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Redskins OTA to-do list: Quarterback

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Redskins OTA to-do list: Quarterback

The busy portion of free agency is completed. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview. The 90-man offseason roster is full, as well. Now comes the difficult part for second-year head coach Jay Gruden: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin next Tuesday, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are going to examine the top items on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the Redskins for training camp in Richmond later this summer.

Up today …

Quarterback to-do list:

Tandler: The starting job is Robert Griffin III’s to lose, according to Jay Gruden and Scot McCloughan. He won’t lose it in May and June but he can plant seeds of doubt if he doesn’t show signs of progress from last year. On the flip side, if Griffin looks sharp he could dispel some of the concerns about his ability to function as a pocket passer and perhaps buy enough confidence to survive some rough spots in August. Right now it looks like Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins are tied for the backup job and they both will be looking to gain some ground. Meanwhile, undrafted rookie Hutson Mason will be battling to stick around until training camp.

El-Bashir: This obviously is a huge offseason for Griffin, but since Tandler addressed that, I’ll take a look at the second biggest QB-related question that must be answered in the coming months: who’ll earn the backup job? It’s more important in Washington than other places for a couple of reasons: No. 1, Griffin has missed at least one start in each of his three seasons due to injury or performance. (Last season he started only seven games). And No. 2, I don’t get the feeling that Griffin is entrenched as the starter. Sure, it sounds as though he’ll be The Guy come Week 1. But the season-opening game is still more than three months away; a lot can change in that time. For those reasons, the jockeying for position between Cousins and McCoy figures to be quite intense…in addition to being very important. Because, let’s face it, history suggests that the second string quarterback will probably get the call at some point in 2015. My gut feeling is that McCoy, a Gruden favorite whom McCloughan agreed to re-sign, enters with an edge. But I also don’t think Cousins intends to make it easy on McCoy.

RELATED: Redskins OTA to-do list: Cornerback

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Jay Gruden not considering changes to his coaching staff

Jay Gruden not considering changes to his coaching staff

The Redskins gave up 40 points and more than 400 yards in a loss to the Giants last Sunday, and that was without Odell Beckham suited up for New York. 

The Redskins have lost four straight games, and five of six, while giving up more than 30 points three times. 

The Redskins surrendered more than 200 rushing yards to the Giants, and have not held an opponent under 100 yards rushing in their last six games. 

You get the idea. 

After the Washington defense got out to an impressive start to the season, things have fallen apart down the stretch.

Despite the struggles, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has no intention of shaking up his coaching staff.

"No. Not really," Gruden said on the Redskins Talk podcast when asked about any coaching changes. 

As the Redskins struggle and lose their grip on a playoff spot, it's not unheard of to think some staff changes might be coming. The Panthers fired two defensive assistants last weekend, and as the NFL season approaches the finish line, more coaches will lose their jobs. 

In Washington though, it seems the staff is safe. Still, the Giants loss stings. 

The Redskins' offense has been decimated by injuries, particularly at quarterback and along the offensive line. There was some leeway for a loss to New York, but not when the home team got down 40-0 to a 4-8 Giants team. 

That type of deficit brings questions. Questions about the coaches, questions about effort.

On Sunday, Gruden made clear he understands his future is week to week.

"We have a game to win next week in Jacksonville," the coach said. "We have to go about trying to find a way to do it."

On Monday, he made clear his assistants are safe. As far as he is concerned anyway. 

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Snap counts and judgments from Redskins' 40-16 loss to Giants

Snap counts and judgments from Redskins' 40-16 loss to Giants

Time for our weekly review of the Washington Redskins snap counts, plus some big picture thoughts after that brutal 40-16 Week 14 home loss against the New York Giants.

♦ Quarterbacks – Mark Sanchez (33 of 62), Josh Johnson (29 of 62), Alex Smith (0 of 62)

Smith receives a mention because all that’s gone wrong in his absence – on both sides of the ball. Yes, the injury-fueled changes at quarterbacks are playing a factor in the defense’s notable dip.

We know Smith wasn’t posting prodigious statistics, the kind that keeps scoreboard operators busy and fantasy football owners thrilled. He was helping put the defense in advantageous situations by avoiding turnovers.

Washington committed nine turnovers in its opening 10 games, finishing a plus-12 in turnover margin. In the last three games since Smith’s brutal leg injury, seven turnovers and minus-5 differential.

Keeping possession wasn’t the only positive factor with Smith under center. In the nine games Smith started and finished, the Redskins won the time-of-possession statistic five times. In those five games, Washington went 4-1.

In the last three games, the Redskins lost the clock each time, significantly against the Cowboys and Eagles. Considering the heavy usage for Washington's main defensive linemen, having them on the field more isn’t a good thing.

We must note injuries to the offensive line in the previous stat. The run game faded after Washington lost both starting guards for the season. Not coughing the ball help with regularity helped as well.

Let’s circle back to the two available quarterbacks. It remains wild that the team landed on Sanchez when the Redskins searched a Smith replacement. This isn’t about a side by side comparison to Johnson, who was much sharper upon entering in the second half. New York played soft coverages with a 40-point lead and Johnson took advantage. Don’t expect as many clean looks against an aggressive Jaguars defense Sunday.

Drops and numerous penalties didn’t help Sanchez. He also appeared timid especially when Washington started drives deep in its territory.

This Brian Mitchell hot take doesn’t seem that crazy, to be honest.

♦ One look at the wide receiver and running back snap totals show what kind of game unfolded on Sunday:

Wide receivers – Josh Doctson (55 of 62), Jamison Crowder (54), Maurice Harris (35), Michael Floyd (31), Jehu Chesson (1)

Running backs – Chris Thompson (25), Adrian Peterson (19), Byron Marshall (18)

Trailing by a bazillion points in the first half led to lots of passing and subsequently more three and four-receiver sets. That Jordan Reed suffered a toe injury in the first quarter also led to more receiver-heavy looks. Crowder’s blazing 79-yard touchdown reception stood out, obviously, and we all understand the limitations with the current quarterbacks. It’s just hard looking at that unit and feeling inspired even when factoring in a healthy Paul Richardson. The Redskins need more next season. Adding a tough guy wideout, the kind who a QB can target on 3rd-and-8 would help.

Meanwhile, this was only the second game of the season that no running back played in at least half of the offensive snaps. Peterson played 46 percent of snaps in the Week 9 blowout loss to Atlanta.

Marshall’s presence dropped Kapri Bibbs to the inactive list. Bibbs did not take an offensive snap in the Week 13 loss at Philadelphia.

♦ Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played in 100 percent of the defensive snaps (64) for a fifth consecutive week. The man he replaced, Montae Nicholson, didn’t take the field defensively for the third game in a row. During those five weeks, the second-year safety received four snaps.

This scenario requires a deeper dive, but this exchange doesn’t appear to be working, or at least not to the degree Washington hoped when shipping a fourth-round pick to Green Bay for the veteran.

Don’t consider those numbers all about the safety change or even on Clinton-Dix necessarily. All we know for sure is there haven’t been many personnel changes on defense this season. This was one of them.

"I think he's finding his way,” Jay Gruden said of Clinton-Dix Monday. On whether he’d consider going back to Nicholson, Gruden said, “Yeah, we have to look at Montae again. I think nobody gave up on Montae, we traded for a good player, a Pro-Bowl type player in Ha Ha and we wanted to give him every opportunity to come in and play.”

Stay tuned.

♦ Stacy McGee (28) played more Sunday than rookie Tim Settle (20) did for a second consecutive week.

♦ Zach Brown and Shaun Dion Hamilton each played exactly 28 snaps. Hamilton became the surprise inside linebacker starter over Brown and he likely tops the veteran in snaps if not for a shoulder injury suffered in the game. Gruden claimed the lineup change stemmed from Brown missing practice time during the week due to illness.

“We were just going to start Shaun Dion in base just to get it started. Then as the game went on, we were going to see how Shaun Dion did and then move on from there,” Gruden said.

It’s worth noting this change occurred the week after the Redskins claimed Reuben Foster off waivers. Beyond the controversies surrounding Foster, adding Foster is a sign the Redskins are looking for more at ILB. Then they went with Hamilton over Brown. With three weeks remaining, it will be interesting to see if the coaches want to see more from the rookie in this role -- and how Brown reacts if they do.

♦ Offensive lineman Zac Kerin was the only player not to receive any action Sunday. If unfamiliar with Mr. Kerin, don’t fret. He only arrived last week. I wasn't sure if it was "Zac" or "Zach" initially. 

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