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Instant analysis: Redskins 38, Vikings 26

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Instant analysis: Redskins 38, Vikings 26

If there was any doubt about Robert Griffin III’s health, the Redskins’ rookie put those concerns to rest Sunday at FedEx Field.

Griffin, who suffered a concussion last week, returned to the lineup and engineered a 38-26 victory over the Vikings that snapped Washington’s NFL worst eight-game losing streak in Landover, a drought that stretched back more 13 months.

The quarterback also recorded the top highlight of his young career late in the fourth quarter of a game that had suddenly drawn close. With the Redskins’ 19-point second half lead whittled to 31-26, Griffin took a quarterback draw 76 yards for touchdown, his second of the day. The scintillating score not only brought fans out of their seats, it put the game out of the visitors’ reach.
 
More important than the electrifying run, though, Griffin appears to have returned to the Redskins’ lineup a more mature player.

Griffin elicited smart-alecky cheers in the first quarter when he scooted out of bounds on a scramble. Seven days ago, he might have attempted to turn up the field and, perhaps, left himself open to the type of big hit that knocked him from last week’s loss to the Falcons.

In the second quarter, Griffin tossed the ball away as he scrambled toward the sideline. He took a shot from Minnesota linebacker Erin Henderson anyway, then complained to a nearby official. A second later, the official threw a flag.

Lesson learned? Time will tell, but Griffin certainly exhibited a new wrinkle in his game: concern for his own well being without appearing overly cautious.

Griffin finished the game 17 of 22 for 182 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for a career-high 139 yards and a pair of scores. The two rushing touchdowns were his fifth and sixth, which gives him the most in a single season by Redskins’ quarterback – just six games into the campaign.

Early on, it appeared that they might be in for a long afternoon after yielding Vikings’ field goals on the visitors’ first three possessions of the game.

But they closed the first half on 17-0 run thanks to Griffin and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who recovered a Christian Ponder fumble at the Minnesota 6-yard line with 2:14 left in the second quarter. One play later, Griffin connected with fullback Darrel Young for a touchdown.
 
Griffin stretched the lead to 24-9 on the first drive of the third quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run. Then, early in the fourth quarter, safety Madieu Williams returned an interception 24 yards for a score that put the Redskins ahead 31-12. Williams’ touchdown was the fourth of the season for the Redskins, the unit’s most since 1999. The team also has 49 points on turnovers through six games – six more points than they accumulated all last season.

The Redskins’ new kicker, Kai Forbath, also got off to a promising start, booting a 50-yard field goal. It was the first of the 25-year-old’s career.

The victory was the Redskins’ first at FedEx Field since a 22-21 victory over the Cardinals on Sept. 18, 2011.

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Redskins offseason questions: Will Scot McCloughan go defense in 1st round?

Redskins offseason questions: Will Scot McCloughan go defense in 1st round?

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.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: It's tag day

Will the Redskins go with a defensive player in the first round of the 2017 Draft?

Finlay: The Redskins haven't drafted a defensive player in the first round since 2011 when the franchise grabbed Ryan Kerrigan with the 16th pick. In fact, the team has only drafted five defensive players in the first round over the last 15 years. 

History suggests Washington will stay away from a defensive player, but sources in Ashburn have suggested otherwise. Assuming the talent is there when the 'Skins pick at No. 17, Scot McCloughan would like to bolster the team's defensive line specifically. 

Things will get complicated should Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook slide to 17. Rich Tandler certainly would like to see the Burgundy and Gold add a top-flight running back.

Tandler: Many fans believe that conducting a draft is like going into a grocery store with a list. Defensive lineman is at the top of the list so you go to aisle 12 and put a DL in the cart. Safety is next on the list so you push the cart over to that aisle and pick out one of those.

No, a draft is much more unpredictable. There might not be a defensive lineman who is close to worthy of the No. 17 pick when the Redskins are on the clock. Talk of taking the best available player is like fingernails on a chalkboard to some. But if you’re reaching for need in a draft, you’re losing that draft. Sure, if a player in a position of need is just a spot or two down from the best available you think about it. Still, staying true to your board is the way to build a team.

The other thing to consider here is that we haven’t gone through free agency yet. Needs will shift after that. Suppose the Redskins sign two starting-caliber D-linemen and lose both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson in free agency? Defensive line is no longer a five-alarm priority and receiver will be. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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!

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Redskins free agent WR Pierre Garçon has simple question: 'Y'all hiring?'

Redskins free agent WR Pierre Garçon has simple question: 'Y'all hiring?'

Twice in the last five seasons Pierre Garçon logged more than 1,000 yards receiving as a member of the Washington Redskins, including the 2016 season. He's caught 376 passes in Washington for 21 touchdowns over 74 games.

Outside of a foot injury that cost his six games in 2012, Garçon has been arguably the Redskins most durable wide receiver, and he's known to be a hard worker in the weight room and the practice field. 

Despite all that, Garçon doesn't know that he will be back with the Burgundy and Gold once free agency opens. In fact, that uncertainty led the 30-year-old wideout to post a simple question on his Instagram page.

#YallHiring?

A post shared by Pierre Garcon (@pierregarcon) on

The top of the Redskins offseason questions remains QB Kirk Cousins. Garçon and fellow wideout DeSean Jackson are headed for free agency, as is standout defensive lineman Chris Baker. Reports show that the team has made little to no contact with any of the players or their representatives, though many conversations could be planned for the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis later this month. 

Garçon's question seems simple, but the answer remains a mystery. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN 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!