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Griffin says offense 'close' but 'close doesn't do it'

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Griffin says offense 'close' but 'close doesn't do it'

The Robert Griffin III of 2012 was back for some of the game on Sunday night in Dallas. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there consistently enough or for long enough to keep the Washington Redskins from falling to the Cowboys 31-16 and dropping to 1-4 on the season.

The Redskins now trail the Cowboys and Eagles, both 3-3, in the NFC East. Griffin said that the team would keep fighting.

“There’s no quit in this team, period,” he said. “You’ll never see us go out there an quit. I tell it to the guys every single time we’re out there, ‘If you don’t want to be out here to win, don’t come.’”

Maybe it would have helped if Griffin could have played special teams. The Redskins allowed an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 90-yard kickoff return that set up a 15-yard touchdown drive. Dwayne Harris made both of the killer returns. That kept the Cowboys in control of the game at a time when their offense was struggling.

Griffin started off well. On the Redskins’ first possession he completed four of five passes for 42 yards and ran twice for 22 yards. He was confident throwing the ball and cutting upfield on his running attempts. However, in what would become a familiar theme for the night, the drive stalled and the Redskins had to settle for a field goal.

But after that first drive Griffin was up and down. He finished the night with 19 completions on 39 attempts, a completion percentage of 48.7. In his 19 previous career games he had completed fewer than half of his passes just once (vs. Steelers last year). Griffin threw for 246 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

“We’re close on offense but close doesn’t do it in this league,” said Griffin.

As noted, Griffin did look much better running the ball. He ran nine times for 77 yards and on top of that he drew two 15-yard penalties when he was hit late scampering out of bounds.

In the Redskins’ first four games, Griffin ran for a total of 72 yards. In 2012 he ran for 820 yards (an average of 55 yards in his 15 games).

“I just think we had the opportunity [to run] and I took advantage of it,” said Griffin.

“You could see that he moved better, you could see that some of that speed was back,” said Mike Shanahan. “He made some big plays running the football.”

Despite the special teams problems, the Redskins and Griffin still had a chance to take the lead after Alfred Morris scampered 45 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter to pull Washington within five at 21-16. The much-maligned Redskins defense, which played pretty well all night, forced a three and out.

A 17-yard pass from Griffin to Leonard Hankerson got the Redskins into Dallas territory. Griffin ran for five yards to set up a first and 10 at the 30. But after a run for a loss of one and two incompletions, Kai Forbath missed a 49-yard field goal and that was the beginning of the end.

The Dallas offense came alive and drove to a field goal to put the home team up by eight.

Then, on second and 19 from the Washington 11, Griffin went back to pass. He looked through his progression but backup defensive end Kyle Wilber came up behind him and knocked the ball out of his hands. Wilber recovered the fumble at the three and Joseph Randle put the game out of reach with a one-yard touchdown run.

Griffin held the ball for a long time, too long according to Shanahan. “Once you get back there you have to get rid of that ball very quickly,” he said.

“I went through my reads, the pocket collapsed, got hit,” said Griffin. I tried to hold onto the ball and they just got it.”

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Despite one-year contract, Gruden unequivocal about Kirk Cousins' position

Despite one-year contract, Gruden unequivocal about Kirk Cousins' position

RICHMOND - Looking at the contracts for the two most important people associated with the Washington Redskins, a clear discrepancy arises. The head coach, Jay Gruden, is under contract until 2020. The quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is only under contract for 2017. 

Some speculation suggested that, given the diverging deals, at some point Gruden might look to develop another passer that's locked in with the Redskins for the long-term. Backup QB Colt McCoy is under contract for the next two seasons, and second-year passer Nate Sudfeld is under team control through the 2019 season. 

Gruden made clear that isn't the case. Crystal clear. 

"We're focused on Kirk," the head coach said. "He's our starter and he's going to get all the starter reps. Period."

Cousins should obviously be the focus. In the past two seasons he's twice broken the Washington single season passing yards record, and his rise has coincided with the Redskins first back to back winning seasons in 20 years. 

As for practice reps, Cousins will get the vast majority. McCoy will get work, and Sudfeld too, but this Redskins team is focused on winning this season. 2018 contracts are not on the coach's mind in July of 2017, nor should they be. 

"Colt [McCoy] will take advantage of his reps, I'm sure he will. And Nate [Sudfeld] will get a few sprinkled in there. We're trying to develop Nate also for the future. But, this is Kirk's team right now, and it's our job to get him ready for Philadelphia and really surround him and make him feel good about the people around him. Trying to get him used to [Josh] Doctson, get him used to [Terrelle] Pryor, we have some new weapons around him, so it's a matter of getting him ready. But Kirk will get all of them."

With a rebuilt defense and plenty of options offensively, the Redskins should compete for a playoff spot this year. Is there a scenario where the team sputters and spirals into a lost season? Maybe. And in that hypothetical scenario, perhaps at some point it makes sense to see what another passer can do. It's a long shot. 

For Redskins fans, know that Cousins is the unequivocal starter. Period. 

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Focus will be on Redskins' tight end depth during Jordan Reed's absence

Focus will be on Redskins' tight end depth during Jordan Reed's absence

RICHMOND—The Redskins will be without Jordan Reed in training camp for an unknown period of time. Although his toe injury does not appear to be serious, others will have to fill the gap until he is able to return. And the Redskins just so happen to have one of the deepest tight end groups in the NFL and they added another one with NFL playing experience on Thursday.

Jay Gruden said that the Redskins needed to sign E.J. Bibbs, who has one NFL catch in his career, because Vernon Davis, the backup tight end, has “a little bit of a tweaked hamstring.” Davis, who caught 44 passes for 583 yards last year, seemed to me moving fine in practice after Gruden spoke to the media but he could need some reps off on occasion so they brought in Bibbs to fill in the gap. There is no point in pushing the 33-year-old Davis if it’s not necessary.

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The Redskins have even more options at tight end. Niles Paul is back and he appears to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury that sidelined him for the last eight games in 2016. Paul is going into his seventh season and while he is mostly relied on for special teams play he does have a 500-yard season on his resume (2014).

During offseason practices fifth-round rookie Jeremy Sprinkle looked like he had a lot to learn as he goes from a run-based offense at Arkansas to the Redskins’ sophisticated pass-first scheme. He will need to find his comfort level before he takes any snaps in Reed’s place.

The forgotten veteran is Derek Carrier, who now appears to be fully healthy after he missed the first half of last season with a knee injury he suffered late in 2015. He had just two receptions for 10 yards last year in limited playing time on offense.

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Joining Bibbs in the long shot category is Manasseh Garner, a first-year player out of Pitt. While neither player seems to have a shot at the 53-man roster, the Redskins could carry one of the tight ends on the practice squad.

Depth is a good thing to have and the Redskins have done a good job assembling a backup plan at tight end. But you just can’t replace Reed, one of the best few tight ends in the NFL, without a significant drop off in production. The Redskins will let the backups compete and learn in training camp and will keep Reed either on the sideline or doing very light work until he is fully ready to go (and then some).

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.