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Need to Know: Redskins culture change will take time

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Need to Know: Redskins culture change will take time

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, June 12, 4 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

I’ll also take your Need to Know questions via email. Hit me up rich.tandler+csn@gmail.com with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please. 

Today's question is from Twitter:

There has been plenty of talk about a culture change around Redskins Park. That’s not uncommon for a team that has finished in last place six of the last seven years.

We’ve heard talk of culture change and similar concepts before at Redskins Park but by December that has all gone the way of the more aggressive “unleashed” defenses we have been promised over the years. Sweet sounding talk in the spring and summer tends to become vaporware when the games start counting.

The Redskins may or may not develop a winning culture. But if they don’t it won’t be because Chris “Swaggy” Baker would get a kick out of a moment on HBO’s Hard Knocks. A winning culture can incorporate characters. The Patriots can win despite Gronk’s self-promotion and other antics. In Joe Gibbs’ first era they had John Riggins and the Hogs not quite fitting the standard mold. Gibbs II made the playoffs twice and had characters like Fred Smoot and Clinton Portis.

The Redskins won’t win or lose because Baker hopes that the HBO cameras capture his dance. But they will win or lose based on whether or not Baker does things like this again:

https://twitter.com/dcsportsbog/status/541669206560100353/photo/1

This picture is from the second quarter of the Redskins’ game against the Rams last December. Ryan Kerrigan sacked quarterback Shaun Hill, forcing a fumble. Baker celebrated the sack while paying no attention to the ball that had squirted past him and was loose on the ground behind him (the ball is just to the left of the goal post on the edge of the hash mark).

While concentration during preparation is important, finishing plays is vital. Baker can have all of the dance-offs he wants to during the week as long as he plays through the whistle and doesn’t celebrate prematurely and fail to make an important play.

The question that Jay Gruden and Scot McCloughan have to ponder is whether or not a player like Baker, who likes to have fun, can be the kind of player who has laser focus on game days. Not every fun-loving player can take things seriously enough on the field. I have heard some veteran players wonder out loud of Baker goofs off too much. Players like Riggins and Gronk are few and far between.

A winning culture is not built overnight. It isn’t built during one set of OTA’s or one training camp. It takes some time. If Baker (or any of a number of other players who committed bonehead sins of commission and omission last year) gets through 2015 without prematurely celebrating a play then that’s fine. The test will be when a player does show a lack of focus or a lack of preparation. Are there consequences? Is the player back in 2016?

So, let’s check back in a year or so on this. If we get through 12 months and the Redskins have players who can have fun off the field while being deadly serious between the white lines on Sundays we might have a culture change starting to brew. If we see a lack of focus on the field tolerated or even rewarded with increased playing time or a new contract, things are back to square one.

Timeline

—It’s been 166 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 93 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 4; Redskins training camp starts 48; Preseason opener @ Browns 62

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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Redskins' decision on Su'a Cravens doesn't change much immediately

Redskins' decision on Su'a Cravens doesn't change much immediately

When the Redskins announced that safety Su’a Cravens has been placed on the reserve/left team list, ending his 2017 season, some things changed. But mostly, in the short term anyway, things stayed the same.

Before diving into this, let’s acknowledge that Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is reporting that Cravens was going to show up at Redskins Park today and the Redskins put him on the reserve/left team list “out of the blue” and without the five-day notice that the team is required to give the player before putting him on that list. A grievance is a possibility. We will follow that aspect of it carefully but for now, we don’t know much about it and will let Florio’s report stand on its own.

What does not change now is the Redskins’ roster. Since he was on the exempt/left team list he did not count against the 53-man roster. The Redskins started Deshazor Everett at strong safety Week 1 against the Eagles and rookie Montae Nicholson got the nod Sunday against the Rams. It is likely that one of those two gets the start for the rest of the year.

RELATED: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS' WIN IN LA

Had Cravens reported the Redskins would have had to make a roster move to make room for him. When he left the team right after final cuts were made, offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings was picked up on waivers. He presumably is the 53rd man on the roster but he is safe for now.

So, what changes? The Redskins save some money. Cravens was slated to make $651,408 in salary this year. The money was guaranteed; however, leaving the team voided that guarantee. The team also could send him a bill for $335,631, the one-year prorated portion of his $1.422 million signing bonus he got last year.

It should be noted that the financial aspects of this are pending any grievance proceedings. If the Redskins did not give Cravens proper notice and he reports for work, he could make the case that he is entitled to his money. But, again, that is something that we’ll see about in the coming days and weeks.

MORE REDSKINS: INJURY LIST LONG, PAINFUL BUT NONE SERIOUS

Cravens’ status will be a topic of discussion during Jay Gruden’s podium session and in the locker room on Wednesday. But after that, the focus will return to playing the Raiders and the whole saga will go on the back burner.

What happens after this year? As far as I can gather, the reserve/left team list only applies to the 2017 season. If Cravens follows the terms of his contract and reports for work when required in 2018 the Redskins would have to either let him play, release him, or trade him.

But that is down the road. For now, the Redskins will move on as though he is out for the season with an injury and play with the guys they have.

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: Last look at Redskins vs. Rams

Need to Know: Last look at Redskins vs. Rams

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, September 19, five days before the Washington Redskins play the Raiders at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: No media availability

Days until:

—Monday night Redskins @ Chiefs (10/2) 13
—Monday night Redskins @ Eagles (11/23) 24
—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 40

Last look at Redskins vs. Rams

—Before the game, I confidently told someone on Twitter that Ryan Grant would get about as many targets (6) against the Rams as he did against the Eagles. But as it turned out, Grant was targeted just twice. The second time was on the game-winning touchdown in the last two minutes. A big difference between this week and last was that Kirk Cousins attempted just 27 passes against LA compared to 40 vs. the Eagles. That led to fewer opportunities for receivers and Grant was one of those who saw his chances drop the most.

—Cousins started well and finished strong but he didn’t do much in the middle. It seems that he was rolling along well until he misfired on a fade pattern to Josh Doctson and then on another throw to Chris Thompson. That ended a goal to go opportunity in a situation where a touchdown would have given the Redskins a commanding 17-0 lead. The next time the Redskins had the ball Cousins was sacked on his first passing attempt and he fumbled a snap a little later. In the third quarter and early in the fourth he completed some passes but many of them were for a minimal gain. To his credit, he didn’t panic and force a turnover. And, of course, he came through on the final drive, completing three of three passes for 42 yards including the 11-yard game winner to Grant.

—During the week leading up to the game, Jay Gruden emphasized the importance of getting to the quarterback. It didn’t play out as well as I’m sure Gruden would have liked. They got two sacks of Jared Goff, one by Preston Smith and one by Ryan Kerrigan, both in the Rams’ possession late in the first half. They pressured Goff on other occasions but overall their pass rush possibly was not as good as it was against the Eagles. Then, they at least got to Carson Wentz even though they had issues bringing him down. Too often, Goff had plenty of time to operate and that helped keep the Rams in the game until near the end.

—Chris Thompson has been the Redskins’ offensive MVP so far. He has improved each year and yesterday he was at his peak. What you really had to like on the 61-yard touchdown run on the draw play was his patience. He was almost standing still as he took the handoff from Cousins as he carried out the pass-blocking fake and chose his path for when he got the ball. He said that the play was designed for him to go one way but his read took him someplace else. It took him to the end zone for the second time that game.

—One surprise early in the game was that Montae Nicholson started at strong safety in place of DeShazor Everett. Nicholson made no glaring errors before he left the game with an AC joint sprain. The depth chart here apparently is set after the team announced that Su'a Cravens, the starter until he left the team to contemplate retirement, will not return this season. 

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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