins offense, and Rob Kelley will get chances too. 

Last season, Samaje Perine led all rushers with 175 carries. He didn't do much with the chances, averaging just 3.4 yards-per-carry. Kelley had 62 carries before injuries shut his season down after parts of seven games. 

Combine Perine and Kelley's carries, and then things start to get interesting. With 230 carries, at an average of 4 yards a pop, Guice starts to approach 1,000 yards.

One problem with extrapolating too much data from last season is the crazy amount of variables. Late in the year, with Perine largely ineffective and a very beat up offensive line, the Redskins simply couldn't produce on the ground. In their last five games of 2017, the Redskins never rushed for more than 100 yards. They averaged just 60 yards-per-game on the ground during that stretch, including a season low 31 rush yards against Arizona in December. 

The line can't be that beat up again, right?

Guice has to be able to deliver more than Perine, right?

If the answers to those questions are yes, then a 1,000-yard season seems possible for Guice in 2018. 

One misnomer from the Redskins 2017 campaign emerged that Washington simply did not run the ball well or enough. In fact, early in the year when the Redskins looked like a possible playoff team, they ran the ball quite well. In three of the first four games, Washington went over 100 yards on the ground, including 229 rush yards in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Guice might get to 1,000 yards in 2018. It's no sure thing, and there are plenty of variables, but it's possible. That hasn't happened in Washington since Alfred Morris, and would be a very welcome sight. 

The rookie runner has invigorated the Redskins faithful, and that's before he even steps on the field. If Guice can produce, the fans will go crazy.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 21, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

How the addition of Alexander affects the Redskins' DB depth chart—Adonis Alexander was brought into the NFL about a week and a half ago and in five days he’ll be on the practice field in Richmond. How much will missing OTAs and minicamp hurt him in comparison to, say, his former Hokie teammate Greg Stroman? I think that the plan is for this to be a “redshirt” year for Alexander to learn. But that was supposed to be the plan for Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chase Roullier last year and both ended up playing key snaps. 

Can the Redskins defensive line live up to its potential? Many NFL fans don’t appreciate the value of having a good defensive line. Redskins fans are not in that group because they have seen what you get when you try to build a defensive line with over-the-hill veteran free agents, low draft picks, and undrafted players. Fans will value the talent, youth, and depth on the 2018 D-line.  

10 Questions in 10 days: LB depth chart—This is another area where the Redskins have not invested much in recent seasons. At least this year they stepped up and re-signed starters Mason Foster and Zach Brown. They are the present. Are Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Harvey-Clemons the future? 

The pass rush must continue to be a strength for the Redskins—With the picture at the cornerback position is somewhat murky right now, the pass rush will be critical, especially in the early going. The outside linebackers lost a key reserve, putting the burden on Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan to continue to get pressure on Ryan Anderson to take a leap forward in his second season. 

Tweet of the week

Well, this tweet did sort of stir things up as did some of the things that Cousins said in an article by Dan Pompei on the Bleacher Report. The thing about Twitter is that there is no room for nuance. I was labeled a Kirk “hater” by some. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. On multiple occasions, I urged the team to sign him long term and highlighted the positive aspects of his play. 

But this thing about not having a “platform” to lead always struck me as a cop-out. Cousins talked about it during some press conferences while he was here. The length of your contract should not prevent you from embracing a leadership role. You’re getting paid to lead, just do it. Few in leadership positions in business or in the military know where they will be a year from now. They embrace the role while they have it and Cousins should have done the same. 

The fact that I don’t like this one aspect of Cousins doesn’t mean that I don’t like him overall. He’s a good quarterback and I think he will have success with the Vikings. I think that the price got to be too much for the Redskins and the decision to move on to Alex Smith was sound or at least the best they could do after it became apparent that he was not going to sign here. But it’s not all one or the other. It is possible to see the positive and negative of Cousins. 

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

Timeline

Mike Sellers, whose seven receiving touchdowns in 2005 were the most by a Redskins running back since the merger, was born on this date in 1975.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 5
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 19
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 42

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 50 days. 

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