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Why did Shanahan say what he said?

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Why did Shanahan say what he said?

I’m not sure how to find out what is trending on Twitter with any reliability but I would guess that words like “evaluate” and “disappointing” are appearing in a lot of tweets, at least among Redskins fans.

Here is what Mike Shanahan said after the game when asked about where the Redskins are after losing what he called a “must-win game”:

“[It’s] obviously very disappointing. A must-win game is a game that gives you a chance to play for a playoff spot. At the midway point when you’re 3-5, it’s going to be must-win to get in the hunt. When you lose a game like that, now you’re playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come. Now, we have a chance to evaluate players and see where we’re at. Obviously, we’re not out of it statistically. Now we find out what kind of character we have and how guys keep on fighting throughout the rest of the season.”

So, what we have is the head coach and the guy who chooses the talent that the Redskins are turning the last seven games into a cold-weather version of the preseason.

It appears that some of the players aren’t ready for this. Trent Williams and Darrel Young both said that they are not going to give up hope that they can make a run and make the playoffs. Other players said privately to reporters that they were bothered by what Shanahan said.

Lorenzo Alexander said as much to reporters. “I’m not thinkin’ about next year. That’s an offseason thing for me,” the veteran linebacker and special teams captain said. “But you know it’s hard when you see yourself in that type of position and your head coach is saying those types of things. It’s disappointing.” 

“Disappointing” was the word of the day. Mike Shanahan used it or “disappointed” seven times in his postgame remarks, which lasted about seven minutes.

Has Mike Shanahan lost the locker room? Prior to yesterday there has been no evidence of that but this may be a first step down that road or, after two and a half years with a .341 winning percentage, further momentum down that road. At some point, chronic losing will make a team question a coach’s ability to turn things around regardless of the resume he brought to the job.

Shanahan rarely says things without thinking them through first. That makes what he said even more of a head-scratcher. What could possibly be gained by announcing that the meaningful part of the season has concluded?

The thing is, as Shanahan himself pointed out, the Redskins are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot. Sure, it’s unlikely but every few years a surprise team goes on a tear and steals a playoff spot.

The Redskins, in fact, could emerge from this weekend with nearly as good a chance to make the playoffs as they did going into it. The Cowboys and Giants both lost last yesterday and the reeling Eagles are facing a Monday night game in the Superdome. If the Saints win, the Redskins are in exactly the same position in the division that they were on Sunday morning, albeit with one less game to make up ground.

OK, cue the Mora “Playoffs?! Playoffs?!” rant. Still, there are plenty of benefits to winning more games including, well, learning how to win games, a skill this team has yet to acquire.

It’s also hard to justify this “evaluation” frame of mind to the fans, especially those who spend hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars on tickets to FedEx Field. The slate of home games is only half over. Fans have already paid for tickets to two “evaluation” games in August. Now they find out that they are paying for four more games that really don’t mean anything. That can generate the kind of angry outlooks that don’t tend to evolve into warm and fuzzy feelings when the invoices for season ticket renewals arrive in the spring.

The best defense of what Shanahan said is that he was being honest. He has admitted on a few occasions that he is frequently less than candid when speaking to the media and he has drawn fire for it. Here, he’s speaking truthfully about how he views the team right now and is taking a ton of heat for it. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

He set himself a trap on Monday when he called it a “must-win” game. During the week, the players didn’t seem to buy into that line of thinking completely with many saying that they didn’t think that the season was over if they lost on Sunday. But Shanahan had already painted himself into a corner and he was stuck.

We will see how this plays out. Shanahan will have his press conference this afternoon and the media will have access to the players tomorrow. A lot is likely to be said to rewrite what was said. But what is done over the coming seven games and how the team plays will tell the tale of what long-term impact Shanahan’s words will have. 

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

Terrelle Pryor made a number of highlight reel catches last year during training camp, and it appears the Redskins defense didn't like it. 

Washington's marquee free agent signing last season, Pryor came into Richmond with sky-high expectations. Throughout the training sessions last August, Pryor put on one-handed displays at the Jugs machine and often made big catches in team drills. It's also important to remember there was never any live tackling during these drills, leaving defenders at a distinct disadvantage. 

Zach Brown remembers the scene quite well, and thinks it will look very different this summer when Pryor comes to Richmond as a member of the New York Jets. 

"That’s going to be something right there. The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now," Brown said on Inside the Locker Room on the Team 980 (full audio here).

Brown explained that Redskins coach Jay Gruden would not allow the defense to hit Pryor last year, even when the wideout did some showboating. 

"Jay ain't here to protect you anymore," Brown said.

The Redskins linebacker explained that he tried to explain to Pryor that the one-handed catches from training camp would not translate in the NFC East, where players get hit hard. It doesn't seem like Pryor listened, as he finished the season with only 240 receiving yards on 20 catches in nine games. 

"The boys were already hot for what he was doing last year," Brown said. He added, "Try to one-hand something while you’re with the Jets, you’re gonna catch a forearm."

One incident that supports Brown's comments came when Bashaud Breeland got thrown off the practice field last training camp. Breeland got mad that he wasn't allowed to get physical with Pryor at the line of scrimmage, and the scene blew up. Breeland eventually got sent off the field after arguing with coaches. 

The Jets visit the Redskins for three days of practices beginning August 12th. The two teams then square off in the second preseason game on August 16th. 

Brown will get his chance at Pryor, assuming the wideout plays. Pryor finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve, but is expected to be fine once training camp begins in New York. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 17, 39 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The best Redskins players 25 or younger

Here is a look at the best Redskins players who have played at least one season and will be 25 or younger as of Week 1 this year. 

WR Jamison Crowder, 25 as of Week 1—Crowder hit the ground running in his first year, with 59 receptions, a team rookie record, and gaining 604 yards. He has been very dependable in his three years, averaging 64 catches, 747 yards, and four receiving touchdowns per year. 

OLB Preston Smith, 25—Since he came into the league, no player but Smith has at least 20.5 sacks, three or more interceptions, and four or more forced fumbles. His sack numbers tend to be up and down from week to week, but Jay Gruden has said more than once that Smith is very consistent in getting pressure on the quarterback even if he doesn’t always get home for the sack. 

DL Matt Ioannidis, 24—A year ago it was thought that he would face an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. Now goes into the season as a starter and key contributor. The 2016 fifth-round pick got much stronger between his first and second seasons and he took well to the coaching of new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Only a broken hand that cost him two games and had him playing with an awkward cast for a few more kept him from threatening to make double-digit sacks. 

DL Jonathan Allen, 23—The Redskins were just starting to get a hint of what Allen could do early in the season. Pro Football Focus credited him with a total of three sacks in the Redskins third and fourth games. But in their fifth game, he suffered a foot injury that ended his season. Allen was a full go for the offseason program and there is no reason to think that he won’t pick back up right where he left off. 

S Montae Nicholson, 22—Like Allen, Nicholson’s rookie season was shortened due to injuries. He took advantage of the absence of anticipated starter Su’a Cravens and made an impact from the beginning. While the 2017 fourth-round pick and free-agent pickup D.J. Swearinger were in the lineup the decade-long struggles the Redskins have had at the safety position were suddenly gone. 

Best of the rest: WR Josh Doctson (25), C Chase Roullier (25)

It should be noted that DL Daron Payne turned 21 in May and RB Derrius Guice will the 21 later this month so they could be joining this list soon. Assuming those two start, the Redskins will have nine quality starters aged 25 or younger this year. 

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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Timeline  

Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder was born on this date in 1993. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 39
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 53
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 76

The Redskins last played a game 166 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 84 days. 

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