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Need to Know: First thoughts on Redskins vs. Rams

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Need to Know: First thoughts on Redskins vs. Rams

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, September 16, four days before the Washington Redskins host the St. Louis Rams.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Rams

—I’m not about to break out the “must win” label here but this is an important game for the Redskins. A loss puts them at 0-2 at home with a quick turnaround to play the Giants in New Jersey on Thursday. Then after a 10-day break the Eagles, who looked like the team most thought they were in the second half on Monday night, come to town. You have to think that the possibility of an 0-4 nightmare start with seven of the final 12 on the road is very real if they drop this one.

—Wide receiver Tavon Austin has not yet justified his status as the No. 8 pick in the 2013 draft. He had 658 receiving yards in his first two seasons combined and he had two catches for minus-2 yards against the Seahawks last Sunday. But he can return punts, as the Redskins learned last year when he took one against them 78 yards to the house. The Seahawks know it, too, as he returned on 75 yards against them. Tress Way had better not outkick his coverage. Better yet, he should angle kicks out of bounds and make Austin try to beat them as a receiver.

—Brandon Scherff did a good job against Ndamukong Suh last week. His reward is Aaron Donald who doesn’t have Suh’s paycheck but he is every bit as tough to handle. He went wild against Seattle, posting two sacks of Russell Wilson and recording a total of nine tackles. In all, the Rams recorded six sacks with Robert Quinn, who will line up against Trent Williams, also had two. And you know that left end Chris Long (vs. Morgan Moses) and right tackle Michael Brockers (Shawn Lauvao) want to catch up with their line mates in the sack department. Kirk Cousins’ ability to avoid taking sacks will be tested.

—The Cousins-Nick Foles duel in Philadelphia last year was entertaining, with the Redskins QB throwing for 427 yards and three touchdowns and Foles going for 325 and matching those three TDs. The Eagles prevailed 37-34; it will be a surprise if the game on Sunday is that high scoring. It should be remembered that the Rams thumped the Redskins at FedEx last year 24-0 with Shaun Hill at quarterback. I’m not as sold on Foles as some are but he’s certainly a significant upgrade over Hill.

—The chatter around town hasn’t started yet but the theme is going to be that the Rams beat the Seahawks so the Redskins have no chance against them. The Redskins may well lose but everyone should keep two things in mind. First, Rams-Seahawks was a division home game and strange things happen in such matchups. St. Louis has beaten Seattle at home three of the last four years under Jeff Fisher but they still don’t have a winning season on the books with him as the coach. Second, the NFL is a week to week league. You only have to go back to last year to remember the talk of how invincible the Cowboys were when the Redskins went there on Monday night. They were 6-1 and coming off of wins in Seattle and over the Giants. But the Redskins won. Again, the Rams could well win but any talk of the Redskins having no chance is silly.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings; no media availability

Days until: Rams @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 9; Eagles @ Redskins 19

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Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

While it hasn’t been the best offseason for the Redskins organization in many respects it has been a good one for coach Jay Gruden. In the midst of turmoil over the status of general manager Scot McCloughan, Gruden got a two-year contract extension.

Although the final agreement on the deal came on March 4 in a steakhouse in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, team president Bruce Allen said that talk of extending Gruden started much earlier.

“It was after the season, Dan [Snyder], Jay and I got together and we talked about the game plan because we’d made some changes on the coaching staff as well following the season,” Allen told CSN’s JP Finlay at the owners’ meetings in Arizona.

Gruden became the team’s head coach in 2014. His original five-year contract was set to expire after the 2018 season but now he is in the fold through 2020.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Gruden’s record in Washington is 21-26-1, not the kind of record that normally has an organization rushing to extend a head coach. But after a 4-12 inaugural season, Gruden has led the Redskins to records of 9-7 and 8-7-1 the last two years. While by many standards that is a modest achievement, it marked the first back-to-back winning seasons in Washington since 1996-1997. The hope is that Gruden will keep them moving in the right direction.

The extension is likely to be popular in the locker room as players have come to like Gruden’s style.  

“His directness, his sarcasm and at the same time he gets his coaching point in but the guys do like his sense of humor as well,” said Allen. 

It’s not known if Gruden’s extension gives him more authority over personnel. His original deal gave him very little, with first Allen and then McCloughan having the final say in personnel selection and control over who makes the 53-man roster. Some NFL head coaches have final say in free agency acquisition and in the draft while many have control over who makes the 53.

MORE REDSKINS: 3 takeaways from talking to Allen

Gruden does have some informal influence when it comes to the draft.

“He’s got a big role,” said Allen. “First of all, he coordinates all the coaches’ reports and when we set the draft board, Jay will be up there. He watches every player who will be on the draft board and he will have an opinion.”

There is a power vacuum at Redskins Park with McCloughan gone. A new general manager won’t get hired until after the draft and the authority of that GM will have will be a matter of negotiation. It would not be surprising to see Gruden ending up with roster control.

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.

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Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 28, 30 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 20
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 45
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 57
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 109
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 157

Tuesday three and out

1. Maybe Bruce Allen and the Redskins have a master plan for saving the whole Kirk Cousins situation but right now it just looks like they’re stuck without a solution to paying $24 million to a quarterback who likely will be gone in a year. That’s money that could either be rolled over into future seasons if Cousins gets traded or used as a down payment on a long-term Cousins deal. Maybe there’s a master plan there somewhere but right now it looks an awful lot like the organization is just stumbling around in the dark, stubbing its toe while trying to find the light switch.

2. WR Brian Quick will cost the Redskins less against the salary cap than they are paying him. That’s because his contract takes advantage of the minimum salary benefit. He gets the sixth-year minimum salary of $775,000 plus an $85,000 signing bonus, a total of $860,000. Because of the minimum salary and low signing bonus the CBA rules allow the team to essentially discount the cap hit for the contract down to $695,000. The rule is designed so that younger players are necessarily cheaper, at least when it comes to the salary cap.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

3. Allen hinted that the Redskins won’t necessarily hire a general manager after the draft. While talking to colleague JP Finlay he said, “We’ll talk about what we need after the draft from a staffing standpoint.” Not “we’ll search high and low for the best GM in the business” but that needs will be examined. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

And out—Allen didn’t have much to say when JP asked about the stadium project that was a hot topic a year or so ago, only confirming that talks are ongoing. The fact that he had so little to say, not even some platitudes about the desire to build a great environment for the fans. Reading between the lines, this makes me think that a deal is getting close and the less that is said about it at this point the better. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe will be term limited out of office next January and the feeling is that he will want to leave a Redskins stadium deal as his legacy.

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.

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