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With an injured player and a guard, Jay Gruden wants more out of 1st-round picks

With an injured player and a guard, Jay Gruden wants more out of 1st-round picks

Jay Gruden's situation Monday afternoon was not enviable. The Redskins head coach watched his team completely choke away a chance at the playoffs Sunday afternoon, and less than 24 hours later, Gruden was forced to eulogize the disappointing 2016 season. 

The coach probably got little sleep, if any, and was then thrust into the difficult situation of talking about pending free agents and ultimately what went wrong for his team. Still, even considering those factors, Gruden's comments about building the 'Skins through the draft came off as quite surprising. 

"We’re getting there, but we’ve had, what, two first-round picks since I’ve been here? One of them hasn’t played a down, or played one game, and the other one is a guard," he said. "We have got to utilize our picks."

Woah. 

Factually, everything he said was correct. The Redskins did not have a first round pick in 2014, Gruden's first year as coach in Washington. Then the team selected Brandon Scherff in 2015, followed by Josh Doctson in 2016.

At the time, some thought Scherff would play right tackle for the 'Skins, but that experiment ended quickly. He started every game of his rookie season at right guard. The second-year player out of Iowa has proven to be a very good player, he made the Pro Bowl this season and again started every game at right guard, yet offensive guard is not widely considered a high-impact position. 

Doctson's rookie year was lost to Achilles injuries. He dressed the first two weeks, then came a series of games on the inactive list before finally going on injured reserve in October. It also was no secret that some on the 'Skins staff grew frustrated with the inability to figure out what the problem was with the first rounder out of TCU, as the Achilles ailment could not be properly diagnosed and the only remedy appeared to be rest. 

So, in a vacuum, Gruden's comments about the two first-round picks adds up, yet, they still seemed somewhat jarring in person. The coach quickly said he admires the work general manager Scot McCloughan has done with the Redskins roster and that he expects the team to continue to improve.

"We have got to make sure we do well in the draft the next year or two and make sure that we continue to add to the talent that we have," Gruden said. "We’ve had some good drafts, but we have to add to it, obviously."

Around the league, some teams make general managers or personnel executives available for an end of season press conference, but not universally. In some regard, it's tough for Gruden to have to answer questions about building through the draft, as some of the decisions that get made are not his call, though the coach certainly gets to provide his opinion as part of the decision making process, he explained.

"We are in sync. We have a very good view of what we look for in a football player – very similar – and that won’t change. I have a lot of respect for the work that he [Scot McCloughan] puts in, and he does also. I think together we’ll come up with a plan and get the right players in here."

The draft process will heat up quickly, as Senior Bowl practices take place in just a few weeks in Alabama. After that comes the NFL Draft Combine. McCloughan's first draft in 2015 was a slam dunk; the results of the 2016 crop would be best labeled as incomplete. The 2017 haul will be very important for the Redskins future, both next season and long-term. 

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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Two examples of why Dan Orlovsky believes Dwayne Haskins will excite Redskins fans

Two examples of why Dan Orlovsky believes Dwayne Haskins will excite Redskins fans

Scott Turner was asked about quarterback Dwayne Haskins' growth this offseason during a Zoom call with local media earlier this week, and the new Redskins offensive coordinator explained he was pleased with both Haskins' physical and mental progress.

Besides raving about the second-year quarterbacks imposing size and natural arm strength, Turner also dove into specific detail about one other thing that really stood out to him about Haskins: his ability to stand tall in the pocket and deliver a throw without much space.

Former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky took to Twitter on Friday, tweeting out two video examples from Haskins' rookie season where the quarterback demonstrated the qualities Turner raved about.

The first example was a clip from the Redskins Week 11 contest against the Jets. The play went down in the scorebook as a 24-yard completion to Kelvin Harmon, but what the quarterback had to do in order to make this play successful was quite impressive.

For this play, Orlovsky explained how Haskins identified where the pressure was coming from pre-snap, causing him to shift the entire protection to the left. After the running back missed his block, Haskins didn't panic. The then-rookie QB stepped up in the pocket and fired a dart to Harmon on the in-route as the receiver broke open in the middle of the field.

"This is one of my favorite plays by him last year," Orlovsky explained. "It really is an example of the intellectual aspect of quarterback play with the feel aspect of quarterback play."

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The second clip was from Washington's clash in Green Bay last season. On this particular snap, Haskins showed his mastery of the Packers' defense.

Haskins' initial read was to the right side, where Harmon was running an inside post route. But once the quarterback saw his first read was covered, he continued to look right, forcing Packers' safety Darnell Savage to slide in that direction. The passer then immediately turned to his backside, which created an open throwing lane to find Terry McLaurin in the middle of the field.

"It really shows a complete understanding of what the defense is, what the coverage is, and then a complete understanding of who on the defense he needs to move with his eyes to open up a window," Orlovsky said.

It's fair to mention that the Redskins would not win either of these games and that the rookie passer had his struggles in each of these contests. It's no secret that Haskins had his growing pains as a rookie, and there were examples of such in each of these matchups, too.

But Haskins did finish the season playing the best football of his young career, giving some hope for the future. Count Orlovsky in on those who are optimistic about the quarterback as he enters his second season with the team and his first as the team's true starter.

"There are so many examples on his tape that show how smart he actually is," Orlovsky said. 

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Kirk Cousins ranked ninth on Forbes' top 100 highest-paid athletes in 2020

Kirk Cousins ranked ninth on Forbes' top 100 highest-paid athletes in 2020

Former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is among the top 10 highest-paid athletes in the world in 2020, according to Forbes.

Cousins, who came in as the ninth highest-paid athlete overall, is the top-ranked NFL athlete on the list, coming in one spot above Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

Forbes estimated the Vikings QB's earnings at $60.5 million, with $58 million coming from his salary and $2.5 million from his endorsements.

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In March, Cousins signed a two-year, $66 million extension with the Vikings, one that included a $30 million signing bonus. The signal-caller originally signed with the Vikings in 2018 on a three-year, fully-guaranteed $84 million deal that at the time made him the highest-paid player in NFL history.

The Vikings signal-caller has earned over $130 million in his career thus far, according to OverTheCap.

Cousins spent the first six seasons of his career with the Redskins, with three of those years as the team's starter. The quarterback set the franchise's single-season passing yards record in 2016 when he threw for 4,917 yards for Washington. His 29 touchdown passes in 2017 were the second-most by any Redskins quarterback in a single-season.

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