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It's not who starts the season for the Redskins at QB, it's who finishes

It's not who starts the season for the Redskins at QB, it's who finishes

INDIANAPOLIS—Jay Gruden’s almost casual announcement at the NFL Combine that Robert Griffin III will be the Redskins’ starting quarterback came as a surprise to just about everyone.

“We’ll go into the season with Robert as the No 1 guy and, you know, it’s up to Robert to continue to grow and mature as a quarterback and as a person,” he said to reporters at Lucas Oil Stadium. “Then moving forward, we just want to see some improvement. It’s up to us as a staff to get more out of him.”

Here is what Gruden said on Dec. 29, the day after the Redskins’ regular season ended.

“Until that position is earned, you have to have a competition,” he said at his postseason news conference. “And I anticipate us having a competition at a lot of spots and quarterback is no different next year.”

So, what changed in the last seven-plus weeks? Unfortunately Gruden’s press conference was cut short so we didn’t have the time to probe into the reasons why the competition was called off.

All we can do is speculate. Perhaps Gruden and new general manager Scot McCloughan got their heads together, watched some film of Griffin, Kirk Cousins, and Colt McCoy and decided that Griffin gave them their best shot. Perhaps front-office politics was involved, with team owner Daniel Snyder and president Bruce Allen, who are said to have pushed for the blockbuster deal that allowed the Redskins to move up in the draft and take Griffin in 2012, persuading Gruden and McCloughan to give Griffin, who struggled mightily at times last year, another shot at the job.

The question now becomes how long a leash Griffin will have. Last year Gruden benched a healthy Griffin in favor of McCoy just three games into Griffin’s return from a dislocated ankle. Will Gruden hesitate to pull a similar move if Griffin struggles again?

The critical thing here is not going to be who starts the season at quarterback, it will be who finishes the season. If Griffin starts the season opener and shows that he can get rid of the big issues that plagued him last year, he could start all 16 games. That is likely to lead to a new contract for Griffin and perhaps his career can get back on track. If it is Cousins, McCoy (who is currently a free agent), or any other QB the Redskins may acquire during the course of the offseason, Griffin could well be headed elsewhere.

A lot of how successful this plan will be depends on how Griffin views it. If he views it as the status quo and keeps preparing the way he has been preparing, with more of an emphasis on strength training and not enough time in the film room (according to multiple reports), he might find himself in a battle sooner rather than later. If Griffin thinks that he’s in for the fight of his life he may raise his level of play to meet the challenge.

There are advantages to not having a competition. Naming Griffin the starter gives him all of the first-team reps during the offseason program and training camp and he can use all of those he can get. Cousins, or whoever the backup ends up being, will have to do what backups do and get ready to play with only very limited first-team reps.

And if Griffin falters, there is a good chance that the backup will get a shot. And that is when the competition will begin.

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: JP & Tandler break down Redskins draft targets, and players to avoid

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: JP & Tandler break down Redskins draft targets, and players to avoid

How plausible is a draft day trade? Could the Redskins move up? And what to do about all those 'diluted samples'? JP Finlay and Rich Tandler break it all down.

<<<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!

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Redskins roster by the numbers: Defense

Redskins roster by the numbers: Defense

The Redskins currently have 75 players on their roster. They are about to add some more in the draft and as undrafted free agents. They can have up to 90 players on their offseason roster. Year after year the distribution of those players to positions are consistent. We can look at what they have and see what they need to sign to get through OTAs, minicamp, and training camp.

Let’s break down the numbers by position and see where they will need to add players to get to where they want to be going into training camp. Last week we looked at the offense; today we’ll look at the numbers on defense.

End

Have: 6
Need: 8

Just like in a game, you want plenty of players to rotate through the line in the heat of training camp. They could carry one or two additional players here since they are legitimately in search of players who can have an impact beyond starters Terrelle McClain and Stacy McGee and pass rushing project Anthony Lanier.  

Nose Tackle

Have: 2
Need: 4

Like with the ends, you want to have a few big guys to rotate in when it gets hot in Richmond. It would be surprising if the Redskins didn’t add a nose tackle to the mix in the draft, probably on Saturday.

Inside linebacker

Have: 9
Need: 8

If the Redskins take an inside linebacker in the draft, as many expect that will, this position would get very crowded. They could keep as many as six on the final 53-man roster if there are a couple of key special teams players in the group.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 10.0

Outside linebacker

Have: 7
Need: 7

They could keep an extra one or two if they find some in the draft. You can’t have too many pass rushers, although they have kept just four on the final roster recently.  

Cornerback

Have: 7
Need: 8

It has always seemed to be a little odd to me that they’ll bring in a dozen wide receivers and only seven or eight corners.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often

Safety

Have: 7
Need: 7

The depth chart here is unusual in that all seven players have significant NFL playing time; there is no “training camp fodder” here. If the draft one, an experienced player might be let go.  

Total defensive players under contract: 38
Total needed for camp: 41

There are 34 offensive players and three specialists on the roster, making the total 75. If they don’t make deals and use all 10 of their draft picks that will leave just five spots to sign undrafted free agents. They likely will want to sign more than that meaning that some of the players currently on the roster will end up getting cut, particularly those on the defensive side.

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.