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Need to Know: Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Bucs—Steady Garçon a key

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Need to Know: Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Bucs—Steady Garçon a key

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, October 25, the day the Washington Redskins host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Bucs

—Pierre Garçon has been a steadying presence in an offense that has been missing key players all season long. He has been targeted fewer than eight times this year just once is on pace to catch 85 passes for 785 yards. The receptions would be the second-most of his career. If the Redskins win today he will be a big part of it, perhaps benefitting from the return of TE Jordan Reed as much as anyone.

—It’s hard to look at the Bucs and think that Doug Martin isn’t the main weapon they have to stop. He rushed for 78 yards in the Bucs’ Week 2 win over the Saints and he rolled for 123 yards and two touchdowns when they beat the Jaguars two weeks ago. If the Redskins don’t contain him it will be a long day.

—I don’t think that there is anything that Kirk Cousins can do to lose his job today but he sure can keep it from being a miserable two weeks. If the “good’ Kirk shows up, the one who doesn’t throw any interceptions and who mostly hits his receivers in stride, the narrative during the bye will be that he has righted the ship and has a good chance to have a solid final nine games. But calls for him to be benched will get louder if the Cousins we’ve seen for the last two weeks is on the field today. Again, I doubt that Jay Gruden makes a move regardless but it will be harder and harder for him not to at least consider it.

—The Redskins’ third-quarter problems have gone on all year but they really became a topic of conversation around the team facility this week. They need to come out of the locker room and do something about it. If they kick off to start the third quarter they need to force a punt. If they get the ball they need a scoring drive. And whatever they do they can’t turn the ball over. They have 11 turnovers this season. Nearly half of them, five, have happened in the third quarter. The opponents have turned all five into touchdowns. Talk about halftime adjustments all you want but 35 points off of turnovers and five lost possessions is hard to make chicken salad out of.

—The “code red” situation has been discussed all week. It’s OK for a coach to pull out that card every once in a while and make one regular season game more important than the other 15. But it had better work. I think it will today. This is a better team than the one that lost to the Bucs 27-7 at home last year and they should be able to avoid stepping on a land mine like this one. Tampa Bay also is better and I don’t see an easy win. But the return of Reed will help Cousins out and a Redskins defense burned twice in a row on the ground won’t let it happened again. It won’t be pretty but the Redskins will take a 21-13 win.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Bucs @ Redskins, 1 p.m., FOX

Days until: Redskins @ Patriots 14; Saints @ Redskins 21; Redskins @ Panthers 28

In case you missed it

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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