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State of the Redskins, Week 12: How do you like them now?

State of the Redskins, Week 12: How do you like them now?

Here is where the Redskins stand in Week 12 of the NFL season.

Record: 6-3-1, 3rd in NFC East
vs. NFC East: 2-1
vs. NFC: 4-2
vs. AFC: 2-1-1
Home: 4-2
Away: 2-1-1

Rankings and changes from Week 10

Offense (yards/game): 418.5 (2nd, +2 from Week 11)
Defense (yards/game): 371.3 (23rd, -2)
Points for: 254 (9th, +7)
Points against: 233 (18th, -1)

Passer rating offense:  99.1 (9th, +3)
Opp passer rating: 92.8 (18th, -2)
Yards/rush attempt: 4.6 (6th, +2)
Opp. yards/rush attempt:
 4.6 (31st, -3)
Weighted DVOA (Football Outsiders): 12.7% (7th, +1)
Playoff chances per FO: 62.6%, +16.9% from last week

Trending the right way: Going into the bye the Redskins’ passer rating was in the middle of the pack, 15th in the NFL. Kirk Cousins has been hot for the last two weeks and the rating has risen three spots in each of the last two weeks. Also, putting up 42 points on Sunday night pushed them up into the top 10 in scoring.

Trending the wrong way: Although Aaron Rodgers was the Packers’ leading rusher on Sunday, the Redskins dropped three spots in rushing yards per attempt, back to 31st. That does not bode well for tomorrow’s matchup against Zeke Elliott and the Cowboys.

Top three storylines:

“How do you like me now?”—As he came off the field after the win over the Packers, Cousins delivered that line to Scot McCloughan on the sideline. Many took it to mean that Cousins is looking towards a big payday when his contract is up after the season. Cousins says it was just a spontaneous celebration. In any case, it’s could be a rallying cry, retiring “You like that!”

Defense scuffles but wins—The Redskins are in the bottom half of the league in nearly every defensive stat but they are playing well enough for the team to win. They are a “bend but don’t break” unit and when they do break they can come up with a play when they need one. Last week’s example was Josh Norman’s punch of the ball from the grasp of tight end Jared Cook that essentially wrapped up the win.

Fat Rob keeps rolling—All it took was a 137-yard, three touchdown performance on national TV, an effort that made him the top fantasy scorer in many leagues, for Kelley to get attention. You have to think that the coaches at Tulane are wondering why they didn’t give him the ball more. After his third start he’s already a vital part of the Redskins’ offense.

Next three games

Thanksgiving @ Cowboys (9-1)—The Redskins will get about eight possessions in this game. They need to score touchdowns on at least half of them if they are going to win.

December 4 @ Cardinals (4-5-1)—This looked like a game that would be Mission Impossible for the Redskins when the schedule came out. Now it certainly looks winnable, although playing them on the road will be very tough.

December 11 @ Eagles (5-5)—The Redskins handled them pretty well in October but the Eagles may be fighting for their playoff lives when this one comes around. For that matter, the Redskins might be, too.  

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden knows the pressure is on him in 2018

gruden_2018_tandler_take.jpg
Various sources

Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden knows the pressure is on him in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 24, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The heat is on Jay Gruden

Jay Gruden knows that his Redskins need to win in 2018.

“This isn’t a two- or three-year process,” he said last week. “This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.” 

Jay Gruden gave this answer to a question about Alex Smith, but his words should resonate with the whole team. He’s right. This is no longer a rebuilding team. It’s time for this team to get it together and make a playoff run. 

That puts the pressure on Gruden. 

This is his fifth year as coach of the Redskins. He is well beyond the point where he can credibly point a finger of blame at his predecessor for any problems that are lingering. Only five players who were around in 2013, Mike Shanahan’s last year in Washington. It’s Gruden’s show now. 

His tenure is now the longest for a Redskins head coach since Norv Turner made it nearly seven years, from 1994 through 13 games into the 2000 season. His 49-59-1 run with the Redskins spanned three owners in Jack Kent Cooke, John Kent Cooke, and Dan Snyder. 

It should be noted that Turner’s third and fourth years at the helm closely resembled Gruden’s past two years. Turner’s team went 9-7 in 1996 and 8-7-1 the next year, narrowly missing the playoffs both years. That looks a lot like Gruden’s 8-7-1 and 7-9 records over the past two years. 

Gruden does not want this year’s team to resemble the 1998 Redskins. Turner’s fifth team started out 0-7 before winning four of their last five to finish 6-10. 

Turner kept his job in part because of the team’s uncertain ownership situation after the elder Cooke passed away in 1997. Gruden will not have a similar set of circumstances to help him out if he needs a lifeline in January. 

Gruden wants his fifth year to turn out more like Turner’s sixth season. That team went 10-6, topped the NFC East standings and won a playoff game. 

To get there, he needs a lot of his decisions to go right. While the trade for Smith was not his call, every indication is that he was on board with it. 

Last year, it was his decision to say no, thanks to Wade Phillips, who wanted to be his defensive coordinator and promote Greg Manusky into the job. The results were mixed as the Redskins were sixth in pass defense DVOA but 29thagainst the run. It was viewed as a marginal improvement on defense but the unit still seeme to be more of a liability than an asset. 

This year, the Redskins re-signed inside linebackers Zach Brown and Mason Foster and added defensive lineman Daron Payne with their first-round pick after spending their first-round pick on DE Jonathan Allen in 2017. There will be no excuses for Manusky and, by extension, Gruden if the defense does not improve. 

Joe Barry, Manusky’s predecessor who also was hired by Gruden when Phillips was an option, was out after two years of failing to significantly improve the defense. Any reasonable analysis would have to conclude that Barry did not get an infusion of talent anywhere approaching what Manusky has received in his two seasons. Manusky is getting a second year but he probably won’t get a third if the defense is still considered to be an impediment to the team’s progress. 

And if Manusky has to go, you have to wonder if Gruden will get a chance to hire a third defensive coordinator. 

I’m not sure if there is a certain number of games that the Redskins have to win for Gruden to return in 2019. It feels like he would not survive a 6-10 season or maybe not even another 7-9 finish. On the other end of the spectrum, making the playoffs and winning a game when they get there would certainly punch his ticket for a sixth season. 

Anything in between would leave Gruden in some jeopardy and the call would come down to the vague “moving in the right direction” criteria. 

There are some holes on this team, to be sure. But every team has some and the ones that are well coached figure out how to overcome them. The pressure will be on Gruden to best utilize their strengths and minimize any damage brought about by the weaker points. 

From his statement, it’s apparent that he is well aware of that. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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I put out a tweet correcting the Super Bowl ring count to two.

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 32
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 60

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 77 days. 

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