'We're thankful he's making the right decisions'

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'We're thankful he's making the right decisions'

Robert Griffin III electrified FedEx Field on Sunday with his 76-yard run down the sideline for a victory-clinching touchdown against the Vikings.

What might prove more important in the long term, though, were the multiple occasions when the Redskins’ rookie – seven days removed from suffering the first concussion of his NFL career – chose self-preservation over the type of high-risk play that knocked him out of the game the previous week.

“As I’ve told people, you stay aggressive, but you just try to be smart,” Griffin said after the Redskins’ 38-26 victory. “I felt like I got out of bounds a couple of times when I should have. I threw the ball away one time and got penalty because a guy hit me. You try to play smart but stay aggressive.”

It’s not that Griffin didn’t get hit; he did. Anytime a quarterback carries the ball 13 times for a team-record 138 yards, he’s going to get tackled. Griffin simply did a better job of deciding when to turn up the field with the ball, when to get down and when to duck out of bounds.

Four plays in particular stand out a good examples of this:

--In the first quarter, Griffin bootlegged to the left, surveyed the field, realized all of his receivers were covered, tucked the ball and sprinted toward the sideline. With the Vikings’ four-time pro bowl defensive end Jared Allen in pursuit and two defensive backs also closing in, Griffin stepped out of bounds after a seven-yard gain. The capacity crowd showered Griffin with a sarcastic cheer – not for the run but for his wise decision to get out of bounds. 

--In the second quarter, Griffin scrambled out of the pocket and judiciously chose to throw the ball away. After releasing the ball, Griffin was shoved by Vikings’ linebacker Erin Henderson. Although Griffin later acknowledged that he embellished the hit, the official whistled Henderson for roughing the passer. Griffin gave an exaggerated head nod as he walked back to the huddle.

--Also in the second quarter, Griffin carried the ball up the middle on a designed run. He shook Henderson at the line of scrimmage, but before safety Harrison Smith could lay a hard hit on him, Griffin slid, thus avoiding any contact. “You have to live with that,” he later explained. “And not worry about the eight or nine yards you could have gotten [by] taking the hit.”

--In the third quarter, Griffin dropped back to pass, pump faked and then took off toward the right sideline. After turning the corner, three Vikings closed in on him. But before any of the defenders could get close enough to hit him, Griffin stepped out of bounds. Griffin perhaps could have gained a few more yards by lowering his shoulder into safety Jamarca Sanford, but he didn’t.

“I think common sense prevailed,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “I think he’ll learn every game, maybe, when to slide, when to throw the ball away, when to go out of bounds a little bit earlier. I saw that today in a number of situations. As time goes on, he’ll keep on getting better and better at keeping people away from [himself].”

After one practice last week, Griffin pulled together his teammates and told them he did not intend to put himself in harm’s way again.

“I told the team I wasn’t going to leave them hanging,” Griffin said. “So I tried to make sure I did that.”

Guard Kory Lichtensteiger said the other players are grateful that the team’s most important player has pledged – and now shown – that he’s serious about being more careful.

“He’s learned a lot from that hit” against the Falcons, Lichtensteiger said. “He doesn’t want to spend another half in the locker room getting treated. It’s something he had to learn. It’s too bad he had to learn it the hard way, but we’re thankful he’s making the right decisions.” 

Cravens to accept "challenge," wear Sean Taylor's rookie number

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Cravens to accept "challenge," wear Sean Taylor's rookie number

The majority of highlights from Sean Taylor's career, whether he's walloping a helpless receiver or intercepting a pass from a quarterback foolish enough to test him, come from the days when he wore No. 21. However, some may forget that the gifted safety actually donned No. 36 as a rookie back in 2004, before transitioning to his more familiar digits in 2005. 

Nowadays, Taylor's 21 isn't officially retired, but's it's essentially untouchable. So for Redskins players who want to honor the talented defender — Ryan Clark is a recent example of one who did — they have to go about it in creative ways (Clark, for one, sported the famous number in practice).

Well, rookie Su'a Cravens, who was drafted by the franchise in the second round on Friday, is getting creative. On Sunday, the USC standout announced he was going to pay respect to the Burgundy and Gold legend in his own right by taking the field in the same No. 36 that Taylor debuted in. The news came around the time that it was revealed the versatile Cravens would be listed on the roster as a safety, another thing that he shares with the Pro-Bowler he idolizes.

Here are some tweets from the 20-year-old detailing his decision and what it means to him:

Showing love to Taylor is nothing new for the Los Angeles native, though. It was something he did in college as well:

Cravens has certainly wasted no time since getting every prospect's dream phone call in endearing himself to his new team's fans. He's already said that he's "so damn hyped to be a Redskin" and called the passion of Washington's supporters "unreal." But it's his latest choice that will really have people enthused, as understanding and acknowledging Taylor's talents are surefire ways to become a favorite in D.C.

It's clear Cravens knows his uniform selection means a lot to the city he'll be suiting up for. And it's clear he's ready for the expectations that'll come along with it. Sure, he's only been a Redskin for a few days, but Cravens is already making an impression.

MORE REDSKINS: GRADING THE 2016 DRAFT CLASS

Cody Kessler to compete with RG3 for Cleveland starting job

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Cody Kessler to compete with RG3 for Cleveland starting job

Robert Griffin III signed with the Cleveland Browns presumably to be the starting quarterback there, but he is going to have to beat out rookie Cody Kessler for the job.

After drafting Kessler in the third round of the draft on Friday, Browns head of football operations Sashi Brown would not declare Griffin the starter for the upcoming season and said the starting job would be an open competition.

"I do think Cody is a guy that I would not want to sleep on at all if I wanted to be the starting quarterback of the Browns," Brown said at a press conference on Saturday (via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com). "He's going to come in serious ready to work. Robert has four years of NFL experience, is tremendously athletic and serious about becoming a starting quarterback in this league. There's no reason he can't, but this is going to be a competition.''

RELATED: GRADING THE REDSKINS' 2016 DRAFT

Griffin signed a two-year contract for $15 million in the offseason with $6.75 million guaranteed. Those numbers suggest this is a "show me" deal for Griffin so it is perhaps no surprise to see the Browns bring in another arm in the draft. Considering Griffin's history in which the Redskins drafted Cousins in the same year they drafted Griffin in the first round, it is interesting to see Cleveland bring in another quarterback to compete

Kessler was very accurate in college while starting for USC, but is considered a project the team will have to develop over several years. It seems unlikely that he would be able to beat out Griffin for the job as a rookie.

"We would not have made the investment we made in (Griffin) if we didn't feel like he was capable of being our starter,'' Brown said.

The issue, however, is what happens if Griffin gets injured.

Griffin certainly has struggled to stay healthy in his career and has yet to play a full 16 games in any of his seasons. If the Browns believe they have the quarterback of the future and he does well in Griffin's place, will Griffin ever get the starting role back?

It's an interesting question and one that has to be on Griffin's mind as he prepares to try and rejuvenate his career. Before he worries about getting replaced, however, he still has to win the job.

Said Brown, "I hope the best for all of our quarterbacks. We'll let it play out.''

MORE REDSKINS: NEED TO KNOW: HOW MUCH HAVE THE REDSKINS IMPROVED?

Toughness, versatility the keys to Redskins’ 2016 draft class.

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Toughness, versatility the keys to Redskins’ 2016 draft class.

The Redskins added seven players in the draft class of 2016 and many of them share some common traits.

“I'm very excited about these guys, really,” Jay Gruden said to the media after the draft was over. “I think the theme is we got some football players. We got some versatile guys who can do a lot of different things. Tough guys, who love the game of football. We're excited about them, they all bring great attitude to this organization. They're going to play hard and they're good people.”

Gruden seems to be particularly impressed with a pair of defensive players, fifth-round lineman Matt Ioannidis out of Temple and inside linebacker Steven Daniels, a seventh-round pick out of Boston College.

“Steven Daniels is very tough,” said Gruden. “When he hits you, he thumps you.”

Like Daniels, Ioannidis was the captain of the defensive unit. Gruden said that he loved his relentless play and said that “he’s a tough guy.”

Ioannidis and Su’a Cravens, the team’s second-round pick out of USC, will both play a number of roles on defense. Ioannidis could add 15-20 pounds (he is listed at 299) and play nose tackle or he could play all along the line. Cravens is a dime linebacker but he could play outside linebacker and strong safety in other situations as well.

Gruden said that the Redskins were able to emphasize toughness and versatility because they weren’t buttonholed into being forced to draft particular positions because they didn’t have anyone there.

“We didn't have a lot of glaring needs, like 'oh, my gosh we're totally incompetent at this position,’” he said. “I felt really good about the depth on our footbal team already, now that the draft is about adding a lot of good football players and adding guys that are tough.”

The team used toughness and other factors as tiebreakers when selecting among players.

“When you're in the draft and it's close between a couple of different guys, the toughness, maybe the special teams factor, the versatility, being a captain, all that stuff factors into it,” said Gruden. “You're always going to err on the side of tough, loves football.”