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Need to Know: Redskins GM McCloughan's five best player acquisitions

Need to Know: Redskins GM McCloughan's five best player acquisitions

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 27, 33 days before the March 1 NFL franchise tag deadline.

Timeline

Days until:

NFL free agency starts (3/9) 41
—NFL Draft (4/27) 90
First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 226

Scot McCloughan’s five value acquisitions

Here are the five best players Scot McCloughan has either drafted or signed as a free agent. Contract cost and draft position are taken into consideration. I’ll take a look at his five worst here sometime in the next few days.

5. CB Quinton Dunbar, undrafted free agent—The converted wide receiver has had his share of ups and downs over his two seasons. But he has come up with some big plays. In particular, two end zone interceptions of Eli Manning, one at FedEx Field in 2015 and one in the Meadowlands last season were critical plays in important wins over the Giants. Any time you can get a CB who can contribute like that as a UDFA that’s good value.

4. RB Rob Kelley, undrafted free agent—“Fat Rob” went from being an unknown in training camp to a player who showed some promise in the preseason to a surprise on the initial 53-man roster to the starting running back for the last half of the season. He had his ups and downs but he was productive enough to hold on to the job. Kelley had 180 touches and did not fumble. That’s important since that is the issue that sent predecessor Matt Jones to the bench.

Related: NFL mock draft ver. 2.0

3. TE Vernon Davis, $2.4 million free agent—He is the only veteran free agent on this list. Davis was thought to be washed up after struggling during the 2015 season but McCloughan bet $1.1 million in fully guaranteed money that he wasn’t. The veteran proved to be very valuable as he caught 44 passes for 583 yards and two touchdowns. With Jordan Reed missing four games with injuries, Davis provided some much-needed depth.

2. LB/S Su’a Cravens, 2nd round—He had his share of stumbles as a rookie and he will have to deal with a position change to safety in 2017. But the future looks bright for the versatile, athletic Cravens. If he can solidify half of the safety position, a problem area for the last decade, he could move up to No. 1 on this list.

More Redskins: 5 salary cap bargains in 2017

1. WR Jamison Crowder, 4th round—Crowder was bypassed in the draft because he was undersized but McCloughan saw the type of “football player” he likes in the Duke product. He quickly became the starting slot receiver and in two years he has averaged 63 receptions, 726 yards, and four touchdowns per season.

Also under consideration: McCloughan signed LB Mason Foster and DB Will Blackmon as injury replacements in early 2016 and both developed into starters . . . K Dustin Hopkins has missed some field goals but his ability to consistently pound kickoffs into the end zone has helped the special teams immeasurably. . . Since some will ask, G Brandon Scherff is a very good player but the fifth overall pick is too high for a guard, even one that makes the Pro Bowl in his second year. He will need to garner some All-Pro honors before he can justify that price.

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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.

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Best birthday ever? 107-year-old Redskins fan celebrates in Burgundy and Gold

Best birthday ever? 107-year-old Redskins fan celebrates in Burgundy and Gold

When Carletha "Nana" West was growing up, she began to take an interest in football. In particular, she took notice of a certain Redskins quarterback. 

"When Sammy Baugh was quarterback I liked him and I was just learning football at that time," West said. "I was young myself."

Baugh commanded the Redskins offense from 1937-1952 and became one of West's favorite player. With that, her fandom for the Redskins grew.

Decades later, her love for the Redskins remains. So for her 107th birthday -- yes, 107th -- she, of course, celebrated it with some Burgundy and Gold festivities.

Joined by Redskins GM Bruce Allen, West took in her birthday on Thursday, July 18, at Brandywine in Alexandria, Va. Not only was she given a customized Redskins jersey with the number 107 and the name "Nana", but West also got a day named after her. In Alexandria, July 18 will now be known as Carletha "Nana" West Day.

West spent some time reminiscing about her years as a Redskins fan, singing 'Hail to the Redskins' and even sharing her advice on how to live a long, fulfilling life. Besides loving football, she shared some simple words of wisdom.

"Make friends," West said. "And keep them."

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