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Need to Know: Cousins coaching DB's, Gruden’s hot seat, Redskins on the clock

Need to Know: Cousins coaching DB's, Gruden’s hot seat, Redskins on the clock

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 4, 33 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  


Days until:

NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 25
—NFL Draft (4/27) 82
First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 218

The Redskins week that was

Crazy finish at the Pro Bowl for Kirk Cousins—By now you’ve seen Kirk Cousins chase down Aquib Talib to knock the ball out after he threw an interception late in the game. Was it great hustle to be cheered or a dangerous and unnecessary play that a pending free agent who has a hundred million bucks or so on the line just should not make? I think it’s both but I do know one thing—we haven’t seen a Redskins defender chase down a ball carrier and successfully execute a classic chop like that in years. Maybe if Cousins comes back he can spend a little time showing the defense how it’s done.

RELATED: Tandler's all-time Redskins Super Bowl team--Offense

Is Gruden really on the hot seat in 2017?—We keep hearing about this but there is nothing coming out of Redskins Park that this is a “win or else” season for Jay Gruden. If the Redskins collapse and go, say, 5-11 things could get uncomfortable, assuming there is no big, apparent issue like Kirk Cousins not being behind center. But one thing to consider is the fact that Dan Snyder has not let go of a coach following a season of less than double-digit losses since he fired Marty Schottenheimer in 2001 after going 8-8. Snyder is not anxious to get back on the coaching carousel.

Assessing five Redskins mock draft selections—When I did this, I dismissed the idea that Ohio State safety Malik Hooker would be available when the Redskins are on the clock with pick No. 17. But then a couple of days later news that Hooker has undergone two surgeries, one to repair a torn labrum and another to fix a hernia. Will that push his draft stock down to where the Redskins would have a shot at him? And, if he is there, will they want him or be concerned that he is damaged goods? In any case, it just goes to show you that there is no point is getting too locked in on the draft at this point. A lot will happen between now and April 27.

More Redskins: New #RedskinsTalk Podcast - Barstool Nate wants Kirk Cousins back

With John Lynch now GM, does 49ers interest in Kirk Cousins change?—I don’t think that Cousins is going anywhere but if he does go to the 49ers the No. 2 overall pick will not be part of the package. Sure, the Vikings gave up a No. 1 pick for Sam Bradford. But Minnesota thought the pick would be in the twenties after they made the playoffs and it turned out to be No. 15. But even that pick is not close to the No. 2 pick in terms of value. Per the draft pick trade chart, it would take two No. 15 overall picks plus an early second-round pick to equal the point value of pick No. 2. It’s hard to see that happening even if the Redskins do agree to deal Cousins away.

The numbers are in: The 2016 Redskins faced a very tough schedule—Were the Redskins substantially better last year than then were in 2015 despite finishing a half game worse and missing the playoffs? It’s possible to say that they were considering that they played a fairly soft schedule two seasons ago and one of the toughest slates in the league in ’16, especially in terms of opposing defenses. I get that you are what your record says you are. But you can’t ignore strength of schedule when it comes to evaluating a team’s season.

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 


Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?


Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.


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Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

On paper, Jay Gruden's tenor with the Redskins is nothing to write home about. Through five seasons he holds a 35-44-1 record, good enough for a .444 winning percentage. Looking at that, some may draw the conclusion that Gruden hasn't been what the Redskins need at the helm.

But according to Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt, that's not exactly the case. Taking into account the variables Gruden has dealt with throughout the five years, Gantt actually sees him as a "really good" coach.

"I have always come down of the side, maybe, of guys who are doing more with less," Gantt said recently on a Redskins Talk Podcast. "I think Jay has done a pretty good job keeping things in the middle."

Doing more with less and working in the middle essentially defines Jay Gruden's career with the Redskins. Besides his opening year in 2014 in which Washington went 4-12, Gruden's teams have consistently finished right around the middle of the pack.

In the last four seasons, the Redskins have not won more than nine games, but they also haven't lost more than nine. Hovering right around .500, they've always been around league average.

Part of the reason Gantt is willing to give Gruden praise for records that some coaches would get scolded for revolves around what he's had to work with. Gruden's time as head coach has been filled with injuries and other dilemmas both on and off the field. 

In those circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising to see a team completely flounder and spiral out of control. But, that hasn't really been the case with Gruden. Dealing with what he has, the head coach has kept the team competitive for the most part. The team hasn't been a perennial playoff contender, but it also hasn't been at the bottom of the league.

For that ability to keep the Redskins out of the basement despite all the problems he's encountered, Gruden is someone Gantt respects.

"They're able to keep it out of the ditches," Gantt said about Gruden and former NFL head coach John Fox, who Gantt followed during his time in Carolina.

"I think again in the NFL there's something to be said for that," Gantt added. "When things get sideways a Jim Zorn can lose control in a hurry. I feel like Jay just got sort of a steady hand on the wheel."

Until Gruden takes Washington back to the postseason, the critiques will continue to come, as they would for almost all head coaches in similar situations. But when looking at Gruden's time in Washington with a wide view of everything that has happened, Gantt believes the head coach deserves at least a little praise for keeping things afloat.