In the locker room at Redskins Park, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin IIIs stall has been strategically placed next London Fletchers.Fletcher said he did not request the arrangement, but its rather obvious that the coaching staff wanted the franchises next leader to learn the ropes from the teams current one.The thing about him is he already has great leadership quality, Fletcher said. Hes already emerged as one of the leaders on the football team, and not because of the position he plays. His aura, his personality, is one of his great leadership qualities.Just some of the things he does that rookies dont generally do, the emotional linebacker continued, like getting the guys together in Waco.Fletcher said he doesnt consider himself Griffins mentor, but he also seemed to grasp that its his responsibility to help cultivate those qualities in the young signal caller.Being around this game for a number of years now, you can tell when you meet guys who have it, Fletcher said. Just the way he carries himself, no sense of entitlement, he just wants to work hard.Interestingly, Fletcher was the second Redskins veteran on Thursday to point out that Griffin possesses the intangibles all leaders seem to have.Theres no faade, Chris Cooley said. He just has it. Its there already.Fletcher said he doesnt initiate conversations about leadership with Griffin.Their chats just kind of happen.Its just natural conversation, Fletcher said. You dont talk about leadership. You just have your natural conversations, and definitely in that conversation, you can see where a guy understands what it takes to get to the next level, on and off the field.Asked if their conversations focus on football or life, Fletcher said its a little of both.As much as Fletcher gushed about Griffins personality and rare talent, the 37-year-old said he has not intentions of calling the 22-year-old quarterback by his Hollywood-like nickname.I call him Robert, Fletcher said with a smile. Im not calling him RG3. Hes just Robert, Rob. Some guys call him RG3, but hes just who he is.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In the land of the hot take, the more preposterous and outrageous suggestion gets the buzz.
The latest fallacy of a sports debate started when Jordan Rodgers - best known for being Aaron Rodgers' brother and a winner on The Bachelorette - said he would take Kirk Cousins over Cam Newton while talking on ESPN Radio. Rodgers laid out his reasons, mainly that Cousins is an accurate passer while Newton's game depends to much on athleticism. Rodgers:
You know what gets figured out? Athleticism. What happened to Robert Griffin? Athleticism. Teams caught up to him. They figured how to scheme him. You know what never gets schemed or what never gets stymied? Going through your reads and completing balls. That is what Kirk Cousins does: completing the last two years 67 and nearly 70 percentage of his throws. Going through your reads, there is always an answer. And if you consistently, from a mental standpoint as a quarterback, go through your reads, you always give your team a chance to win. And I will take consistency, leadership and accuracy over athletic potential any day of the week.
So there's that. Then Tiki Barber decided to get involved. Some highlights from Barber's rant via his radio show:
- Kirk Cousins will sit in the pocket and find his guy and read a defense and know pre-snap where he’s going to go with the ball, and if something breaks down, then he finds his checkdown back. Those two guys who they had in Washington were fantastic in giving him support in that role, so yeah, of course you take Kirk Cousins over Cam Newton, even though Cam Newton was the MVP.
- With Cam Newton, you’re getting year-to-year volatility. With Kirk Cousins, you haven’t had that. It’s been pretty consistent.
- If you’re choosing one and you’re building out for the next five or six years, who are you picking? I think it’s pretty easy to pick Kirk Cousins.
Looking at statistics, the claims of Rodgers and Barber can be validated in some capacity. In six seasons, Newton has only thrown for more than 4,000 yards once in his rookie year. Cousins has done it both years he's been the starter, and nearly went for 5,000 in 2016.
And Cousins completes way more of his passes. The Panthers QB's best completion percentage came in 2013, when he connected on 61.7 percent of his passes. Cousins completed nearly 70 percent of his throws in 2015, and 67 percent in 2016.
Dig a little deeper though, and some things are obvious.
The Panthers run a prehistoric offense, where running the ball is the focus. In 2016, Carolina ran the ball 28 times per game, the 7th most in the NFL. That was actually a significant decrease from 2015, where Carolina ran the ball 33 times per game, by far the most run heavy offense in the NFL.
The Redskins were on the other end of the spectrum. Washington ran the ball less than 24 times per game in 2016, and ranked 27th out of 32 teams in the NFL in rush attempts.
Consider that the 'Skins play a pass-first offense, and Carolina does the opposite, and that explains much of the yardage differences. Cousins had nearly 100 more throws in 2016 than Newton, 606 to 510, though the Panthers QB missed two starts. In 2015, when Newton won the MVP and the Panthers went to the Super Bowl, Cousins still threw nearly 50 passes more over the course of the year.
Another consideration on the stats: Newton goes deep. All the time. Cousins and the Redskins move the ball well, but are not reliant on the vertical passing game like the Panthers. Remember, about halfway through the 2016 season, many stories questioned why the Washington offense was under utilizing DeSean Jackson. That changed as the year progressed, but anybody that watches football recognizes the difference.
Rodgers even provided the context. "Any time you talk about the completion percentage being as high as Kirk’s is, it means he’s consistently getting to his third and fourth read and check-downs. That’s how you have that high percentage."
Oh yeah, Newton is arguably the best running quarterback in NFL history. Deadly in short yardage situations, Cam has 48 rushing TDs in his six-year NFL career. Cousins has shown flashes of good wheels, the touchdown run in Detroit comes to mind, but is nowhere near the runner Newton is. Nobody is.
All of this is not to talk down Cousins. The Redskins passer has proven to be a worthy NFL starting quarterback, and he could continue to improve over the next half decade. He is smart with the football and quick in his reads. In Washington or elsewhere, Cousins will make a ton of money, and deservedly.
But ranking Cousins ahead of Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, just seems silly. Rodgers and Barber laid out their reasoning, but in actuality, it's hard to believe.
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The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.
That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
Will the Redskins sign Chris Baker?
Tandler: While most of the contract talk centers on the quarterback and the wide receivers, there is one very big decision to be made on defense. Chris Baker is slated to be a free agent in two weeks and there is no indication yet whether the Redskins will bring him back.
Baker has been the Redskins’ best defensive lineman for the last three years. He has seen high-priced free agents Jason Hatcher and Stephen Paea come and go along with others such as Pot Roast Knighton and Kendall Reyes. Now that it’s his turn to sign a moderately rich contract there are serious doubts about his future.
The Redskins are looking at the numbers. He has been highly productive, with 10.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in the last two seasons combined. Baker will be 29 in October so age is not a huge factor now but it will become one over the course of a multi-year deal.
The big number, of course, is money. Spotrac has calculated that his market value will lead to Baker getting a four-year contract averaging $7.3 million per year. That would be roughly comparable to what the Redskins gave a 32-year-old Jason Hatcher to come from the Cowboys in 2014 (Hatcher got four years, $27.5 million with $10.5 million fully guaranteed).
Should the Redskins bring back Baker? Yes. They need to rebuild the defensive line and Baker should be around for continuity. He wants to stay here and there is no reason to let him go elsewhere. But the question here is, will they bring him back? There is much information to go on so I’ll guess that he will be back but I won’t be shocked at all if he’s not.
Finlay: The Redskins need to rebuild their defensive line, however, that should include Baker. Surprisingly quick for his size, he can play well against the run and has great burst to apply interior pressure in the pocket.
Pro Football Focus rated Baker as one of the 10 best under the radar free agents that will hit the market this year, and the 'Skins should take notice. From PFF:
"He has been a very good all-around player on the defensive line for two seasons. Baker gets consistent pressure on the quarterback, but is an even better run defender, as you’ll rarely find the veteran out of position. While Baker’s production took a slight step back in 2016 from 2015, he still is a reliable and dependable option for teams looking for stability on the D-line."
Tandler's Spotrac projection sounds about right, Baker will earn somewhere around $7 million or $8 million per season on his next deal. Just not sure it will happen in D.C.
More offseason questions:
Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!