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Need to Know: McCloughan on RG3, tagging Cousins, and Redskins' personnel staff

Need to Know: McCloughan on RG3, tagging Cousins, and Redskins' personnel staff

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 29, 26 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Five thoughts on McCloughan at the Senior Bowl

On if the Redskins would use the franchise tag on Cousins: "Well it’s an option, of course you’d rather not, you’d rather get a long term deal done . . . ”

Some believe that just tagging Cousins and giving him another year to show what he’s worth in a long-term deal is the best way to go. But it’s not the route that McCloughan wants to take. The tag is fraught with problems, including the fact that the player really isn’t under contract until he signs it and he doesn’t have to sign it until he wants to. It doesn’t seem like Cousins is the type to hold out but he’s never been put in such a position before. And if he plays well, it would become more difficult and costly to agree on a contract in 2017; another tag will cost about $23 million for a year. The tag is there to be used but it's not like slapping a $7 million tag on Fred Davis. It’s better to trust your judgment, make a deal, and take your chances.

On if he feels the team is ahead of schedule: "You know, I wouldn’t say ahead of schedule, I think it’s going in the right direction . . . “

It’s tough to say what a “schedule” for the Redskins, a team that had double-digit losses in five of six seasons before McCloughan came aboard a year ago, should look like. They took some steps in the right direction last year and they were good enough to take advantage of a fairly weak schedule and performances by the other teams in the division that were below expectations. The Redskins also had some bad luck in the form of injuries (only three teams lost more man-games to injuries). They could take a few more steps in the right direction this year and they might not win as many games and not make the playoffs. Improvement in the NFL isn’t always linear. All McCloughan can do is try to get better every year, and hold on to as much of the improvement made in previous years as he can.

On the team’s plan with QB Robert Griffin III: "Well you know what, the thing is, and I’m looking forward to getting back because we had the playoff game, of course, then you had the loss . . . “

This went on for another hundred words or so, with McCloughan not wanting to say that the team is going to release Griffin at some point. I don’t think that this should give false hope to those RG3 diehards who think he could somehow end up with the Redskins in 2016. A player is on your roster until he’s not. There is much more potential harm in announcing that you’re going to let a player go before you can do so than there is in not talking about it and just sending out the press release after you’ve done it.

On if there is confirmation or clarity on if DT Jason Hatcher is retiring: “No. I talked to him too and I said, 'Listen, you do what’s best for you and your family. You’ve had a really good career and we’d love to have you back.'

McCloughan said a couple of times that he wasn’t going to discuss contracts so nobody asked about whether they would love to have Hatcher back at his current cap number, which is $8.7 million. His contract has the look of a deal that was set to be either terminated after two years or at least redone. Hatcher’s salary jumps to $6.25 million with another $250,000 due to him as a roster bonus. I can’t see the Redskins paying that to a player who is coming off of a two-sack season and will turn 34 before training camp starts.

On making possible changes to the team’s scouting staff: "Not right now; nope. We’re going forward."

Looking at the results to date—and that consists of one draft—it appears that the Redskins’ unproductive drafts were due more to the man making the final call than it was an inadequate scouting staff. In particular, Mike Shanahan was notorious for ignoring the recommendation of the personnel department and making his own picks. It’s hard to blame the area scouts, director of college scouting Scott Campbell, and others responsible for evaluating draft talent if their work goes out the window when the card is turned in during the draft. But before we apologize to the current group for wondering about their competence when they worked for Shanahan let’s see what McCloughan can come up with in the next couple of drafts.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 19 days ago. It will be about 226 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 26; NFL free agency starts 40; 2016 NFL draft 90

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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot),
Thursday injury report

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”