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Gruden has missed on two defensive coordinator choices; will he survive a third?

Gruden has missed on two defensive coordinator choices; will he survive a third?

Two years ago, Jay Gruden hired Joe Barry as his defensive coordinator over several other better-known names. Barry was fired today along with multiple defensive assistants on Thursday.

Now that Barry is gone after two seasons of heading up defenses that were in the bottom third of the league in virtually every important statistical category the spotlight turns from him to Gruden.

Hiring Barry wasn’t the first debatable move at defensive coordinator that Gruden has made in his three years on the job.

When he came on board he kept Jim Haslett on board. In his four years as Mike Shanahan’s defensive coordinator, Haslett’s defenses weren’t significantly better than the ones Barry has run here the last two years. But Gruden opted for continuity.

A year later, Haslett was out.

RELATED: TOP CANDIDATES TO REPLACE JOE BARRY

The search for Haslett’s replacement included interviews with some accomplished, well-known defensive coordinators such as Wade Phillips and Vic Fangio. But Gruden opted for Barry, reportedly because he liked his energy and enthusiasm. But the poor results on that side of the ball remained.

But let’s be clear here. The Redskins’ defensive woes are not all the fault of the coordinator.

The defense suffered from major holes, particularly on the line and at safety. A good share of the blame for the problems has to fall in the lap of GM Scot McCloughan. But there is little evidence that Barry was able to maximize the talent he did have available or that he could put together an effective unit even if he did have better players at his disposal.

So now Gruden has gone against the conventional wisdom twice and he turned out to be wrong twice. The question becomes what now?

Phillips wanted the job two years ago.

After it was apparent that the Redskins were going in another direction, Phillips had to “settle” for coordinating the Denver Broncos’ defense. You may remember that they won the Super Bowl after the 2015 season. They were pretty good defensively last season, too, ranking in the top 10 in most defensive categories.

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Phillips is now a free agent, his contract with the Broncos having expired.

Head coach Gary Kubiak retired a few days ago and his replacement may or may not want Phillips to return. Even if the new head man does want Phillips he may want to join his son, tight ends coach Wes Phillips, on the Redskins coaching staff.

Could Gruden turn down Phillips again after things didn’t work out so well with his choice two years ago? Or if former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley is interested would Gruden have to seriously consider him? I’m not sure if Rex Ryan is a good fit in a lot of ways but if he expresses interest in the job can Gruden afford to not at least listen?

Some have said that Gruden has preferred to go with lower profile defensive coordinators because he did not want to be overshadowed by the likes of Phillips, who has decades of experience in the league including stints as a head coach. Whether that’s true or not. the end product on defense has not been good. He had better cast a wide net and strongly consider hiring a coordinator who has a track record of success. If that means he might be overshadowed, so be it.

When you dig down to the core of it, Jay Gruden has two strikes against him in the defensive coordinator department. If the defense continues to struggle, the next coach to go might be him.

 

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Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Here is what you need to know on Sunday, August 19, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

A year ago, there was tremendous concern about the Redskins’ rushing game. In their first two preseason games in 2017 when the games were the Redskins’ first-team offense against the other team’s starters on defense, Washington gained 13 yards on 13 carries. In the first halves of those games, which were played mostly with players on both sides who would end up making the roster the total was 21 attempts for 20 yards. 

At the time, the company line was to downplay the problems. 

“I’m just not worried,” said Trent Williams.

“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take plus-one, plus-two, negative-one, then you get a plus-eight. And things to pop. It’s attrition. Nothing’s going to happen just because you want it to.”

As we now know, the Redskins rushing game never really got going. Certainly, injuries to backs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson and to the entire offensive line contributed heavily to their No. 27 ranking in rushing yards. But a look at the preseason could indicate that the building blocks for an effective rushing game just weren’t in place. 

Things are looking better this year. In two preseason games, the Redskins have rushed for 216 yards. In the first halves of the games, they have 31 attempts for 109 yards. That’s not a great average (3.5 yards per carry) but it is a vast improvement on the sub-one yard per carrying average they had through two games last year. 

Let’s not get carried away here. Preseason numbers aren’t rock-solid indicators by any stretch and even if they were we are looking at a small sample size. Still, the preseason stats are what we have to look at right now. We will see how things develop.  

Bureau of statistics

In 2017 the Redskins averaged 123 rushing yards per game in their first five games. In their last 11 games, they averaged 76 per game. 

On the record

Jay Gruden on the returns of RBs Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine from ankle injuries: "There are no reports really, we'll just wait and see. Every injury is different, and we'll play it by ear and see how long it takes . . . The injury report will come out Week 1 on - when is it, Wednesday? And there you have it."

Comment: Yes, this really was Gruden and not Bill Belichick. The whole organization has been tighter with injury information in general this year. We’re getting a lot of descriptions like “lower leg” rather than ankle or toe. If that’s the way they want to do business that’s fine but be advised as a fan that you are not going to get much information. 

The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:50; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 5 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 13 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 21 days

In case you missed it

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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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

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Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

-Redskins vs Jets: Must-see photos from the game
-AnalysisFive Redskins-Jets observations

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