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Benching Griffin is not the answer

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Benching Griffin is not the answer

The Washington Redskins might have a better chance of beating the Detroit Lions on Sunday with Kirk Cousins at quarterback instead of Robert Griffin III.

But benching Griffin right now would be a huge mistake.

Yes, I saw Griffin struggle to make plays yesterday against the Packers and last Monday against the Eagles, at least while the game was still competitive. At times he has little time to throw because he has pass rush pressure in his face and he seems either incapable of scrambling and either buying more time to pass or taking off and running or very reluctant to do so. And when he does have some time to pass his throws frequently missed the mark.

Is it rust, the lingering effects of not playing in the preseason and very limited 11 on 11 team action in training camp? Is the knee not has healthy as we are led to believe? Are the Redskins trying to convert Griffin into a pocket passer without the benefit of that practice?

The explanation I’ve heard that makes the most sense came from CBS analyst Steve Tasker. He was on The Junkies on 106.7 The Fan last week (I can’t locate the podcast on their site, otherwise I would link to it and quote Tasker directly). The former Bills special teams ace said that he suffered multiple knee injuries during his 14-year NFL career. When he came back, he said the knee was healthy and pain free but it was just different. Tasker said that it took some time for him to adjust to playing on what was essentially a “new” knee. The confidence that it would respond to what he needed it to do took some time and some adjustment.

When a special teams player is feeling his way around a knee that may not feel quite right even though it’s medically sound it doesn’t have ripple effects on every snap and the situation doesn’t make all of the highlights and get put under the microscope on every one of the myriad of NFL shows that heavily populate your cable TV guide. When the quarterback has those issues and that quarterback is Griffin it’s national news.

That Griffin’s struggles are being magnified by the fact that he’s a high-profile player in the highest profile sports league on the planet is not the only issue. The Redskins’ defense is playing poorly. They are having problems covering and tackling. The team is falling behind, elements like play action passing that made the offense hum aren’t effective so the offense can’t sustain drives. That puts the defense back on the field quickly and things start to snowball.

But whether the defense is working or not, Griffin and the offense need to do what the need to do to keep the team competitive throughout the game. And that’s not happening.

If it happens or if it doesn’t, Griffin needs to be the one doing it or not doing it. Cousins might provide a short-term lift but if this team is going to get to a Super Bowl this year or in the future it’s going to be Griffin doing the heavy lifting. A game or two on the bench for Griffin means that it’s a game or two longer until he’s right. And that puts the Redskins a game or two further away from their goals.

Benching Griffin might be a short-term fix. For years the Redskins organization lived for instant gratification. We have seen the results of thinking about the coming year, the coming game over thinking about setting things up to be successful for a long time.

That’s why the Vikings did last year with Adrian Peterson. It’s easy to look back at his near-record season last year following an ACL injury and think that he came out of the box blazing in 2012. But he did not. In his first six games he went over 100 yards once. In Week 2 he picked up a very pedestrian 60 yards on 16 carries. The next game he rushed for 86 yards but it took him 25 carries to get there (3.4 yards per carry).

The Vikings did not bench Peterson in favor of Toby Gerhart. They know he is the franchise and they kept him in and kept on giving him the ball. Their patience was rewarded when Peterson ran for over 100 yards in nine of the last 10 games, going over 150 yards in six of them.

It remains to be seen if Griffin will explode later in the season but we’ll never find out if the team gets into playing the QB shuffle.

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Need to Know: Five pre-training camp questions for Jay Gruden

Need to Know: Five pre-training camp questions for Jay Gruden

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 26, one day before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 206 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 46 days.

Today’s schedule: Players report to training camp for physicals and conditioning test. Jay Gruden news conference 2 p.m.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 15
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 24
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 38

Five pre-camp questions for Jay Gruden

RICHMOND—The media portion of training camp gets underway on Wednesday as Jay Gruden holds his pre-camp presser at 2 pm at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center (that’s probably the last time I’ll use the full name of the facility).

Here are some questions we will ask of Gruden as he enters his fourth season as the Redskins head coach.

Will Kirk Cousins’ contract situation be a distraction? This must be asked, even though we know that the answer will be no. Yes, Cousins handled a similar situation just fine last year. But a quarterback playing on a second franchise tag is unprecedented. Certainly, Gruden has to guard against things getting out of hand if the season starts to turn sour.

In his fourth training camp, what is he doing now that he wishes he would have done in 2014? One very visible change has been a reduction in the amount of contact that takes place on the field. Will this continue to decline or, give the issues the team had tackling last year, will it ramp up? What used to be the morning practice and afternoon walkthrough were flipped a couple of years ago. Has there been any thought to changing it back?

How has the adjustment process to having so many new coaches gone so far? The Redskins have new coordinators on both sides of the ball and several new position coaches. As happens when any group of co-workers gets added to a workplace, there is an adjustment period. In the NFL, the coaches have to get up to speed with each other in a hurry.

Will Gruden use the season-ending loss to the Giants as a motivational/learning tool or just bury it in the past? It’s a fine line between learning from past mistakes and dwelling on them. While Cousin should make sure that he doesn’t throw another late-game interception like the one he threw in that game, he can’t have it spook him to the point where he can’t pull the trigger on a pass late in a close game. How Gruden handles the 2016 finale could have a major effect on how 2017 unfolds.

After having one of the highest pass ratios in the league, will Gruden look to run the ball more often? Last year, Sean McVay called passes on 62.4 percent of the Redskins’ snaps. The Redskins drafted a fourth-round running back in Samaje Perine and they may team him with starter Rob Kelley and call to keep the ball on the ground a few more times per game.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

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Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports declared Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL. Prisco repeatedly points out that while Cousins is a good quarterback, the notion that he should be paid like one of the best passers in the league is what makes him overrated.

From Prisco:

After having six 300-yard-plus passing games in his first 11 games, including two over 400, Cousins had one in the final five games last season as the Redskins pushed for a playoff spot. He had five touchdown passes and five interceptions in those games, going 2-3 as Washington folded. It wasn't all on him, but that's the point. I don't think he's a quarterback who rises above situations when the team isn't going right. I am not going to sit here and pan him as a starter. He has proven to be that, and a pretty good one. It's just that the perception is he's much better than that, which is why he's my most overrated player in the NFL in 2017.

Here's the problem with Prisco's login: Simple market economics. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

An argument can be made Cousins is a Top 10 passer. He's certainly in the top half of the league at the position. Few, if any, would argue Cousins is a Top 5 quarterback, but his contract situation forces him to be paid like he is. Those are the exact terms of the franchise tag, even before the 20 percent increase Washington paid this season to use a second-straight tag.  

Since the Redskins lost their window to sign their single-season passing yards record holder to a team-friendly deal last year, Cousins has leverage and the advantage of inflated QB salaries on his side.

That doesn't mean Cousins is overrated. 

If the threshold for being overrated is money, then Brock Osweiler wins this thing in a landslide. After the 2016 season in Houston, Osweiler seems unlikely to ever again be considered a starting QB in the NFL. He's due to be paid $18 million this fall and his offseason trade to the Browns will go down as the first-ever salary dump in NFL history. 

Is Cousins overpaid? Probably. That's the way contracts work in pro football. 

Is Cousins overrated? Probably not. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards and completed about 68 percent of his passes over the last two seasons. 

There just aren't enough quarterbacks to go around in the NFL, and guys who can play the position get paid handsomely. That doesn't make Cousins overrated. 

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