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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. 

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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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An almost 20-year run of stability at left tackle is now clearly over for the Redskins

An almost 20-year run of stability at left tackle is now clearly over for the Redskins

Lucky isn't a word that's been attributed to the Redskins much in the 2000s, but when it comes to what they've had at left tackle, the descriptor absolutely works.

Head coaches and quarterbacks, of course, have buzzed in and out of Washington. Supposed long-term answers at other key positions, meanwhile, turned out to be short-term problems. And there's that one time they signed Albert Haynesworth.

Yet at the most important spot on the offensive line, the Burgundy and Gold have been overwhelmingly steady since 2000.

Chris Samuels and Trent Williams are to thank for that.

The Redskins selected Samuels third overall in the 2000 Draft, and from then until the end of the 2009 season, he was their always good, six-time Pro Bowler on the outside.

When an injury forced Samuels to retire, the franchise took Williams fourth overall in the 2010 draft, and from then until the end of the 2019 season, he was their always good (when on the field/not feuding with Bruce Allen), seven-time Pro Bowler on the outside.

So, from 2000 until 2018, the Redskins consistently knew who they'd be lining up at left tackle, and aside from some health hiccups and a couple Williams suspensions, they lined those two guys up at left tackle. Pretty simple.

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Those words do a solid job explaining how lucky they've been, but these numbers do a better one:

  • The Redskins have played 320 regular season games since 2000. Samuels (141) and Williams (119) have combined to start 260 of them. That means the team has gotten Pro Bowl-caliber production at left tackle in 81-percent of their contests over the last 20 years, a number that would be even higher had Williams not sat out 2019.
  • Over those 20 seasons, Samuels (eight times) and Williams (six times) started at least 13 regular season matchups on 14 occasions. Together, Samuels (six times) and Williams (two times) started all 16 regular season matchups on eight occasions.

At this point, you get it. Those two stars held the position down on an almost unprecedented level.

However, that is no longer the norm for the Redskins. They now have to really wonder about something they haven't had to wonder about much at all in the past two decades.

Yes, the same could've mostly been said at this point last year when Williams was in the early stages of his holdout, but even then, there was still some hope that situation could be resolved. This time around, he's gone. 

This time around, the near and far future are a mystery.

While the Redskins feel quite confident about Saahdiq Charles' talent, he's still a 2020 Day 3 pick. He has plenty of supporters and lots of talent, sure, but neither of the two men he'll be trying to replace made it to fifth overall. He was there for Washington at No. 108.

In addition to Charles, Ron Rivera has Cornelius Lucas, a giant 28-year-old veteran who signed in March. Lucas played capably for the Bears in 2019 but has just 16 starts in his six-year career. 

Lastly, there's Geron Christian, a 2018 third-round choice who's played 189 offensive snaps since coming into the league. There's not much else to note about him.

The obvious best-case outcome for the Redskins moving forward is that Charles is able to emerge. Without his trouble at LSU, the 20-year-old would've gone much earlier in the draft. He has the ability to become a dependable starter if he can stay focused in the NFL.

If Charles doesn't deliver, then the team will likely have to go searching for another young option with potential or an older, more established pro. Lucas is more of a rotational piece, while Christian only appears to be an undefined piece. Charles is the one to really monitor.

Sort of like the Packers with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers at QB, the Redskins have long been spoiled at left tackle thanks to Samuels and Williams. That era, unfortunately, is now over. As for when the next one starts, well, that's anyone's guess. 

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COVID-19 will impact 2020 NFL season - but Redskins players want to get on the field

COVID-19 will impact 2020 NFL season - but Redskins players want to get on the field

Redskins rookie wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden tested positive for the coronavirus in March. He fully recovered and the virus is not expected to impact his 2020 season in any way.

That might be the only thing coronavirus won’t impact though.

NFL fans, and Redskins fans particularly, need to prepare for a weird, if not tumultuous, 2020 season. The NFL is admirably pushing forward with their 2020 season but that doesn’t mean there won’t be more players, coaches and staffers that test positive for COVID-19.

"We fully well expect that we will have positive cases that arise," NFL chief doctor Allen Sills said earlier this month.

"We think that this disease will remain endemic in society," Sills continued, "it shouldn't be a surprise that new positive cases arise."

Inevitability.

That’s the world the NFL will enter, eventually, when players, coaches and full staffs start to reconvene, none of which is unique to the NFL.

Coronavirus is everywhere. That’s the world. The NFL exists in that world.

Fans got to enjoy free agency and the NFL Draft, but those events largely took place in a virtual world. Little human interaction required.

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Actual football, however, requires significant human interaction.

The truth of inevitability is that eventually there will be more positive tests. For some players, that’s not particularly troubling.

“I really don’t have any concerns. I just want to get back to playing,” Redskins safety Landon Collins said last week.

Still, the focus remains on health and safety, for football players and for the country at large.

"First things first, you definitely want to be safe. But as far as moving forward, I mean I have full faith in our medical staff, so I mean, it’s really what they determine and what the NFL determines is safe for us to move forward," Redskins defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said.

"That’s really all I can think about, it’s just so much for one person to even try to comprehend that it’s not even worth it, you know?"

Allen is right. 

This virus and the international chaos it has created really are incomprehensible. It seems like there are few facts out there but plenty of rumors and noise.

In the football world, however, one thing seems clear. Players want to play.

"I’m definitely hoping to play the season which I think we will," Allen said, "I couldn’t imagine us not playing a season."

In the NFL it seems almost a certainty there will be a season. But with the inevitability of more positive COVID-19 tests, how that season will play out remains a mystery. 

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