September 17, 2014

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden discusses Kirk Cousins as starter

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was asked if the team’s game plan will change with Kirk Cousins behind center instead of Robert Griffin III, out indefinitely with a dislocated ankle.

“No, no. Our game plan will be our game plan,” Gruden said. “Nothing is going to change really whatsoever. If we see that we can run the ball, you’re going to try to run the ball every week, no question about it. There’s nothing that’ll change with Kirk at quarterback and these guys have practiced all our plays from Day 1 like I said when I first got here. They’ve both handled it very well – Colt [McCoy] included – all three of them. There’s not going to be a lot of change moving forward with Kirk.”

Gruden spoke about what the team needs to do around Cousins, “Yeah, we’ve got to help him. People around him have got to step up, not just Kirk. Our running game has got to step up, our linemen have got to do a better job in pass protection and opening up holes for our backs. Our receivers have got to do great things after the catch. And then of course, our defense needs to continue to play well and get the ball for us in good field position.

If we think we’re going to play from behind, it’s going to be hard on any quarterback, but I think we all realized what a team game this is yesterday. Our special teams was pretty good, our defense was outstanding and our offense was good in the running and the passing game. We put those three phases together, we’re going to be a tough team to beat. As we learned in Houston, when we don’t do that, it’s very tough to win whoever the quarterback is.

I think it’s just important moving forward that we try not to make this about Robert when Robert was the quarterback. We’re going to try not to make this about Kirk now that Kirk is the quarterback. We’ve got to make it about the Redskins moving forward, and everybody needs to get involved and help us through this.”

Gruden spoke of Cousins’s assets as a quarterback. “Well, he’s a smart quarterback, and I think he can make every throw,” Gruden started. “He’s got a very strong arm, he can throw the deep balls as we saw yesterday, and he’s got good medium accuracy and touch and obviously he has got short accuracy and touch. The big thing for him is playing – handling the pass rush, handling the blitzes and the protections, which he hasn’t had a whole lot of reps at. And that will be the difference in him being a very, very effective quarterback in the coming week.

So, we’ve got to just get him ready from a mental standpoint, but from a physical standpoint, he’s got the tools to make all the throws. I know the team has confidence in all our quarterbacks and moving forward and he’s got a chance to be very successful.”

Gruden rated Cousins’s performance on Sunday: “Very impressed, I thought he had an outstanding game. He worked the tight ends, he got the receivers involved, he got the backs involved, made good sound decisions with the football, quick decisions and kept us in positive down and distances and moving the ball. Our running game was outstanding, also. I think we had 190 yards rushing which also helps.

Then of course the field position the defense got us and special teams was also outstanding. So we were able to keep Jacksonville on their heels with the run, the play pass and the drop-back pass. It was a great day and both quarterbacks did well when they were in there.”

On whether the Redskins will bring in a new third-string quarterback, Gruden said, “We may. We haven’t decided that yet. And, you know, Colt is a very capable backup, as we know. He started some in the NFL, so we’ll address that at a later time, whether or not we bring a third guy in for practice squad.”

Asked what would have happened if Cousins also got injured Sunday with McCoy designated as inactive, Gruden answered, “Andre Roberts was going to go back there in the shotgun and hand it off or run it.”

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden discusses Robert Griffin III ankle injury

Kirk Cousins takes over as Washington Redskins starting quarterback. (photo by Brian Murphy)

Kirk Cousins takes over as Washington Redskins starting quarterback. (photo by Brian Murphy)

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden briefed reporters Monday about the severity of quarterback Robert Griffin III’s injury.

“Robert has a dislocated ankle. It is not a fracture. We’ll know in a few more weeks as far as how long he’ll be out. We’re going to send his results of the MRI to Dr. [Robert] Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist and get it casted up and we’ll just go from there.”

There was no ligament damage to Griffin’s ankle, and the injury will not require surgery. There was no consideration to putting Griffin on season-ending IR. [Read more...]

Washington Redskins Week 2 Analysis: Offensive Notes

The Washington Redskins offense thoroughly dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday en route to the team’s first victory since Nov. 3 of last year. The 41 points scored by the offense was their highest output since their 45-point showing against the Bears in late October last season.

However, in spite of their success, the story of this game will be the ankle injury quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered while making a throw on the run early in the first quarter. Griffin said Monday that the MRI showed no ankle fracture but the timetable for his return is still inconclusive, and he very well could miss a significant amount of time if not the rest of the season.

The injury could not only have a huge impact on the Redskins this season but may even alter the entire future of the franchise for years to come. The biggest question for this season now becomes how well can backup and fellow 2012 draft pick, Kirk Cousins, play as the starter in Griffin’s absence.

If RG3 doesn’t return this year, and Cousins is able to lead the team to a successful winning season, there’ll be a lot of tough questions for the front office in the offseason. The offense under Cousins got off to a good start Sunday. [Read more...]

Washington Redskins Monday Roundup Week 2

Here’s the buzz on the Washington Redskins’ bittersweet 41-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2:

[Read more...]

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Week Two victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars

Here are five big takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 24-17 home opener win over the Jacksonville Jaguars: [Read more...]

Washington Redskins 2014 Season Preview Part I: Quarterbacks

All this week leading up to the Washington Redskins 2014 season opener against the Houston Texans on Sept. 7, District Sports Page is taking an in-depth look at the players that will make up the 53-man roster to start the season in a position-by-position breakdown.

Monday we look at the competition at quarterback. More realistically, we asked the question: Is there a competition at quarterback?

In the recent history of the Washington Redskins, the biggest question that is most often repeated year after year is “Who should play quarterback in order to give the Redskins the best chance to succeed?”

Under the helm of Mike Shanahan, he brought in Donovan McNabb to replace a developing Jason Campbell. Then he benched McNabb during the end of a game against the Detroit Lions to have Rex Grossman attempt a game-winning drive. Next, we had the Grossman and John Beck fiasco that ended in a wasted season, enticing the Redskins decided to move up in the next draft to grab Robert Griffin III.

Surprisingly, Washington drafted another quarterback, Kirk Cousins,three rounds later and questions automatically began to fly about whether there would be a battle for the starting signal caller. In 2012, all of those questions were put to rest as Griffin led his team to the division title and a home playoff game for the first time since 1999.

Unfortunately for both the Redskins and Griffin, 2012 ended with its offensive leader going into the offseason broken and physically incapable of getting ready for the next season. Questions again arose about whether Griffin would be able to start the season against Philadelphia and if Cousins should fill in until the week five bye after having an impressive pre-season showcase.

After dropping five straight games after a 3-5 start, Griffin was benched for “safety precautions”. Cousins had a trial run of three games but did not win any of the encounters, though he showed potential as a leader. With the incredibly disappointing 3-13 record, both head coach Mike and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan were given the boot and replaced by former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

Beginning the 2014 training camp there seemed to be no controversy as Gruden immediately named Griffin as the starter. Everyone felt that with a full offseason and playing without a hindering knee brace, the former Heisman winner could return to form and lead this team once again.

However, after a mediocre and lackluster preseason from the first string offense, there were some doubters if Griffin was the best option for the team. Griffin went 13 for 20 for 141 yards, two interceptions, was sacked four times, and multiple questionable decisions. The controversy was fueled by former Redskins great Joe Theismann when he made the following comment:

“Let’s stop beating around the bush. Kirk Cousins has played much better at the quarterback position than Robert Griffin III has. Now, Robert is learning to work out of a pocket. He doesn’t look as smooth or as comfortable throwing the football. I mean, your eyes will tell you everything you need to know.

It’s going to be a decision that Jay Gruden will to have to make. Right now, Robert Griffin III is his quarterback. Now, if there was a quarterback competition, it wouldn’t be a competition. Kirk Cousins would be the man I believe he would have to go to, because of the efficiency with which he has run [the offense]. Now Kirk, like I said, is basically a drop-back quarterback. I see Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, I see Kirk Cousins that way”.

Although Cousins has looked impressive during the course of the first three preseason games, he did so against backup defenders, many of whom will not be employed in the coming month. It was crystal clear that Cousins had a much cleaner pocket with more time to throw when compared to Griffin running for his life against the Ravens. Furthermore, Cousins already had his chance to compete for the starting job when he played against starting caliber defenses at the end of last year, where he faired okay, but not to the extent where he would unseat Griffin.

To add another twist to the already confusing puzzle, the St. Louis Rams lost their franchise quarterback Sam Bradford, again to that same dreaded torn ACL injury. With Cousins being a young and capable backup with some game experience, rumors began to swirl linking the two teams because of their history in trading picks for the Redskins’s right to select Griffin. However, at this time Rams’s coach Jeff Fisher claims he is sticking with his veteran backup, former Maryland standout Shaun Hill.

For now, there will not major developments or changes at the quarterback position for the Redskins. Griffin will start and continue to do so until he physically cannot or he loses the support of his teammates. Some fans may be quick to blame Griffin for last year’s disappointment simply because he did not save a team that had an atrocious defense and special teams.

Cousins will continue to be the guy who is one play away from getting into the game. Cousins will have to bide his time while Griffin gets every opportunity to fulfill the promise that everyone saw in 2012. Perhaps Cousins’ best opportunity might be with another franchise, but for now, he’s the backup unless Griffin proves once and for all he’s unfit for the job.

Colt McCoy will be retained as the third string signal caller because of Griffin’s injury history and is more than capable in that role, as he could be many teams’ primary backup.

The organization, coaching staff, players and all Redskins fans hope Griffin shakes off the rust, quiets the doubters, and takes his team to new heights.

Neil Dalal is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins. Neil grew up in Silver Spring, MD and attends the University of Maryland studying Journalism. Neil has loved everything related to the Redskins, Wizards,  Capitals, and Terrapins since he was eight years old. Neil, however, favors the Orioles as he started watching baseball before the Expos moved to DC. You can follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins preseason finale win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Here are five big takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 24-10 preseason finale win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night and the implications:

  1. The Washington Redskins have had a good preseason avoiding injuries in their first three contests, and they survived the huge scare when Morgan Moses went down with a knee injury last Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately this week that was not the case as knee injuries were sustained by NT/DE Chris Neild and LILB Akeem Jordan. A source with knowledge backed up Jay Gruden’s belief that it is very likely that Neild has a significant ACL tear of his right knee according to ESPN 980 Radio. This could very easily open the door to a roster spot for Clifton Geathers, massive body that showed agility and power off the ball. Jordan is believed to have a non-major tear to either his MCL or ACL, but is preliminarily not having an end to the season quite yet. ILB is one of the toughest roster spots to project this year where guys will be cut that could produce this year. One huge thing that is helping Will Compton is his ability to play “Mike” & “Jack” positions. Jordan can only play Mike and Adam Hayward only Jack. Thus, the next men up for Washington at these positions are Geathers and Compton who have now possibly secured jobs for the rest of the year.
  2. The next toughest position to project for the Redskins is clearly at the running back position. Since Roy Helu did not receive any playing time it is safe to say that he has secured a roster. Chris Thompson needed a hall of fame performance to even creep back into the mind of Gruden as his durability is in question constantly. Thompson had two bright moments in an otherwise vanilla performance: he had a 25-yard catch and run reception and nearly an amazing touchdown run where he broke two tackles, one in the backfield, to lunge short of the goal line. That subpar performance opened the gates to Silas Redd and Lache Seastrunk who both improved their stock quite well, while Evan Royster saw limited playing time in which he did next to nothing. Redd was the workhorse with 79 yards on 14 rushes, while Seastrunk had a more mediocre six rushes for 23 yards. The thing that Seastrunk has had on his resume since the beginning is his speed, which differentiates him from rest and it is tough to cut a guy who can a take screen pass 80 yards for a touchdown as he did in the game.
  3. The battle at wide receiver was more of the usual as Aldrick Robinson and Ryan Grant continued to shine. Robinson managed 75 yards on five receptions off eight targets, while Grant posted a similar 73 yards on five catches on a mere six targets. The things that stands out to coaches is Aldrick’s motivation to run full speed ahead on a perceivable go route to attract both the cornerback and safety, clearing the way for Chris Thompson’s 25-yard reception. On the flip side, Grant runs great routes, has good hands and is focused. Two guys who have done nearly nothing wrong this offseason have given Coach Gruden the easy decision to have quality depth behind an already elite receiving corp.
  4. A topic of speculation comes from the quarterback position as third stringer Colt McCoy played the entire game with most of the second string weapons. McCoy posted great fantasy numbers with 321 yards and two touchdowns, but had two end zone interceptions which dropped his QBR down to 105.7. Numbers that are both appropriate and welcomed for a third stringed quarterback, but not numbers to assure a roster spot on a team that may be looking to keep an extra guy in another area. That begs the question was this McCoy audition to show Gruden that he would be idiotic to cut such an asset? Did backup signal caller Kirk Cousins not play because he is about to be traded to the Rams? Or maybe he should have played to potentially raise his worth even more? All of these are possible explanations, but we will never know the answer. If Cousins is indeed staying with the team for the season, then McCoy is probably not needed.
  5. The preseason is over and now it is time to look forward and start scheming against the Houston Texans. Gruden will have to put some fairy dust on his current starting offensive line to keep Robert Griffin III clean from the dynamic bookends of Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt. As fans we are all anxiously awaiting the start of the 2014 season and cannot wait!

Washington Redskins Monday Morning Roundup

Here’s a look at the top stories coming off Washington’s 23-17 preseason loss to Baltimore:

Washington Post, Liz Clarke: Redskins vs. Ravens: Robert Griffin III struggles, Redskins lose, 23-17

“Of the six drives Griffin engineered, two were three-and-outs. One ended with a sack; another with an interception.

Through three preseason games, the first-team offense has yet to score a touchdown.” [Read more...]

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens

Here are five big takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 23-17 preseason road loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night:

[Read more...]

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins victory over the Browns

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ Monday night 24-23 preseason victory over the Cleveland Browns.

  1. An up-and-down performance from Robert Griffin III. The interception RGIII threw was an ugly one, where he should have thrown the ball away and didn’t plant his back foot and throw with good form. This will be something the third-year pro will surely go back and correct on film. However, the interception wasn’t helped by poor pass protection by both the offensive line and running back (Roy Helu). However, on the second play of the game Griffin did a fantastic job of standing tall in the pocket, progressing through his reads and finding the open man down field. Griffin also threw a pretty ball to Andre Roberts at the end of the first quarter. Griffin’s transition into more of a pocket passer will take time, but he has shown promise on plays like these.
  2. The defensive pass rush may be the biggest strength on the Redskins entire team. Even without Jason Hatcher the front seven has played very well. The pass coverage has to improve though. The Redskins were bailed out by poor passes from the both the Browns quarterbacks, in addition to some drops from the wide receivers.
  3. The running back position is wide open. Roy Helu still has the inside track on the third-down back job, however, he struggled both in pass protection and in catching the ball against the browns. Evan Royster, Helu’s main competitor for playing time, played very well including an impressive catch-and-run on a circle route and a solid run to finish off a two-minute drive with a touchdown.
  4. Ryan Grant is making a push to be the fourth receiver on the Redskins depth chart. After Aldrick Robinson had a solid performance in the first pre-season game, Grant continues to show rare polished routes for a rookie and consistently good play, including a beautiful touchdown strike from Kirk Cousins.
  5. Turnovers need to stop, especially the sloppy avoidable ones. The starting offensive unit played well, and moved the ball well, but when you fumble a ball that is directly in your hands and throw an easy interception you won’t win many games. Turnover margin was one of the biggest reason for the Redskins success in 2012 (+17) and failure in 2013 (-8). The Redskins simply have to take care of the ball better.
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