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In win over Packers, Jay Gruden makes biggest call of the year on huge 4th down

In win over Packers, Jay Gruden makes biggest call of the year on huge 4th down

When Jay Gruden decided to go for it on fourth down and less than a yard from near midfield, the stands at FedEx Field roared. A first down would put the Redskins in firm position to beat the Packers, avenging a playoff loss 10 months earlier.

Gruden called for a quarterback sneak, and with a great push from the interior of the offensive line, Kirk Cousins got the needed yardage without much worry. 

"I think you had to do it," Cousins said. "Credit Brandon Scherff, Spencer Long, and Shawn Lauvao for getting the push inside against a pretty good interior defensive line, to enable me to get in because I certainly don’t get in there by turning my legs. It’s those guys making some push up front."

Cousins was right - the Redskins almost had to go for it in that situation, if for no other reason than to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. At that point, the Redskins lead was less than a touchdown, and Rodgers had just guided the Packers down the field for a TD in less than a minute. 

RELATED: STUNNING IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' PRIMETIME WIN

A few plays after the 4th down conversion, Cousins connected deep to Jamison Crowder, allowing Rob Kelley to score another TD from the goalline on the next play. That gave Washington a 35-24 lead with under five minutes left.

"They made the plays, we didn’t," Green Bay safety Micah Hyde said after the game. "It’s as simple as that."

Though the Skins would go on to score one more time — another TD from Kelley — the fourth down call was arguably the game's most important. On a night when Gruden was forced to make many unorthodox calls, a swirling wind limited the Washington kicking game rather ineffective, the coach showed major guts on that fourth down.

"The fourth-and- one was pretty simple. It was half a yard and the wind was pretty strong in our face," Gruden said. "Thought our offensive line was getting pretty good movement [and] we’d get a half a yard with the quarterback sneak play."

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While Gruden's analysis is factual, it leaves out an important part: Had the Packers defense stuffed Cousins' sneak, the coach would be killed for the decision. Gruden knew that, too.

Looking back at the tie game in London, there were perhaps a few opportunities where the Redskins could have been more aggressive. Right or wrong, the team didn't take them.

Sunday night against the Packers, Gruden pushed his chips in, and more than one player in the Skins locker room after the game appreciated their coach's courage. While the night evolved to be a celebration of Cousins' ability, Gruden made the game's biggest decisions with an eye towards victory.

In an increasingly tough NFC East, Gruden knew his team needed a win to keep pace in the Wild Card race. The players delivered, but Gruden put them in positions to succeed. 

RELATED: WHAT WE LEARNED FROM REDSKINS' WIN OVER PACKERS

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Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

It'd be borderline shocking if the Redskins didn't add a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft, and with the first round coming Thursday, one report suggests the team is interested in doing so with a top pick.

ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Wednesday that "sources have indicated Dwayne Haskins is [Washington's] target despite multiple holes at several positions on this roster." She then added that the 'Skins aren't talking to the Cardinals about Josh Rosen.

Now, the question for the Redskins becomes: If Haskins is their target, will they have to move up in the order to get him?

Insider JP Finlay wrote Wednesday the franchise could be willing to make a big leap up to pick No. 3 if Kyler Murray isn't taken first overall. So, you'd think they'd be willing to do the same for Haskins, whether that means swapping with the Jets to get the Ohio State passer third or with another organization if Haskins slips lower.

There's also a chance he lasts until the 15th pick, but that's far from certain. The front office may not feel comfortable enough to wait for him to fall.

A combination of Colt McCoy and Case Keenum could get the Redskins through the 2019 season, but neither sets the squad up for long-term success under center. Haskins could, although he started just one year for the Buckeyes and Jay Gruden has said this offseason how valuable experience is for signal callers entering the pros. 

There should be plenty of appealing prospects available for Washington when it's their turn on the clock. However, landing a QB on a rookie deal would be the most impactful acquisition if that guy pans out. So, if Haskins really is the "target" as reported, look for them to be aggressive in chasing him.

For an in-depth look at Haskins' development and life, check out NBC Sports Washington's "I am The Prospect: Dwayne Haskins."

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The Redskins seem highly unlikely to trade into the Top 5, unless crazy happens

The Redskins seem highly unlikely to trade into the Top 5, unless crazy happens

Holding the 15th pick and with a litany of needs to improve their football team, the Redskins seem highly unlikely to trade up into the top five of the NFL Draft.

Unless Kyler Murray somehow comes available. 

The Redskins, like a host of other NFL teams, believe Murray has transcendent talent. Jay Gruden said so publicly at the NFL Scouting Combine, and privately, Ashburn sources have been clear that Washington considers Murray the top offensive player available in this draft.

Be real though, Murray has no chance of lasting around to Washington's selection with the 15th pick. It's still most likely he's the first player drafted. If Arizona doesn't take Murray with the No. 1 overall pick, things could get interesting. 

A report from New York showed that the Redskins have been talking with the Jets about the third pick, something that NBC Sports Washington suggested could happen as far back as February during the NFL Combine

The problem is the only player worth paying the cost to move up that high is Murray, and again, he seems unlikely to be available. 

One NFC scout explained that of the 2019 quarterback class, only Murray is the type a team would "reach" for. Beyond the Oklahoma Heisman winner, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock and Daniel Jones are good, legitimate first-round prospects, but not the type to "sell the farm to get."

Sure, the Redskins might want a new QB, but it's entirely possible one of those three players last to the 15th pick.

One of the reasons that makes the 2019 draft so intriguing is that after Murray, there is very little consensus ranking the passers. It seems Haskins or Lock will go off the board as the second QB, but which one is up for debate. And Jones has some serious fans around the NFL. For example, Hall of Fame analyst Gil Brandt compared Jones to Peyton Manning. Seriously. 

Any combination of Lock, Haskins and/or Jones could go before 15, but it seems unlikely all three do. One former NFL executive suggested that the Redskins will take either Lock or Haskins if that player is available at 15 though.

If both are gone, and no top defensive player slips to 15 as a result of a quarterback or offensive line run early in the draft, then it's entirely possible the Redskins look to trade back. Senior VP of Player Personnel Doug Williams said as much earlier this week. 

"I’m going to go on the record and say that’s a possibility that we won’t trade up, but there’s a great possibility we’ll trade back if that opportunity came," Williams said on Monday.

The Redskins met with Maryland safety Darnell Savage on Tuesday, and his draft stock likely seems to land somewhere in the bottom third of the first round or early in the second round. The Texans might be looking to move up and get a tackle, and Washington should answer that call if it comes. Houston holds the 23rd pick, and that could make sense as a spot to select Savage. 

Beyond Savage, a player like Boston College offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom could make sense if the 'Skins move back, not to mention Jones. The Duke QB seems unlikely to get past the first round, especially because of the advantage of having a quarterback on a rookie contract. A first-round deal comes with a low cost relative to NFL quarterbacks, and additionally, a fifth-year option. if a QB plays at a high level, that option year holds tremendous value for its team-friendly terms

That Jones seems a possibility at both 15 and at 23 illustrates that there is really no consensus anywhere. 

To that point, one talent evaluator said this draft holds the promise for chaos.

"It's going to be crazy."

For months, Murray seemed to be a lock to go first overall. Now, that doesn't seem like such a sure thing. The debate between Haskins and Lock has never really subsided. There is no clear-cut best wide receiver, or offensive tackle, two spots that often command picks in the Top 10. 

Anything can happen this week, and the Redskins are right in the middle of it all. They want a quarterback - Williams said so - but can't afford to mortgage the future of the franchise. 

Two nuggets to remember this week:

  1. Of the last 12 quarterbacks taken in the first round, 11 were drafted by a team that traded up to get them. The only QB that a team got without trading up? Baker Mayfield, last year's No. 1 overall selection.
  2. The Redskins missed the playoffs the least three seasons. The last time that happened was 2012, when the team mortgaged the future to trade up and select Robert Griffin III.

The only real truth about the 2019 NFL Draft is that nobody knows what's going to happen.

By draft day last season, it was pretty clear the Redskins would take either Daron Payne or Vita Vea. The team needed major help on the defensive line, and those were the two best players believed to be available when Washington picked. At the top of the draft, it was clear Mayfield would go first and the Jets wanted Sam Darnold. That allowed for some stability in projecting what else would happen. 

This year, there are a million scenarios, but no clarity.

Doug Williams summed the situation up very well: "We got the 15th pick at this time, and there are 14 teams in front of us, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. Things happen that you don’t expect."

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