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EL-BASHIR: Evidence mounting that culture is changing for Redskins


EL-BASHIR: Evidence mounting that culture is changing for Redskins

Ten minutes after Sunday’s gut-wrenching 25-19 overtime loss to the Falcons, the visitors’ locker room underneath the Georgia Dome was virtually silent. Some Redskins sat motionless, staring blankly ahead. A few slowly unwrapped tape from their wrists and ankles. Others talked among themselves in hushed tones, lamenting the opportunity they had just allowed to slip.

They were crushed. They were disappointed. They were angry.

And, if you’re a Redskins fan, that should make you smile.

Because the mood hasn’t always been so solemn in Washington’s locker room following a tough loss. Do you remember the reports last October about the “jocularity” in the locker room after the Redskins fell to the defending champion Seahawks, 27-17, on Monday Night Football? I’m not really interested in revisiting that touchy subject—players and coaches later insisted that the postgame laughter was exaggerated—but I can tell you that I was present after both contests. And I can also tell you this: the vibe Sunday was very different, as were the words the players and coaches used to describe the defeat.

“We are beyond that,” Coach Jay Gruden said when I asked him if there were any positives to be gleaned from pushing an undefeated opponent to its limit, on their home turf. “They played very hard. We played very hard. It came down to a close game; you don’t get any moral victories in the NFL.”

Said Terrance Knighton: “We have the mindset. It’s just that in crunch time everyone in here has to think, ‘I’m going to make the play to win the game.’ This loss hurts.”

So what’s changed over the past year? A lot, actually.

New GM Scot McCloughan overhauled the roster during the offseason, signing and drafting new starters on both sides of the ball.

Among those additions, three stand out to me: Knighton, Dashon Goldson and Chris Culliver.


Knighton knows a little about leadership as well as a winning culture. In his two seasons in Denver, ‘Pot Roast’ watched Peyton Manning lead the Broncos to 13-win and 12-win campaigns. Knighton has also instituted an unofficial ban on locker room discussion about how things were done in Washington in the past. Because this, as he often says, is a different team that last year's four-win outfit.  

Goldson, on the other hand, was elected by his teammates as captain of the defense after just a few months at Redskins Park. He’s a pro’s pro. And, like Knighton, he’s been exposed to a winning atmosphere. He’s played for conference championships. He’s played in a Super Bowl. I learned a lot about his Goldson’s thought process earlier this season when I asked him if an opposing offense “worried” him. He shot me a stern glance. “Worried?” he asked, taking umbrage with my choice of words.

Culliver, meanwhile, has edge about him. The same way Pierre Garcon has an edge about him. Culliver plays hard. He practices hard. He expects a lot from himself. Against the Eagles, he competed on one leg, hobbled by a knee injury that didn’t allow him to practice the previous few days. Sure, he got burned a couple of times. But toughness like that does not go overlooked by your teammates.  

Changing the culture of an organization that has grown too accustomed to losing doesn’t happen overnight. And I’m not saying that the Redskins have all of sudden become the Packers or the Broncos or the Patriots, not by a long shot.

But it's hard to ignore the feeling that something is afoot.

Last week, I wrote about how McCloughan has started to bring a measure of accountability to Redskins Park by benching players who don’t perform and cutting others who show they are unable to. 

Of course, accountability and a locker room internalizing a tough loss are not the same. But the two are connected in that they’re traits shared by healthy, successful organizations.

And it seems to me there's growing evidence that both are starting to take hold in Ashburn.

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Expect Redskins to bring back Trey Quinn next week as Jamison Crowder's status remains unclear

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Expect Redskins to bring back Trey Quinn next week as Jamison Crowder's status remains unclear

The Redskins need help at wide receiver, and while head coach Jay Gruden allowed a potential trade might bolster the group, the return of rookie Trey Quinn might do the same. 

Quinn landed on the injured reserve after the season opener in Arizona when he injured his ankle on a punt return. The IR designation means Quinn must miss eight weeks of action but can return after that period. 

"We’ll get Trey Quinn back here pretty soon," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast. 

Quinn could be back as early as Week 9 against Atlanta, and it sounds like Gruden expects to see him then.

A record setter at SMU and the final pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, Quinn's return could immediately help the Redskins at their inside slot receiver position. Jamison Crowder has missed the last two games for Washington, and reports say he could miss a few more weeks. 

Of the trio of injured Redskins skill players, Chris Thompson, Paul Richardson, and Crowder, Gruden said the slot WR has "probably got the furthest to go" before he can return from injury. Last week, Crowder was spotted in the Redskins practice facility riding a scooter and with a boot on his ankle. 

With Crowder out an elongated period of time, Quinn could step right in. Both on the smaller side and more quick than fast, Quinn is best suited to play the inside receiver position and can also return punts.

Asked if Quinn is a natural fit to fill in for Crowder, Gruden replied, "exactly right."

Fellow rookie receiver Cam Sims also landed on the IR after Week 1, but Gruden did not indicate that he would be brought back on the same timeline as Quinn. 

"We’ll probably just take one of them. Right now I think Trey is probably closer to returning than Cam ."

NFL rules stipulate that the team can bring only two players back from the injured reserve over the course of a season. So if the 'Skins bring back Quinn as soon as he is eligible next week, it makes sense for the organization to wait before using their final retrievable IR slot on another wide receiver.

Gruden's comments make two things clear: The organization sees Quinn back on the 53-man roster ASAP, and Crowder's return seems to be a serious question mark. 

Washington also seems likely to have a roster spot for Quinn next week. Special teams ace Jehu Chesson has already been up and down on the Redskins roster twice, and it would be little surprise if Quinn's return means Chesson gets released. Should that happen, Washington might again try to bring Chesson back to their practice squad. 



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As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper on Monday, and with that, alarms go off around the NFL that it's wheeling and dealing season. The trade deadline hits in one week, and for teams looking to bolster their squad before the second half of the year, it's time to see what areas could improve. 

For Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, the injury situation at wide receiver means that his team could use help at the position. 

"We could probably use one more there if we could," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast. 

Asked if there was one area the team could bolster via trade, the coach explained that if wideouts Jamison Crowder or Paul Richardson could come back from injury right away, the Redskins would have no need to trade for another receiver. Unfortunately for the Redskins, neither injury situation is very clear, and some reports show that Crowder could miss a few more weeks working back from an ankle injury. 

"I think if you look at our team right now with the injuries to Crowder and obviously the uncertainty with Richardson you might want to add another receiver, but I like what [Michael] Floyd’s done coming in here," Gruden said. 

Floyd had one catch for 20 yards in the Redskins win on Sunday over the Cowboys, but he's a physical veteran that has the coach excited. Gruden also complimented what Maurice Harris and Brian Quick have done in the absence of Richardson and Crowder.

While the Cowboys struck first in the receiver trade market, more players remain reportedly available, including Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas and Dolphins WR DeVante Parker. 

Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowler in Denver, but at 30 years old and with some trade value, it makes sense for John Elway to consider his market. The Broncos are 3-4 and have an underperforming offense. 

Parker was a first-round pick in 2015 but has not had a 1,000-yard season in Miami. Making matters more complicated, Parker's agent Jimmy Gould called Dolphins head coach Adam Gase "incompetent" to a host of different media outlets. Parker has only been active twice this season though he contends health is not an issue. 

Gruden remains confident that 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson will get going, and he is a similar big target as Thomas and Parker. Should Richardson miss significant time, the Redskins would lack a true speed threat.

There's certainly no clear indication that Washington will make a move before the NFL trade deadline, but as things stand now with injuries, there is a need. Remember, too, the Redskins are long on 2019 draft picks with 10 selections in seven rounds.