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Gruden expects impact from the Redskins' two rookie wide receivers

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Gruden expects impact from the Redskins' two rookie wide receivers

Jay Gruden seems to be happy with all 10 of the Redskins’ draft picks but he seems to like two in particular. It looks like the team already has specific roles carved out for the two receivers the team took.

Appearing on ESPN 980 on Monday, Gruden was asked by host Kevin Sheehan what draft picks other than top selections Brandon Scherff and Preston Smith would have the earliest impact on the team. After first saying that he was excited about all of them and that it was hard to name one player, Gruden named three—receivers Jamison Crowder (4th round) and Evan Spencer (6th) and cornerback Tevin Mitchel (6th).

He didn’t go into any detail about what kind of impact Mitchel would play. “He’s an exciting player, he can play nickel, he can play corner, he’s an exciting guy,” said Gruden. Apparently we’ll have to wait to see what all the excitement is about.

Gruden apparently has plans for Crowder to play a role in bolstering the return game, a weak spot on the team for the last several years.

“Crowder has a skill set where he can be a slot receiver and a return guy from Day One, which is exciting,” he said. “So he has a chance to get the ball in his hands and make an immediate impact, quickly, if he can handle it.”

Andre Roberts was the team’s returner last year and his performance there was pedestrian at best. His average of 7.4 yards per punt return was 24 among qualifiers in the NFL and his kickoff return average of 23.7 yards was 21st.

It was interesting to note that Gruden said Crowder can make an impact “if he can handle it” and not something like “if he can beat out Roberts”. It would be a major upset if Crowder is not back there to field the first punt in Week 1.

Gruden envisions a role for Spencer in two phases of the game.

“Evan Spencer, he’s a special teams monster,” he said. “He can block . . . You want to run a power running game you’ve got to have a receiver who can block and do all that . . . But also special teams. You’ve got to have a guy who can cover punts, cover kickoffs we didn’t really have that at our receiver position. Adding him, he’s going to have an immediate impact.”

The Redskins’ backup receivers have not contributed much on special teams. Leonard Hankerson never developed much enthusiasm for kick coverage or blocking and Ryan Grant played a very limited special teams role last year despite being active for 16 games and played only 187 snaps on offense.

We knew that a contribution on special teams would be expected from Spencer but the role as a power running game blocker is interesting. That would mean that he will get snaps on first and second down and those reps will have to come from Roberts, Pierre Garçon, or DeSean Jackson. And they would have to throw the ball to him on occasion so that his presence on the field doesn’t automatically tip off a run. And like the snaps, those targets in the pass game will come at the expense of another receiver.

If Spencer and/or Mitchel can contribut at all it would represent a step in the right direction for the Redskins when it comes to getting something out of the last rounds of the draft. Last year they had one sixth-round pick, RB Lache Seastrunk, and two seventh rounders, K Zach Hocker and TE Ted Bolser. None of them made the 53-man roster and none are currently with the organization.

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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

After he signed the franchise tag a couple of weeks ago, the speculation, rumors and, for some fans, panic around Kirk Cousins has largely quieted down.

The Redskins can ink their quarterback to a long-term deal any time between now and July 15, but talks may not pick up until summer rolls around. A trade can also occur, but no recent reports have indicated that one is in the works.

Therefore, it currently looks like Cousins and the franchise that drafted him back in 2012 will be together for at least one more season. And according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that's a wise choice by the Burgundy and Gold.

"I think they did the absolute right thing in making sure Kirk Cousins is gonna be their quarterback this year," King told CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix. "I absolutely, unequivocally would not trade him. That's a white flag." 

As for why King wouldn't move on from No. 8, his explanation was very simple.

"You don't get rid of a guy who's got the second-most passing yards in football over the last two years," he said.

MORE REDSKINS: WILL JAY GRUDEN'S ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING EXPAND THIS YEAR?

Finlay also gathered input on the Redskins' and Cousins' relationship from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who's another major voice in the league's media. Rapoport first stated that he would be "beyond stunned" if the 28-year-old was not in D.C. for the 2017 campaign and then laid out how he envisions the year unfolding.

"I do not believe he will sign the extension before the season," he said. "So, he's going to go out there, play on another one-year deal, bet on himself like he did last year. You hope it's the same thing. And then we'll see, because I know there's some talk about him not signing an extension — I'm not so sure about that. Everyone has a price, right?"

"If they offer him $25 [million] a year, Andrew Luck's deal, I would imagine plans would change pretty quickly, right?" Rapoport continued. "So you get to the end of the season, assess where you are, assess the value and see if you can make a business deal. It's terrible to have to pay so much money to your quarterback. The only worse thing is not being able to pay so much money to your quarterback." 

King and Rapoport are clearly both in agreement that losing their rising signal caller would be a huge blow to the Redskins. But while King says Washington should keep Cousins because of his production, Rapoport took a different route when concluding how the negotiations will end up.

"Really good quarterbacks never leave their team. It just never happens," he said. "So I would think there's a way to work this out."

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