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Need to Know: Gruden says Matt Jones has not lost his trust

Need to Know: Gruden says Matt Jones has not lost his trust

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, October 8, three days before the Washington Redskins play the Atlanta Falcons.

Read and react

Here are some quotes from Jay Gruden’s and Kirk Cousins’ press conferences from Wednesday and my reaction to them.

Gruden on Matt Jones: “He’s never lost my trust [because of fumbles]. A couple of weeks ago it was Alfred [Morris] who was in my doghouse and he’s not. It’s just the way to works out with the handoffs and the carries. I like both of those guys.”
Reaction: We tend to overact to each week’s snap count and the number of carries each running back gets each week. Against the Giants the talk was that Morris is on hiw way out and then against  It goes under a microscope each week based on what really is a small sample size of 30 carries or so. When we look at the end of the year we will see who really is the “lead dog”.

Cousins on red zone opportunities: "Too many times we probably haven’t come away with touchdowns when we need to in the red zone. That will be a point of emphasis going forward—how can we get six instead of three?
Reaction: The Redskins are about average in the red zone. They have put it in the end zone on 60 percent of the time they get inside the 20. That’s 12th in the NFL, not great, not bad, especially considering that they don’t really have a classic, big end zone receiver to throw to. They will try to improve, and they should. But expecting to get much higher than 60 percent in the red zone could be unrealistic.

Gruden on the two unnecessary roughness calls against Trenton Robinson: “We always send in plays [to the league] throughout the week and we get answers back . . . We got that information and we talked to Trenton . . . He was not at fault in those instances.”
Reaction: I don’t see any reason why every unnecessary roughness call should not be reviewed, especially the bang-bang helmet to helmet variety. It’s just happens too fast on the field for the officials to make the proper call. And if time is an issue, just have someone in the league office take a look. It’s 2015; if there is a way to do a better job on this, they should do it.

Cousins on why the Redskins are having more success on third down: I think it’s a combination of things, I don’t think there is one area that stands out. I do believe another year in the system, familiarity with concepts. I’ve always believed that you get what you emphasize and I think our coaches went back and said, ‘we need to be better on third down, let’s emphasize that.’
Reaction: The Redskins have made a remarkable turnaround in their third down conversion rate, improving from a 32 percent success rate in 2014 to 46 percent this year. What is surprising is that they have not been in easier distance situations this year. In 2014 they had an average of 7.48 yards to go on third down. This year the average is 7.54 yards. So they are putting themselves in roughly the same situations and having a much better success rate.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:40; Jay Gruden and Joe Barry news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Redskins @ Falcons 3; Redskins @ Jets 10; Bucs @ Redskins 17

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.”

[Related: Full Redskins Seven-Round Mock Draft]

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. 

More Redskins: When the talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags before

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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. 

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