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Need to Know: Is Mariota talk a Redskins smokescreen aimed at RG3?

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Need to Know: Is Mariota talk a Redskins smokescreen aimed at RG3?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, April 10, 20 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Is Mariota talk a smokescreen directed at RG3?

Albert Breer of the NFL Media reported yesterday that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will not visit the Redskins. In a subsequent Twitter conversation about the Redskins, Breer pointed out some reasons why Washington may still take Mariota if he is there

When Jay Gruden was hired as the offensive coordinator for the Bengals he lobbied for them to draft Dalton, who ended up starting every game in the three seasons Gruden was there. When Scot McCloughan took over personnel responsibility he took Smith, a spread QB at Utah, with his very first selection. So it doesn’t make sense to state with any degree of certainty that the two of them together would shy away from drafting a spread QB like Mariota if he is still on the board.

The truth that not a lot of people talk about is that the Redskins, and any other NFL team that might need a quarterback in this era, might not have much of a choice but to draft a quarterback from a spread offense. Most colleges are running some variation of the spread. It is not a trend that will go away any time soon. Pro style, dropback quarterbacks will be harder and harder to come by. Teams will have to learn to figure out how to identify spread quarterbacks who can make the conversion to the NFL and coach them up.

But do the Redskins need a quarterback or should they continue to try to develop Robert Griffin III? From what Breer, who has a good relationship with Gruden by all accounts, says they could go either way. If they think Mariota is a better alternative—and that’s not necessarily a given—they would strongly consider taking him.

Here’s another angle on this.

Robinson, NFL reporter for Yahoo! Sports, thinks that the talk of the Redskins taking Mariota is a smokescreen, but not just for the purpose of confusing other team for strategic purposes. They are floating the name of high-profile replacement in order to motivate Griffin.

I suggested this possibility when the story of the Redskins’ possible interest in Mariota surfaced via John Clayton about a month ago. Some players thrive on security while others are better motivated by fear. Griffin has had plenty of the former since the Redskins made him the second overall pick in 2012. Now perhaps they want to see how Griffin reacts when there is the possibility that he could be replaced by the quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy two years after he did.

The Mariota-to-Washington talk is probably going to wind up moot anyway. If the Titans don’t grab him with the second pick in the draft another team is likely to trade ahead of the Redskins and take him. That’s probably the optimal outcome for the Redskins, who will be able to take an edge rusher or another player at a position of need.

Part 2 of the optimal outcome here would be for Griffin to show great progress towards becoming a pocket passer and persuade Gruden and Scot McCloughan that he can be the long-term solution at quarterback. The last thing this organization needs is to get back on the quarterback carousel, where teams can literally spend decades.

But unless and until that happens, the coach and GM are going to have to consider any and all solutions at the most important position on the field.

Timeline

—It’s been 102 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 157 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 10; 2015 NFL Draft 20; Redskins training camp starts 111

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

This week in Indianapolis the NFL world will converge at the Scouting Combine to watch college football players work out, sprint and lift weights in anticipation of the upcoming draft. For the Redskins front office, this draft needs to be a win.

The 2016 Draft could still yield strong results for Washington, but overall the class did not play particularly well as rookies. This year, Scot McCloughan has nine picks at his disposal, with the extra picks late in the draft in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

It's no secret that the 'Skins need help along the defensive line, a lot of help. That should be a major area of focus for the Redskins scouts and coaches, and that will make next Sunday arguably the most important of the week in Indianapolis. 

The combine divides players into 11 position groups, but Groups 7, 8 and 9 will matter most. Groups 7 and 8 represent defensive linemen and 9 are the linebackers. That group officially arrives on Thursday but won't work out on the field until Sunday. The days in between include interviews, psychological testing and the bench press.

Obviously the Redskins won't spend all nine picks on only defensive linemen. The team will likely invest in the offensive line as well, and that group will arrive earlier in the week and work out on Friday. Cornerbacks and safeties are the last to work out on Monday, March 6. 

With the likely departure of at least one of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon, and the possible departure of both, it would make sense for the 'Skins to bring in another receiver via the draft. They work out on Saturday, and should the Redskins decide to take a quarterback in the draft, the passers will work out that day too. 

Running back could be another spot the 'Skins invest. Jay Gruden said that Robert Kelley is locked into the RB1 role, but still the team might want increased competition at the position. The backs will work out Friday.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

The NFL has released the official schedule of when NFL coaches and executives will take the podium and address the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. You can find it right here but I’ll save you a click—nobody from the Redskins is scheduled to talk.

NFL teams are not required to have a representative speak at the combine but most do. This year only the Saints and Patriots are joining the Redskins in avoiding the media.

Bill Belichick never talks at the combine and I believe that the Saints have bypassed the opportunity to do so in the past. However, the Redskins head coach traditionally has gone to the podium in the past. Joe Gibbs spoke when he was in his second stint as the head coach. Mike Shanahan, as tight lipped as anyone, met with the press in Indy each of his four years as head coach. Jay Gruden has spoken during each of the three years that he has been head coach.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

And last year Scot McCloughan held a small media gaggle with local reporters in his hotel in Indianapolis.

This year the Redskins are going somewhat dark. McCloughan did not speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl (Gruden held a brief availability in Mobile), a departure from his first two years with the team. And now no Redskins representatives at the combine.

One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.

So why aren’t they talking? The best bet is that they are in a delicate stage when it comes to dealing with the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is a pending free agent who is likely to be hit with the franchise tag on Wednesday, the day before the combine starts. At that point, the clock will be ticking on Cousins either signing a long-term contract or getting traded to a team that is willing to meet his asking price. It’s my guess that Jay Gruden does not want to face questions about Cousins’ future.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Gruden is not a very good liar; his poker face needs a lot of work. Perhaps that is a good quality for a human being but not a very good attribute for someone who would need to go out and talk about Cousins as the long-term quarterback for the team, or at least the QB for the coming season, when his status may be very much in doubt.

This is not to say that there is definitely going to be a trade of Cousins worked out at the combine. But it is very possible that a deal will be discussed with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers and any number of other quarterback-needy teams. And perhaps there is concern that Gruden will let something slip or, more likely, say a lot on the subject of Cousins by not saying anything.

Again, this is just reading the tea leaves on my part. But by going silent the Redskins are sending an invitation for people to fill in the blanks. I am just taking them up on it.

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.